Important but not Urgent

The four quadrantsIn Stephen Covey’s book, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a persons actions and activities are divided into a matrix of four quadrants. The first quadrant is comprised of things that are important and urgent in our daily living such as emergencies, crises, deadlines that are fast approaching, etc. The second quadrant includes things that are important but not urgent. In recovery this might include reading a relapse prevention book, making amends with a person or making retribution.  The third quadrant is urgent, but unimportant activities like interruptions from a child, needing to have a cigarette, etc. The fourth quadrant is neither urgent nor important.  This would include time wasting activities like playing  solitaire on the computer, random web surfing and video games.

A very useful exercise for someone attempting to make meaningful changes in their thinking and their lives is to fill up these four quadrants with the activities of ones day and estimate the percentage of time that was spent in each quadrant.  A person who is crisis oriented will spend most of their time in quadrants one and three.  A person not actively pursuing goals or changing distorted thinking patterns can spend a significant amount of time in quadrant four doing many mindless things.  A person actively attempting to change the bad habits and errors in their thinking will purposely make time for activities that are very important, but not necessarily urgent. Quadrant two is the heart of recovery and thinking change!

The next blog will discuss the thinking errors that keep us rooted in quadrants one, three and four and the corrections to those errors that will lead us to increase the time spent in quadrant two.


Reading with a sense of purpose

One of my favorite things to do is to read with a sense of purpose.  One of my most favorite management books is the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.  My father gave me this book many years ago when I was a drug and alcohol counselor at Rock Valley Correctional Programs in Beloit, WI.  I read each chapter with the clear intention to apply what I learned to my work in that organization.  So many of the principles seemed to directly relate to my work with offenders.  I was encouraged that other counselors were also reading the book so I assumed they would also be trying to apply what they learned to their work.  The book had such an impact on my thinking that I couldn’t see how anyone could read it and not want to immediately apply the lessons to their own lives and the lives of their clients!  I quickly learned that reading does not necessarily result in action.  Many of my colleagues continued with their work life in the same manner as before which was quite a shock to me.  How can someone read such excellent and practical words and not make a change?  In reality, it happens every day in the lives of our clients as well as in our own lives.  Just reading or listening is often not enough to motivate us to action.  We need to make a decision that we will learn and apply the knowledge of others in our lives.  Similar to the third step of Alcoholics Anonymous, which says, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him,” we cannot grow and change if we are not willing to take that next intellectual step of deciding to change.


"An approach to the treatment of offenders which emphasizes the role of altering thinking patterns in bringing about change in an offender's life."