The urgency instinct

Ashwin Chhabria
2 min readJul 22, 2018


The world has gotten a lot better today. We are no longer battling lions and tigers nor are we at the risk of being bitten by snakes in our neighbourhood. However, the brain of our ancestors which helped them survive these ‘attacks’ has partially been passed on through the generations. A brain of fear, calculation and safety.

As much as the brain has evolved to solve complex problems, create path-breaking inventions and think differently, a part of it is still grounded in fear. This fear manifests itself in various ways.

One of the ways is when the fear makes us believe that a particular decision has to be taken as soon as possible when it actually might not be the case. The fear causes us to act simply because we believe that if we don’t act now, things can get a lot worse. This leads to bad decisions because our action is a consequence of fear and not critical thought. Our actions would better qualify as a reaction than a response.

At moments where we are being pressed to decide under the clock, it’s helpful to pause and ask ‘Is this really urgent?’, ‘Can I not take a call on this, tomorrow?’

More often than not, things can wait. Decisions can be deferred. Urgency is almost always artificially created. And decisions are always more sensible when they are thought through as opposed to being a consequence of the fear of being late. In most cases that people are asking us to act urgently, they are preventing us from thinking clearly.

Hans Rosling, in his book, Factfulness discusses how he has been victim to the urgency instinct and made some of the worst medical decisions because he was pressured to act immediately. This caused deaths, poor prognosis and unnecessary consequences. It’s important to be able to logically defend a course of action even in high pressure situations. Only action without a justified reasoning is almost always a recipe for disaster.