Alexandre Aschenbach

Responsability and Urgency


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We are responsible for everything that happens to us because we are the agents that trigger everything.

Sometimes we wonder why something is happening to us, but if we take a deeper look we will find a past action that initially triggered all the events that culminated in the present situation.

Once a colleague came in all dirty and complaining, because he had problems with his car. I asked what had happened and he told me that the car engine had boiled.

Not satisfied, I asked why that happened. He said he did not have time to arfill the car’s cooling system.

Then I asked what happened that he could not stop just for a few minutes to fill the car’s cooling system. He answered he had spent the day running after an overdue bill which needed to be paid.

I asked why the bill was overdue and he said that the day he should have paid the bill he was very busy with other issues and ended up forgetting it.

Once again I asked him why he had been so busy that he failed to pay the bill. The answer was that he was late with a work’s report.

I quit the questioning because if not I would lose his friendship or would not get to the end of the story.

The point is that his problem was not the car, but the overdue report. What caused the car’s problem was not the lack of water, but the overdue report.

We do not have any conscience to seek the source of our problems, but, as in the above example, the sources will always be our actions (or lack of actions). Note that if my colleague was not late with that report he could have paid the bill and therefore would have had the time to fill his car’s cooling system and then the car’s engine would not have boiled, as simple as that. But we do not perceive these things.

The moment, this moment, every moment is important. If we neglect something for a few seconds, something that must be done at this very moment, the consequences might be greater than we ever imagine.

Consider other examples:

• We delayed a bill because the internet stopped working, but did we also leave the bill to be paid in the last minute? The problem therefore was not the Internet but our lack of action.

• We were late for a meeting because the traffic was very congested, but should we not have left earlier if we knew the time was ripe for a traffic jam? The problem, again, was not the traffic jam but our lack of prediction.

• We cannot print a report because the printer ink is out of stock. Why didn’t we maintain the ink stock? The problem therefore is not the lack of ink but our negligence in controlling its stock.

We may find thousands of examples, better (or worse) than each other but the sad thing about this is that the major examples are found in our own lives, every day.

Before rampaging about anything that happens to us we first need to understand the origin of the problem. We need to seek the actions that triggered our current situation.

More than that, we need to stop generating examples of these kind of troubles in our own lives. But how?

First of all we must give immediate attention to everything, every issue, every situation. The immediate analysis of all situations tend to avoid future problems. It does not take as much time as you may think just to check what we can do right away and quickly sort the situation.

After examination, we will find that there are situations which require immediate response, which require immediate reaction by the very time they present themselves. These are situations that must be addressed immediately.

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There are other actions that may be delayed, provided that the delay doesn’t mean last minute, because then we would be running the risk to miss a deadline. These situations must be scheduled, noted down.

We will find other situations which require no actions at all, which means that no harm will occur either way. Yet such kind of situations should also be noted down for future reference.

Furthermore, forget the word urgent: urgent is everything that should have been dealt with at the right time but wasn’t. If you just realized a situation which requires immediate reaction, do understand that it is not urgent but just important.

Except for obvious situations, even not an illness is urgent: if you get to a hospital complaining of stomach aches of course they will treat your situation as urgent, because they are required to do so, but we all know you probably could have avoided this situation by not eating some kind of meal which you well knew was not good for you, and that was then the right time to act.

Let us return to the examples given above:

• Paying the bill is not urgent, but it became urgent because we failed to do so in advance.

• Escaping the traffic jam is not urgent, but it became urgent because we failed to avoid it.

• Printing the report or getting the printer ink is not urgent, but it became urgent because we failed to control the stock when we should have done so.

So there is no urgency, nothing is urgent, everything can be handled within the normal range.

Even when you are given some task to be done "yesterday," it is not an emergency. Pay attention now: in this case the task is only urgent for the person who gave it to you, but not for yourself. You need to give an immediate response to this task, by working quickly, but with no sense of urgency. In such cases, usually the task should have been done by someone else who didn’t do it on time and then it is passed on to you to be done in much less time than it could have been done by the first person.

Let’s pay attention now, because many times we give “urgent” tasks to our subordinates... Were the tasks urgent a few days ago? Did we take all the actions to solve the issue before giving it to our subordinates? By doing so, are we not exposing our incompetence, inconsistency or inability to them?

Are we living under stress because we have urgent work? Are we failing to act when we should? So what is this stress for? What kind of stress is this? It is a self-imposed stress, because we are working against ourselves, sabotaging, forcing ourselves to always act against time.

Time is not our enemy and there’s no need to treat it as such. Time is our friend if we don’t neglect it. If we allocate more tasks than we can do within the avaiable time, we again are originating future problems, the fault is ours, not our calendar’s!

Responsibility in this case means guilt, because there will be consequences. No matter if it is a small delay, stress, or performing innacurate tasks because of the rush, the consequences will come.

And today we are living the consequences.

We are responsible (and guilty) for the consequences of our acts.

We need to stop worrying about the consequences which are the emergencies that appear in our lives. We must turn to the sources of the problems, seek for the roots of each of them, look for the actions that triggered our present situation.

This is not living in the past but intensely living in the present, paying attention to what is most important right now. So let’s take the reins of our future, let’s measure the consequences of our actions and, by getting to know them, we are preparing ourselves for the future.

We should not excuse ourselves, we should not fool ourselves attributing to others the responsibility for what happens to us today.

It is possible to live without urgency; it is possible to recognize our responsibilities and act to avoid bad consequences by just taking due care in the immediate moment, now!