Urgency: It’s important. And it needs swift action.
(That’s how Oxford dictionary describes urgency.)
Do we wear urgency like a badge of honour? What causes us to believe that ‘things’ need to get done immediately? Will I remember this urgency twenty years from now? If not, then why do I give it so much of my time and energy? Why do I hold a belief that these items of importance will gravely affect my life if I don’t move hastily? How did “time is of the essence” become part of my everyday norm?
At the corporate level, ideas and innovation are the heartbeat of a growing business.
“We need to act now”;
“How fast can we roll this out?”;
“We need it yesterday.”
Is there a belief that we will succeed at greater measures when we tackle our ‘things’ with urgency; as in ‘let’s do this now’ before our competitors do it? Why is swift action equated with success? What proof do we have that hurriedness is the winning formula?
Urgency does not only exist in the corporate world. In sales, urgency psychology helps close the deal. How often have you read “for a limited time offer” or “final sale”?
In life, we’ll use phrases like, “We have to go now.”; “Hurry or we’ll be late”. Have you ever gotten annoyed when three people are strolling together, taking up the entire sidewalk, and you’re trying to get around them? Why the rush?
We use drive-thru for ordering coffee. Thinking we don’t have enough time to stop and enjoy a cup of coffee, we take it with us in the car as a more efficient use of our time. Why does adding 30 minutes to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee seem like a waste of time?
Every word we explore requires perspective. One word can carry multiple meanings.
For example, where swift action matters is sports.
A team is down by one point with seconds remaining on the clock. The buzzer is about to sound and the player shoots and makes a three-point shot. This urgent response helped the basketball team win the game.
The question I’m asking is, “When is urgency unhealthy?”
As I explored the sports culture, I noticed professional athletes understand how to differentiate between speed and urgency. Here are three of the many quotes I found:
“When you hurry you’re more apt to make mistakes. But you have to be quick. If you’re not quick you can’t get things done.” – John Wooden, NCAA Coach, UCLA Bruins
“When someone screams at me to hurry up, I slow down.” – Mario Lemieux, NHL Player, Pittsburgh Penguins
“Just be patient. Let the game come to you. Don’t rush. Be quick, but don’t hurry”. – Earl Monroe, NBA Player, Baltimore Bullets and New York Knicks.
The difference between speed and hurried is that speed doesn’t have the component of feeling rushed.
Most people would understand if I said, “I need to move quickly, this is urgent.” But if I were to say, “I need to move quickly because I want to rush through it”, I’d get plenty of feedback telling me to slow it down.
The Oxford dictionary describes the word ‘rushed’ as something “done or completed too hurriedly; hasty”.
There are times that moving urgently and swiftly is necessary. What if the rest of the time I’m just feeling rushed and in a hurry? Urgency is a rarity, not a lifestyle.
I am newly aware of my need to speed. These feelings of urgency and hurriedness aflutter my nervous system.
I’m rethinking what it truly means to slow down. My conclusion is simple: There is no rush. I am not in a hurry. This is not urgent.
For example, a couple of days ago I was cleaning the kitchen. I began emptying the dishwasher. I was rushing. I noticed my heart rate went up as though I was competing in a 100 meter race.
I said to myself, “Slow the beep beep down, Karen.”
I forced myself to take one item at a time out of the dishwasher and put it away in the cupboard. Even if there were three plates, I only took one. Yes, it was grueling. I slowed my breathing and movement down. “Enjoy the calmness, Karen. There’s no need to rush.”
I painstakingly emptied the dishwasher, one utensil, one cup, one plate at a time. and then, the sound around me changed. I heard less of the clanging of dishes. Now, I could hear sounds of birds chirping outside. This newfound stillness brought a wave of calm. My shoulders dropped and an unexpected feeling happened: the slower pace gave me an endorphin boost. My happy tank filled up in seconds.
With professional athletes, they talk about “flow” or time standing still. They mention being in the zone when every part of their game clicks. From that place of flow comes speed with precision.
When we rush, we bring a nervous energy into the equation, which can set off mistakes or anxiousness.
For me, the errors are more internally. Removing the feelings of hurriedness, I am more apt to be in ‘the flow’. The less rushed I feel, the more in the zone I become. The less I hurry, the calmer I am.
Slowing down calms me.
Let go of the rush, embrace the calm.
– Karen Thrall
“Become slower in your journey through life”. – Wayne Dyer