A real life story is told of a prominent and an influential person who gets invited to a home by a woman named Martha. Upon realizing who the special guest was, Martha’s sister Mary made a crucial but important choice to seize this rare opportunity and glean from the visitor. Martha on the other hand abandoned the visitor for a while as she tried to prepare some food for the occasion. She wondered why her sister Mary wouldn’t come help her and she proceeds to actually inquire why the guest wouldn’t prod her sister to help her. He responds by telling her that while she was busy in the kitchen, her sister Mary had chosen what was more important.
I found it interesting that the visitor did not pause from what he had to do while Martha made herself busy; he clearly must have known that all that preparation was for him. It’s also intriguing that the 2 sisters responded differently to the same situation.
In a best seller first published in 1988 titled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey outlines a path through which individuals and businesses can successfully attain their goals. There are many poignant lessons and paradigm shift moments in this book but the piece of information that resonates the most with me is the 3rd habit of Putting First Things First. In this chapter, he carefully explains the order or process that should govern our decisions. When placed in a quadrant it looks something like this:
1) Important and Urgent
2) Important and Not-Urgent
3) Not Important and Urgent
4) Not Important and Not Urgent
Knowing what is important or not, urgent or not urgent and aligning it with long term goals is a sure indicator to becoming successful. Although this book was originally published almost 30 years ago, its principles remain timeless and especially relevant in this fast paced world today. We sometimes find ourselves occupied with the things we think we should do to the extent that we tend to loose sight of what we really ought to do
In applying this to the actions of the two sisters Martha and Mary, you will notice that Mary chose what was Important and Urgent. Whatever the visitor had to offer was important and urgent to her. Such visits hardly occur so for her, it was all about seizing the moment. Her sister on the other hand chose was what important but not urgent. This means that she could have stalled on the preparation and engaged the visitor first. This way, she would have reaped the full benefit of the encounter.
The spontaneity of life teaches us that time waits for no man. Time would not stop because we did not make the right decision, time would not stop because we made a mistake or are uncertain of which way to turn. Life goes on regardless so it behooves us then to define our goals and to proactively pursue traits, processes and strategies that would ensure our success. Many things may be important but only a few are important and urgent. Knowing the difference is key.
So to everyone out there, “a little less Martha and a little more Mary” is the way to go. Make it your new mantra.
Till the next lugu post, take care.