It is very important to establish a preliminary point that urgency itself is not a problem since the reality of our modern life cannot be devoid of it but complications emerge when urgency becomes the dominant factor of our lives. It is usually a consequence of poor self-management.
Urgency addiction is a self-destructive behaviour that seeks to fill the void of unmet inner needs in our lives with relentless activities. Unfortunately, the tools and approaches of our so-called time management often feed our urgency addiction by failing to address these inner needs for meaning and contribution. There is an old saying that ‘anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.’
Urgency addicts always create crisis situations with grave consequences on the mental health as they equally derive excitement and energy from the adrenaline rush for handling crises. They feel useful moving from pillar to post doing nothing and whenever there is trouble, they ride into town, pull out our six shooter, blow the smoke off the barrel and ride into the sunset like a hero as it brings instant results and instant gratification. It is like they get a temporary high from solving crises and when the value is not there; the sense of urgency becomes so compelling that they do anything just to stay in motion.
Urgency addiction is a mindset and it is as though Africans, especially Nigerians have some sort of genetic coding for it. This is demonstrated at the level of governance where there are no long-range plans as we get busy with the non-essentials until we get into crisis. A good number of our corporate business leaders unconsciously drive their organisations with this mindset. Vital relationships could be threatened or destroyed. This may explain the terrorist activities and militancy in our nation just as unsupervised children could become susceptible to self-destructive behaviours, especially substance abuse. When a life is governed by this mindset, the body physiology is violated and the immune system could be compromised.
The rising incidence in hypertension and kidney diseases among folks younger than 40 is traceable to the urgency addiction as they keep the fire burning at both ends of the candle using stimulants that could damage the heart and brain. Poor judgment, aggressive tendencies, unprovoked violence in the workplace and on the highway may be traceable to urgency addiction. Their dietary patterns become disrupted as they feed on junks and overstretch the body with minimal rest. Some folks cannot even take a vacation as they cannot afford not having the adrenaline rush.
Stephen R Covey describes urgency addiction as the way of life of the ‘lesser souls’ or beasts since they lack capacity for proactive planning. This for me is most humbling just as the black man makes tremendous efforts to explain away his underdevelopment as though he is less human. I feel that as a people, we get more excited about the immediate, more sensational and entertaining issues of life than sitting down to deeply think, plan and execute long range plans. It is not certain that contemplative practice is evident in our culture as our festivals are embellished with orgies, camaraderie, violence, dancing, eating and show of power.
Beasts exist by instincts as they respond to cues in the environment without cognitive processing which is the psychological template for urgency addiction. The Pavlov experiment shows how the dog salivates at the sight of meat coupled with the ringing of the bell and how it will still salivate when there is no meat and the bell is rung since it is already programmed electrochemically to respond automatically without cognitive appraisal. Urgency addicts, like the Pavlov dog, are automatically driven by the stimulus.
A normal human being is expected to cognitively engage the stimulus, interrogate it and mount a deliberate response. This can only be possible as the facility of our minds intervenes through the power of self-awareness that helps us to appraise our weaknesses and strengths; the power of imagination enables us to form pictures of our decisions and align them to our strengths. The conscience guides and modulates our decisions to be wholesome as we live to fulfil the cardinal human needs; to live, to love, to learn and to leave a legacy. Our will power executes our decisions daily, weekly, monthly and yearly.
The fallacy of the traditional time management is the inability to manage self within the constant factor of time since time is a constant, innocent and friendly resource.
It only becomes an enemy when self is mismanaged within the constant factor of time, then we move into crisis. Sound mental health devoid of addiction and distress can only be acquired as we break our addiction to the urgent and dwell in the paradigm of proactivity.