During our weekly staff meeting at CLE we were watching this above interview with author John Kotter on the importance of urgency. It struck me as I was watching, and as I’ve been coming out of a motivational slump myself that a strong sense of urgency makes the world go round. The way Kotter explains it is that a sense of urgency ebbs and flows, and yet the organizations that seem to keep a consistent level of- this needs to get done- as a part of their culture are the ones that tend to be most successful.
After watching the clip, as you might imagine a group of therapists would, we had a meaningful discussion about what that looks like for us personally as well as professionally. Coincidentally last night, I was talking about urgency with my friend and didn’t even realize it! I was talking, perhaps bordering on complaining, about feeling flat and complacent in my life and thinking what I could do about it. Expressing openly like that allowed me to step into a different reality and feel a bigger sense of aliveness and motivation to keep pushing forward personally and professionally.
Kotter’s talk on urgency reminded me of my football days as well. My college coach used the phrase that we need to play with a sense of urgency. Times when we, as a team, would come out flat, lifeless, and stiff were times when we were comfortable, complacent, or entrenched in fear. Game time could be a scary time, but it didn’t need to be. When I got my head in the game, usually after taking a big hit from a defensive lineman, I was in the game and ready for the fight. In that scenario my sense of urgency came from, if I don’t do my job and do it to the fullest, this guy across from me is going to keep me from getting what I want– a touchdown! Urgency for me came from a combination of anger about having something I wanted taken away (gained yardage) as well as a sense of excitement about the reward and joy that comes with winning the game. By harnessing my anger and excitement, instead of relying on one or the other, allowed me to feel that sense of urgency and act.
Towards the end of the clip, Kotter begins to talk about complacency. Now I’ll paraphrase here, but he contends that complacency is the killer of urgency. Once a company or a person becomes comfortable, that instinct and drive for more slows down. They stop taking outward risks for fear of losing what they have accumulated thus far. This happened all the time in football as well. We’d get to beating a team by a comfortable margin by halftime, only to be in the midst of a dogfight in the final minutes of a game that could have been a blowout. This still happens to me today. I get ahead, coast, and then wonder why I’m suddenly behind in many areas of my life.
Realistically, this looks like taking successes as an opportunity to go for more and not sit back to celebrate by taking a break. Say I have a call with a potential client that goes really well. My ‘celebration‘ in my new urgency mindset would be to get right back on the phone and make a call, have another conversation, and close another deal. And then celebrate again by picking up the phone and doing it all over again. Basically, anything that keeps that momentum alive and flowing is a good thing. And conversely, anything that slows or halts momentum is a bad thing– taking it easy is a bad thing.
Maybe you can relate to me on this. My historic mindset is, I’ve been working hard and so I deserve a break! In a life of complacency this mindset works… Not so living a life of urgency however. An urgent mindset would say, I’ve been working hard, how can I continue to use this positive momentum I’m generating to accomplish even more! A sense of urgency keeps life interesting, and keeps me on my cutting edge of growth and development. I am grateful for the immense amount of support I have in my life and grateful for the opportunities to continually learn, develop, and grow.