“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:33
Put first things first. That’s how Stephen Covey describes Habit number 3 in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In other words, highly effective people identify what is most important in their lives and make it top priority, centered on their mission rather than being seduced by outside forces. “The key,” as Covey puts it, “is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
In my former career I was responsible for a bond trading operation for a major Wall Street investment firm. Every day was a beehive of activity, phones ringing constantly, squawk boxes blaring, people shouting across the room, like a perpetual fire drill. And everything was urgent; the ringing phones demanded immediate attention, impatient investors who needed someone to help them “right now!” Yet in the heat of battle big decisions of utmost importance involving substantial sums of money had to be made. It was from those big decisions that our profitability was derived, which was our life blood, our reason for being, the purpose of our existence. If we were not careful, though, the urgency of the ringing phones and blaring squawk boxes could become seductive, distracting us from the importance of the big decisions that had to be made. In other words, we had to manage in the midst of that perpetual fire drill to put first things first.
In a sense, our bond trading desk imitated real life, for in real life we constantly encounter urgent demands on our time and energy, problems to be solved, projects to complete, impatient people who need us to help them “right now!” And it is not as if we can or should ignore those urgent demands, for indeed they must be responded to. Rather it is a matter of prioritizing because if we are not careful the demands of life’s urgent matters can become seductive, distracting us from what is most important, our reason for being, the purpose of our existence, our life mission. Covey teaches us in Habit number 3 that in order to be most effective we must put first things first. Long before Covey, though, Jesus also instructed us to put first things first, and he was very specific. “But first seek his kingdom and his righteousness.” Do that and the rest will fall into place.