Means to an End
Though I am relatively early in my career, it has nevertheless been rewarding and fulfilling. My work has been a great source of learning, growth, satisfaction, opportunity, and enjoyment. My job also gives me an identify - but it is only a small part of who I am.
Despite the satisfaction I find in my work, it is a small part of what defines me. Certainly, there are professional goals that I hope to achieve, but these are ultimately a means to an end - not the end in and of itself. In other words, my work (though enjoyable and fulfilling) is only a thread in the tapestry that is my life (okay, let's be honest, it's quite a few threads!).
If you're anything like me, you know that it can be very easy to focus most of your time and attention on your career. This is understandable. Our employers deserve our best and it's important that we perform well for them. If you run your own business, it takes constant attention and incredible effort to build it and keep it going.
But, if we're not careful, we can miss the forest for the trees. We can miss fully appreciating and enjoying the one person that makes life truly wonderful - our spouse!
Think about it, you could have all the finest things money can buy, but if you had no one to share it with, what would it mean? Nothing. If you sacrificed your most treasured relationship (aka, your marriage!) to get those "things," have you done yourself any good? No.
Determine What's Most Important To You
One of my favorite books is called "How Will You Measure Your Life?" by Clayton Christensen, a world renowned scholar and professor at HBS. From his own experience, Christensen shares the following:
It is easy to get caught up in the mentality that "the more money I make, the happier I'll be." However, this is a dangerous philosophy to follow, and one that could lead to very painful effects. In the above example, these people had, in most cases, focused so long and hard on building a successful career that they missed the success they could have had with their spouse and children.
It makes me think of the story of the man who worked night and day climbing the "ladder of success." When he finally reached the top, to his complete dismay, he found that it had been leaning against the wrong wall! So, determine what's most important to you and make sure your ladder is leaning against the right wall.
You may be thinking, "So, can you have both? Can you have a successful, thriving career, and a happy marriage?" Absolutely! You just have to prioritize. Just be sure that your marriage always sits very high on your list of priorities. Again, I am a firm believer in hard work and reaping the rewards of it. Monetary success can open many doors and provide great opportunities for you and those around you. But, no amount of money, fame, or prestige is worth sacrificing your marriage for.
Decide Now And Chart A Course
There are many unfortunate examples of broken marriages due to one or more spouses becoming completely engrossed in career aspirations. But, among all those negative examples, I recently came across a very positive one.
In early 2014, Mohamed El-Erian resigned from his very lucrative position as CEO of PIMCO, a premier investment firm. In explaining why, he shared the following:
From time to time, each of us probably needs a wake up call. That wake up call could come in many forms (i.e. sickness, loss of a loved-one, loss of a job, divorce, etc...). However, not everyone has to attend the school of hard-knocks to learn this important lesson. Your wake up call could come in the form of a note from your 10-year-old daughter, or a discussion with your spouse. Hopefully, none of us have to reach our breaking point (or the breaking point of our marriage) to figure out what really matters most.
Decide today to make your marriage a priority - a very high priority. It will yield greater dividends than any other investment you could possibly make. And the return on that investment is something you'll be able to enjoy, together with your spouse, for a very long time!
"You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly."
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