The Secret Service, Stephen Covey and Me

I had the opportunity to speak to members of Congress. Gulp.  A room full of politicians!  It was the first time I had a secret service detail present during one of my speeches which I must admit was pretty cool.

I was there to speak about how to authentically reach younger voters, which I was honored to do because I believe that being an informed voter (and actually voting) is a privilege and responsibility. My talk was part of a session called “Reaching Every Corner of America” which also included presentations on reaching minorities and women.

The session before mine went long and I noticed a lot of elected officials trickling out.  I hoped they were just going to the bathroom but noticed many did not come back for our session.  I am sure they had important things to do; however, isn’t “reaching every corner of America” an important topic?

The elected officials and their staff and spouses who were in the audience were extremely attentive and open.  Many of them agreed with my encouragement to prioritize authenticity and heart in their messaging and day-to-day interactions. I am grateful to those who I did share with and will always make the most out of any opportunity to catalyze consciousness.

Still I found myself questioning why those who left did.  Rather than name-calling or making a bunch of unjustified judgments, I considered the load of their responsibilities on a daily, if not hourly, basis. The insight I got is that most of them probably operate in what Stephen Covey calls the “urgent and important” quadrant.   They face a constant influx of information they must respond to quickly. Getting back to an aide on a bill or a reporter on a CNN story may have taken priority over staying for another speech given the high degree of urgency.

My session is something that fell more into the “non-urgent and important” quadrant.  Sure reaching every corner of America is very important but there was not a sense of urgency about it.

So before you roll your eyes and start name-calling politicians, I challenge you to consider what you skip out on in life to respond to the seemingly urgent.

Where do you sacrifice things that have longer-term payoffs for your well being, personal relationships, and spiritual development?

How often do you check your email before you even go to the bathroom? Or flip on the TV instead of going to exercise? Or respond to someone else’s request or demand on your time before you have meditated and connected to yourself?

Often the most important things in our life do not come with a sense of urgency so we neglect them.   Responding to emails and checking things off your to-do list are part of your responsibilities, I get it.  But allowing the urgent to always take priority is not the best investment of your time or energy. Your health, relationships, and spiritual practice should not get the short end of the stick!

After I finished speaking to Congress, I took my own advice. On the two-hour car ride to the airport I was planning on checking emails and catching up on a few writing deadlines, but I decided to spend the two hours on the important but no so urgent.  I called each of my parents and grandparents and a friend who I had lost touch with. I enrolled in a leadership program I have been considering for two years but haven’t committed to because I’ve been so “busy.”

By the time I got to the airport, my email inbox was still full but my spirit was even fuller.  Attending to relationships and personal development that are high on my value list but do not come with a sense of urgency was more important than anything else I could have done. 

It is easy for any of us to blame some external person or group for not responding to things we find most important. But it is completely ineffective in terms of creating change.  The only way to truly create change is to follow Gandi’s brilliant advice to: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

We cannot demand change if we ourselves do not change.  We cannot expect others to pay attention to the important but not urgent if we ourselves do not.  And it is unfair to blame politicians if we ourselves are not willing to run for office or get involved in making the changes we demand.

I’m curious – what important things have you been neglecting in your life? And what steps are you committing to taking to give them the time and attention they deserve? Share your comments.



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