Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
July 2, 2007
Pencil God time into your vacation plans
In his classic 1989 book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey describes putting first things first as one of the seven key habits. We spend time in one of four ways, Covey says. We can spend it on matters that are urgent and important, that are not urgent but still important, that are not important but urgent, or that are not important and not urgent.
All of us likely devote some of our energy to each of those ways of spending time. But if we spend too much time on things that are not important - the third and fourth ways - we will have lives that are characterized by irresponsibility and dependence on others to get important things done.
If we are responsible, we will still spend a lot of our efforts on matters that are urgent and important. But if that is our sole focus, we will end up burned out, forever putting out fires and feeling that our lives have no purpose. Focus on the urgent and important and that sphere will grow and grow until it dominates one's life.
Covey maintains that highly effective people spend much of their time in the second way - on activities that are important, but not urgent.
They have vision and perspective, are balanced and disciplined in their lives, and have few crises. While Covey offers elaborate schemes for getting more time for important-not urgent activities, he has two main suggestions - spend less time on unimportant activities and delegate responsibility for some of the urgent and important ones.
If one works at it, one will develop the principles by which one leads one's life. And that's what being focused on important -not urgent - matters is all about -leading a life that is centred on principles.
Covey's presentation is secular, but it's not hard to see how it can be lived out in a faith-filled way. Important-non-urgent matters in any Catholic's life are prayer, meditation, spiritual reading and participation in the liturgy.
The most common way of seeing summer vacation time is in terms of non-important, non-urgent activities. Early childhood and retirement are often viewed in this perspective as well. Of course, there should be space in all of our lives for some down time, relaxation and idle socializing.
But God did not give us the gift of life so we could waste years, months or even days of it. He gave us life so we could know, love and serve him and eventually spend eternity with him.
Vacation time is thus one opportunity to reflect on God's personal call, strengthen our principles and re-orient our lives. One can do that in a canoe or in a chapel.
Yet, so often Catholics see their vacations as a time to also take a vacation from Sunday liturgy. Church attendance plummets as regular parishioners are out of town, but few visitors drop in to take their places.
The Church has a vocation crisis. This crisis is not simply one of a shortage of priests, brothers and sisters. It is a crisis caused by a failure of millions to reflect on the fact that God is calling each of us to serve him in some particular ways.
If we devote our lives to unimportant activities or activities that are important but urgent, we will stumble into our God-given vocations only by accident. If we deliberately make time for important, non-urgent activity and reflection, we can be fairly sure that eventually God's call will become clearer to us.
In our society, many, many people say they are always busy. If we are among those, we need to ask ourselves how we are busy. Are we busy with unimportant activities? Are we busy with important and urgent activities? Or, do we make space on our calendars for those matters that will give us life - those that are important, but not urgent?
- Glen Argan
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