I’ll admit: I have a hard time with perspective sometimes, especially when it comes to focusing on what really matters. For me, my biggest struggle comes in connecting what I do in my everyday life to a more complete picture of what I’d like to become.
Then one day I stumbled upon an idea (quite by accident) that made me see things so differently, I’m sure I’ll never be the same.
What changed my perspective? 3 questions and a little time to reflect!
I was facilitating a discussion with a group of professionals who were having a hard time balancing work and life. Perhaps you know them… heck, perhaps you ARE them! At any rate, we were in the woods, so I asked them to pair up with a partner and discuss a question while we walked. When we arrived at our destination, I asked them to share their answers. We repeated this process three times over the course of the morning.
Question 1: What would you like people to say about you at your retirement?
Most of their answers were predictable here. They wanted to be noted as people who made a difference. They mentioned things like:
- Good worker/hard worker
- Made a difference (i.e., furthered the company’s position through sales, production, contracts, etc).
- Someone who could always find a solution (aka, the “go-to-guy or gal”)
I got the impression that these were folks who wanted to leave the workplace a better place than they found it. Any employer would be glad to have them on their team!
I then asked them to write down two things they could start doing when they returned to work that would result in those kinds of things being said about them at retirement.
And I’m asking you to do the same. If you can take a long walk and ponder, ask yourself the question above. If you’re not currently working outside the home, pick another mile marker (e.g., what do you want people to say about you when your kids leave the house? Or when you reach your 65th birthday?).
Then… you’re ready for question 2!
Question 2: What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?
Fast forward (hopefully) many years and repeat the process. Our group arrived at some of the following ideas:
- Loving (fill in the role: father, mother, husband, wife, etc)…
- Lived life to the fullest
- Was always there for family and others
Again, these answers were fairly predictable. Family was important, as was being a good person. And again, I asked them to write down at least two things they could start doing today to make these come true.
Your turn: take some time to reflect… what will be said at your funeral and what can you start doing right now to make those words be true?
Question 3: Compare your lists of things to do: do they work against each other, or in harmony with each other?
This is the perspective-changing question! Can I make salesman of the year and still be a loving father? Some folks that day had to face the fact that accolades and making more money only conveyed love to one person… themselves! Their children didn’t feel more loved because of their awards or sales records. A couple of folks in the group had their eyes opened to the difference between making enough to provide for their family vs. the thrill of making as much as possible.
They discovered that providing for your family isn’t just about money!
Can I spend enough time to always be the “go-to-guy or gal” at work and be there for family and others? Another person that day came up with a startling revelation: it wasn’t just about how many hours they spent “at work,” it was also about how many hours work spent in them! One man put it this way:
“Even when I’m home, I’m not always there. Sure, I’m there physically, but mentally… I’m back at my desk, working the issue.”
He learned that “being there” for family wasn’t always about physical location… it was also about mental and spiritual location. When I asked them at the end of the day to make a short phrase that would fit on a bumper sticker to remind them of what they learned that day, his bumper sticker was, “Be ALL There!”
It can be a startling revelation to discover your work life is conflicting with your life goals. But it can also be a chance to recreate yourself. If your two lists are conflicting, take some time and get creative… how can your to-do list at work begin to compliment your to-do list in life?
King Solomon the wise encourages us to put it all in perspective before God:
“Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades.” (Eccl 12:4a NLT)
– If your lists are different, why do you think that happened? What would you say to other younger people to prevent them from taking that same route?
– Name one concrete step you can do to bring these two areas of life into harmony… and do that!
– If you’ve successfully balanced work and life, think of one person who needs help, and:
— Share these same questions
— Offer to help them get creative in restoring balance
– What would your work life (in our outside the home) look like if it was governed by your life goals?
– What changes can you make? How and when will you make them? (Write down specifics and keep them in a place where you’ll see them frequently)