Typically, career choices are made based upon responsibilities, compensation, or prestige where a businessperson makes a change to get a higher salary, more responsibility, or greater prestige. What about the situation, though, where the driver behind a career choice isn’t any of these; where it’s the needs of a child that drive the change? My choice was precisely that.
Trevor was a happy, normal, active baby. He was able to laugh, coo, cry, and do all of the other normal things that his big sister, Briana did at that age. To my wife Patty and me, everything seemed to be just fine. At about age two, we noticed that Trevor was hardly saying any words and was very into his own world with puzzles, coloring, and videos.
With the vacation season in the rear-view mirror, many of us are going to get back to the grind of working too much, not getting enough sleep, eating poorly and not getting enough exercise. The concept of work life balance to most is just a bunch of theoretical baloney espoused by a bunch of talking-head motivational speakers and organizational leaders. There’s simply no way out of the imbalance, right?
Several years back I got into a conversation with a colleague about our kids. He told me of how he took his daughters to the circus. He wasn't able to afford it, but decided to go anyway. While they were at the circus, he looked over at his oldest daughter. The look on her face was one of utter contentment and delight. Seeing his daughter's face caused my colleague to get all choked up. The price of admission was redeemed through a priceless moment that my colleague shared with his daughter.
Recently Patty and I met up with our financial advisor to walk through our long-term finances. A key component of that discussion was about our net worth, defined as assets minus liabilities. While we had a very fruitful discussion that resulted in some great take-aways, it got me to thinking about how easy it is to focus on a single aspect of one's life and derive how good (or bad) one might be doing based on that aspect. Don't get me wrong; one's net worth is certainly an important measure that needs to be tended to. My point is that there is more to life than net worth when looking at your overall contentment. This hit home for me with the suicides of famous figures Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and others. These are people who appeared to have it all but to them something was so missing that it caused them to commit a horribly sad act. Lives ended too early; my prayers go to their loved ones.
In thinking about contentment, I looked hard at what, to me, are the most important driving factors behind contentment. Keep in mind my analysis is not from a point of scientific expertise; rather it is from a point of practicality as to what I think are the most important drivers. I've honed my list to 8:
Now I completely realize that some of these above drivers are extremely important to some or not at all important. My point is not to second guess your importance level; what I do believe necessary is to decide how important each of the above drivers are to you. If something is not at all important to you then that is certainly your choice. Just be mindful of avoiding something that could adversely impact you later. As example, if you say financial contentment is not at all important and you decide not to financially plan for the future then you might be creating a problem for yourself later in life.
So what now? I put together a simple excel spreadsheet which allows you to assess, for each of the contentment drivers, how important it is to you, what makes you content, and how you could be more content. I think it's important to articulate both what makes you content and how you could be more content for a couple of reasons. First, it allows you to celebrate things you are already happy with. Second, it enables you to improve on some things which you may already be doing well.
If you find this helpful, you can download the excel template to help you self-assess yourself based on the 8 drivers. Download it here.
As always, would love to hear what you think. let me know your thoughts in below comments.
Some time back I did an interview on the importance of dinnertime. It reminded me of the importance of eating dinner as a family in the work/life balance equation so I thought I would post it here as well:
In your view, why aren't families sitting down to the dinner table like they did in the 1950s?
Simple; families have allowed themselves to get so busy that they have come to accept that sitting down together for dinner isn't a necessity. It all starts with the parents; if they don't sit down together or enforce that the family will be eating together, the family won't do it. Make sitting down together the rule and not doing so the exception.
So let’s talk about over-used terms for a minute.
If you’ve been in the business world for any length of time you’ve likely heard your management espouse the desire for employees to achieve greater work/life balance. Many U.S. companies have adopted programs to help employees strike a better life balance by providing health club benefits, entertainment discount programs, and additional time off for events such as the birth of a child. Despite all this, Americans are of the most overworked and flat-out busy people on earth, recently surpassing the Japanese and long surpassing the Europeans. With all this discussion of work/life balance, how can we in the U.S. also be of the most overworked people in the world? The answer is pretty simple; many of us talk work/life balance, but don’t live work/life balance primarily because we don’t know how to do it.
Brad was an incredibly bright young executive with a very promising future. Ever since graduating college, he seemed to take on increased responsibilities in his company like a duck to water. He married his college sweetheart, Nancy, right after graduation and has two small children. Brad's talent didn't go unnoticed in the industry, with several competitors approaching Brad about his willingness to join another firm. He steadfastly resisted, that is until the offer of all offers came his way.
Cantata Group, a larger and more prominent competitor to his current company, wined and dined Brad and ultimately offered him a VP position with a higher salary and better benefits. The offer was too good to pass up so Brad talked with Nancy about the job and they both became enamored with how this was going to advance Brad's career and what they would be able to do with the extra money. Brad joyfully accepted Cantata's offer, gave his current company two weeks' notice, and started in his new VP role.
Within a year of joining Cantata, he noticed some unexpected side effects of his new position. He was required to be in weekly global executive virtual meetings which could happen at any time of the day or night. He was routinely working 60+ hours a week, missing dinner with Nancy and the kids. He traveled at least once a week, many times to put out fires at clients. His eating habits were horrendous and he wasn't exercising due to his schedule. He began putting on weight. Nancy was frustrated with him not being around and his kids missed their daddy. The stress was unbearable and led to Brad one day grabbing his chest and collapsing during a customer meeting.
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