A couple drove seven hours to attend a funeral for a dear friend’s mother. The event did not involve a brother, a distant relative, a favorite aunt, nor any inheritance. The funeral involved a dear friend’s mother. As the friend, his children, and assorted family looked with awe at the travelers, they all commented “This is so far; you did not have to come”. The couple repeatedly responded, “This is that important”.
Important is often used to describe an event or fact that has a priority over other options. An important obligation often implies a high sense of urgency. If it is important, then it must be done right now. Not necessarily. Ironically, Stephen Covey in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” popularized a matrix that shows important and urgent as opposites. In fact, important and urgent clearly contrast as concepts when time is introduced. Urgent implies immediate activity. Important implies optimal activity.
The distinction for optimal activity is that time is not strongly considered. In many cases important activities involve preparation and planning so that time pressures can be avoided. Another benefit regarding doing what it is important is the long-term benefit. In the case of the traveling couple they had several urgent obligations at home that could have kept them from attending the funeral. Work deadlines, children’s obligations, and social appointments were all on their schedule. These activities were not going to be done on time, let alone right now. However, in attending to the important activity the couple sealed personal bonds that will become part of both family’s legacies. Sacrifice on behalf of a true friend has now been demonstrated for both families.
Another illustration that emphasizes living in the important is the 10-year-rule. The rule states that in evaluating two options, select the one that will be the most important in ten years. In ten years, will you remember the missed lunch appointment or the hug from a true friend’s children when their grandmother was buried?
Fundamentally, deciding to do what is important often involves temporary discomfort. The trade-off is long term progress. Choosing important activities requires clarifying values, building relationships, and preparing for ongoing success. Over time, important decisions get easier to make because urgent distractions are fewer. Repeated, important, long-term planning resolves fire drills before they reach urgent status. Live in the important. Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Make decisions that will satisfy today and produce results tomorrow. Life is not too short. It is long enough for those that focus on important activities to be fulfilled going forward!