We all want to be successful in life, but finding what it takes isn’t as easy as it might seem. In our culture, there is a strong tendency to equate success with position, power, and money, and that was my perspective as I prepared myself for a business career and as I advanced in the corporate world. I assumed that I would feel complete as a person when I achieved enough position, power, and money.
But how much is enough? It was only after becoming CEO of a startup company that I realized there would never be enough, that I needed to examine deeply the deficiency that I felt within myself, the hole that I had hoped to fill with accomplishment in my career.
It is critical to realize that time is one of our most important assets and we need to use it keeping in mind our real priorities, the things that can lead to a successful life.
As I started to take an inventory of my life, I discovered painfully that my focus on my career had deprived me of precious time with my family, my wife and three children, and I had missed family times and events that would never be repeated. My family relationships needed mending, and I started to focus on them, on what was important to me. My wife and I went into therapy, and I had special trips with each of my children for locations and events of their choosing. I identified the source of the deficiency that had driven me, improved my listening skills, and spent quality time in communication. Fortunately, I was able to strengthen my family ties and to deal with issues resulting from my earlier neglect.
Career choices need to be made in the context of one’s life goals. Life is a journey to find out who we are, and only from that perspective can we know our goals. My experience teaches me that what we do to earn a living needs to be an expression of who we are.
When we approach work in this way, life choices look different. Is that luxury car or larger house important enough to ignore who I am by accepting work that requires me to be someone other than myself? When I was flying around the world to that next business meeting and missing family events, that wasn’t who I am. It took literally years of introspective work on my part to clarify my identity and what is important, but it was worth the effort, and I am grateful for my new perspectives.
Building a career within a life of self-expression is the way to go, not starting with a career and attempting to fit a life around that. This is each person’s responsibility. Remember, no one ever says, at the end of their life, that they should have worked longer and spent less time with family.