Out of our hands…and in our hands

Much of what we see going on around us right now is completely and totally out of our hands. I remember a few years ago when I was involved in leadership courses, empowerment movements, and community organizing – a friend was giving a seminar and showed a diagram very similar to this:


The x axis goes from not important to important, the y axis goes from not urgent to urgent. It is one of the most useful tools anyone has ever shown me. I use it for everything from goal setting to putting together a to-do list to shopping …and much more. You brainstorm your list of whatever and you put it somewhere on the graph … if it falls under not urgent and not important then you forget about it, if it is urgent but not important then it probably isn’t as important as you thought, if it is important but not urgent then it may not be as important as you imagined, and if it is both important and urgent then you need to give it your attention.

The traumatic events around us are causing a lot of us to lose our heads – not literally…yet, but metaphorically. It has not even been a couple of weeks yet and already I’ve encountered people dealing with rage, a feeling of impotence, anger…yes lots of anger, fear, and most of the other afflictive emotions including lots of panic. I think we need a new graph. The reason is – people are in a legitimate state of shock. We need a shorthand way to figure out what we can do and what we can’t do, what we need to do and what we don’t need to do, what we should do and what we should not do. Important and urgent work for this…but there needs to be another axis because like it or not, every decision made right now carries ramifications. For the person making the decision, for the family of that person, for the communities of that person, for the future.

The axis I have in mind is “in our hands” “not in our hands” – I think it needs to be the primary decision made. For example – national policy – definitely not in my hands, so I am not going to include that on my urgent/important axis because it falls under urgent/important/notinmyhands But since I’m seeing people in a state of shock and panic around me, there is something I can do which is important/urgent/inmyhands – and I’m doing it. I’m sharing a tool that will hopefully help you to see all of this with a little more clarity.

It is not in my hands to change the mind of those who already voted. Nor is it important. Nor is it urgent. It is not in my hands to change laws even though it is important and urgent. It is not in my hands to fix the system. It is not in my hands to reach millions of people. It is in my hands to reach a handful of people and help them to use this simple but very very useful prioritizing tool so that they can begin to do what is most important, most urgent, and most within their hands.

I hope this helps.