The trappings of urgency

In the face of failure, oftentimes it isn’t our lack of ability that leads to a feeling helplessness. It is our urgency.

Short of making it to the NBA or being the youngest person to climb Mount Everest, we can achieve anything we want to, or rewrite any limiting story from our past, given enough time.

One such impossible achievement was that of Viktor Frankl. Frankl, being a jew, was held prisoner by the Nazis for two years before being transported to concentration camps for a year. Despite losing his wife, and withstanding unspeakable torture, Frankl used his observations in the camp to found a new theory in psychology – logotherapy. The essence of logotherapy is captured best by his quote below:

“Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

It is between stimulus and response that every one of our goals lie. Sandwiched between these two states are the motivational stories as well as the limiting ones we tell ourselves. Frankl’s story, among several others, is testimony to the fact that we could change any one of those stories to tell ourselves a new story that helps us achieve whatever we seek to or overcome limitations.

It is just that we can’t get there today or tomorrow. Each of those journeys needs us to double down on them and put in the hours.

The helplessness we feel in the face of failure is not caused due to inability, but due to urgency – the need to have it all right now. Between inability and capability lie hours of deliberate practice and showing up every single day. When those hours are put in, success is a mere consequence. But adding urgency to the mix is what takes away our choice and causes sadness and depression. It doesn’t particular help to live in times when every one of us is being brainwashed that we deserve to gratify ourselves in every single way, right in this moment.

In the absence of urgency, we can exercise our full power to choose between stimulus and response and embark on a long journey by taking a small step every single day. And when we look back after a few months at where we started off, we then feel a sense of accomplishment rather than helplessness.

2 thoughts on “The trappings of urgency

  1. Dear Anupam,
    I stumbled on to your blog from a weekly update email that I received from the Learning How to Learn MOOC. I have been wandering here for an hour or so, and I am really getting to like your perspective.
    Please keep on keeping on, it was a pleasure to read your thoughts!
    Warm Regards,

    Liked by 1 person

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