As I reflect on my youngest daughter’s high school graduation, I remember the excitement in the eyes of the 240 young people dressed in caps and gowns. Some were ready for school to be over, while others were looking forward to the next phases of their educations.
Whatever path those young people choose, some will become consumed by work and business. Others will strike a balance between life and work either intentionally or accidentally. This second group likely will experience more happiness and success throughout their lives and less regret as well. Perhaps the changing demands of this younger generation are reflective of this.
The No. 2 regret of people at the end of their life: “I wish I hadn’t worked so much.”
Given all the things people could regret looking back at the lives they lived, this is an extraordinarily powerful and telling statement. This potential reality from the end of life points toward the wisdom in taking a different and more mindful approach to work and business no matter what your age.
The people who expressed this deep-seated regret acknowledged spending too much time on the treadmill of work while sacrificing valuable time with their spouses, children, extended family, friends, and even themselves. They also allowed their dreams and adventures outside of success to pass them by. The profound truth is that these moments and experiences, once gone, can never be recaptured.
There’s a common mantra in business about making as much money as you possibly can, about becoming successful at all costs. There’s no doubt being as profitable as you can and standing tall above your competitors is a primary aim in business. The question is: At what cost?
A business owner who focuses on making as much money as possible typically believes their team members should have the same focus. By forgetting these people also have lives, hopes, dreams, and desires, owners demand more and more from them. The reason is simple: When the focus is solely on success and the accumulation of wealth, people and their happiness and well-being are discounted and forgotten.
The thought of becoming wildly successful financially — and the accolades, praise, and recognition that come with it — can be addicting because it feeds the ego. As with any addiction, it can take over, blinding us to the bigger picture of life and all it has to offer. When this happens, it creates a situation where we’re out of balance, ultimately limiting the happiness and success for which we strive.
One aspect of my work with business owners is to help them see the bigger picture — to discover what they value and whether what they sacrifice in their pursuit of success is acceptable to them.
Once my clients develop skills in balancing life and work, they begin making different choices in how they allocate their time. Through this fundamental change, they come to experience a more profound form of success — one that still includes financial gain, often more than ever before, but isn’t a driving force in their lives. In turn, there’s a trickle-down effect on their team members as their life and work balance is encouraged and supported.
It’s important to understand that once your children have grown, your youth has faded and your health has deteriorated, the dreams you abandoned in the pursuit of success and money can’t be realized. That time has passed forever. We all know people who worked their whole lives to make enough money to travel and enjoy the many pleasures of life only to discover that by the time they “arrived,” they were unable to do so because they waited too long.
Your life is happening right now. And there’s room within it for everything you desire — including making money and also enjoying the multitude of other things that bring you pleasure and happiness.
Once you’re mindful of life and work and possess the skills to strike a balance, you won’t have to work so hard to experience the happiness and success you desire. And at the end of your life, you won’t regret having worked too much.