Sunday, July 03, 2005

Losing Myself, Finding Myself Again

I came back from my conference so clear, so centered, so happy.

Then it all began to dissolve. I'm not even sure why. I think it was because I got sucked into urgencies, and lost sight of what is important-but-not-urgent.

It is really important to pay attention to what is important but not urgent. But what is urgent tends to seize our attention. Some of what is urgent is important too. But not all of it necessarily is. If we just let our lives be driven by what presents itself as urgent, we are letting ourselves relinquish control over our lives. We are letting the urgencies that present themselves to us control us.

At one point in my life, I made the dire theological mistake of assuming that the urgencies were the voice of God speaking in my life and guiding it. "If this person asks me to do this, maybe it is the voice of God telling me that that's what I am called to do." It's an easy theological mistake to make, especially when you surround yourself with good, religiously sensitive people who are never, of course, asking you to do things that are obviously wrong for you to do.

But it is, nevertheless, a theological mistake to take their requests as God's commands.

This has been very hard for me to learn. I still tend to relapse. When too overwhelmed with the complexity of my inner sense of drive, I can distract myself by turning my attention to others' requests and let them control my life. It is momentarily satisfying, because their gratitude feels good. But inside, I feel a growing restlessness that threatens to turn to resentment or even anger. I begin to have highly emotional dreams. All of this signals to me that I'm neglecting myself and my inner sense of call.

So I need to find myself again.

I have a new idea, a new plan. I realize that I am happiest and feeling most centered when I can keep in mind a sense of who I am and what my life is really all about. And a lot of this is connected with the "important-but-not-urgent," because it is connected with long-term goals (rather than short-term urgent tasks).

In fact, the more centered I am in that kind of vision of myself and my life, the more I understand how the short-term urgencies fit into this wider perspective. If I cannot see how a given short-term urgency fits into this larger vision of my life, then I have to ask myself whether it really is mine to attend to. Maybe it isn't. Maybe I need to let go, and let someone else take care of it, because maybe it fits someone else's vision of their life and work better than mine!

So, my plan is to make sure on a daily basis to give some time to what is important but not urgent. For the rest of the summer, I'm going to make a point to do this for at least a couple of hours first thing each morning, to center myself and set the right tone and attitude for the rest of my day.


  1. Dear CS
    I just found your blog and would love to add you to my links. My blog is found at http://plaininthecity/ I am quite happy to see you are interested in Irish music... I play the Uilleann pipes and have a few CDs out of Quaker music in Irish modes...

    You can email me about how you feel about me adding you to my links at

    Yours in the light
    Lorcan Otway
    15th Meeting NYC

  2. Back in the late 90's I found the workshops and books of Stephen R. Covey to be very helpful in this regard. I think you might find the subject of time and direction nicely illuminated in his book First Things First.

    He distinguishes between the Clock (the way we use time), and the Compass (our values). While most time management theories help you plan and prioritize your time, very few address the bigger picture. He gives practical suggestions on working your long term goals into your daily life.

    He also breaks things down into quadrants showing the difference between things that are either important or non-important, and those that are urgent or not urgent.

    As you consider ways to begin your day you may find his writings helpful in setting your priorities. : )

  3. Lorcan,

    Thank you for your comments, and your offering to link my site to yours! I would be honored! I have enjoyed reading your blog as well! Do you mind if I link yours to mine too?


    I very much appreciate your book recommendation! In fact, I was just thinking that I need to credit the Franklin-Covey system for my awareness of the urgent vs. important distinction, and the grid you mention. So I am familiar with some of Covey's concepts, but have not yet seen the book you mention! I will look for it. Thank you!