The words repeat themselves over and over again, "It seems all I do is work. Work rules my life." Thinking through the work-jungle environments around the world, one can easily observe that life is often designed around work rather than work being designed around life. Several thoughts:
American Workers in Particular Work More Hours than Any
Yep, that is correct. In fact, the American way of life is focused around success! And, success means you work work work! This truth I've witnessed around the world by the "movers and shakers." Someone once said to me, "Yes it's tough at the top, but it's very crowded at the bottom, and the only way to make sure you're not stuck on the bottom is through work!" While many of us work more than forty hours per week for success, a good thing, more and more careers attest to seventy hour work weeks. With two income families these days, mom and dad often spend more time commuting to work, at work, and commuting home than they actually do with their children. Is it any wonder that so many families are in trouble these days? The question is asked often is, "Just when or how does one draw the line between work and life and life and work?"
Vacations are for Many a Rarity
As an overseas missionary worker helping some of the most needy people in the world in South Africa from 1984-2006, I often worked 24/7 nonstop. After about four years in Ladysmith, South Africa one of my new friends at that time, Keith, asked me a very insightful probing painful question, "Don, pronounced 'Dawn' in his accent, do Americans never take a holiday (vacation)?" I replied, "Yah, pronounced in my Minnesota accent, all the time!" Keith continued, "For the past four years, I've never known you to take personal holiday for either yourself or your family. Do you ever take a holiday?" Keith's friendship and concern for my welfare hit its mark, and as I began to change my lifestyle, holidays or vacations with my family became a regular scheduled event.
Vacations Sometimes are not Real Vacations of Meaningful Relational Time
A very close friend of mine shares it this way. Vacation by the time it's planned, charged on the credit cards, driven thousands of miles, booked into a half dozen hotels, spending a thousand bucks on eating out, staying up late every night, tending to the kids, and then driving 3,000 miles back home while the family sleeps the entire journey, and upon returning home I just go to work the next day - IS NOT A VACATION! I might as well just stay at work! And, he does!
Real meaningful relationship-building down-time vacations require thought, simplicity, removal of busyness, and meaningful interaction. Meaningful interaction, perhaps is not best served while answering emails, voice mails, text messages, and social media.
Picture Yourself at the End of Your Life
Having performed many funerals over the years, never once were the words heard from someone during their last few moments of life, "I wish I would of spent more time at work." Or, "I wish I'd work more hours developing my career." Or. "I wish I would have spent more time being successful." Nope, never once; not even close!
Recently, while visiting an old gentleman in hospice, let's call him Bob, he began to share his story with me. Having owned and sold several businesses during his lifetime, acquired quite a bit of wealth, living comfortably with great insurance and benefits he poured his heart out, "I wish I'd done a better job with my kids." He went on to explain in great detail just what a "better job" meant. You see, Bob spent most of his life influencing people in his business world - not his wife, family, and true friends.
Probably the most revealing moment descended upon me when he said, "You see Don, during the past eighteen months of my illness and now in this hospice not one of those people in my work-world visited me even once!" In fact, only a very few of Bob's relatives came to see him as he was estranged from much of his family.
Try Minimal Living
Here's what I've learned. We don't need near as much stuff to live happily as we think we do. Do I really need a big truck, new car, big house, expensive cloths, high debt, and all the rest of my stuff if it comes before life, spouse, family, friends, and happiness? Try getting rid of stuff, down sizing, reducing debt, decreasing hours spent in multiple volunteer organizations, and giving away stuff that just sits in boxes, basements, backrooms, sheds, and other places where things go to die a slow death from lack of use.
How Do We Define "Career"
For me, career is the totality of my life. It's who I am more than what I do. Career is my relations, my marriage, my sons, their wives, my grandchildren, my investments in people's lives, my generosity, my laugh, my pain, my sharing, my brokenness, and then my work figures into the equation.
For me, designing life around work ends in a disappointing career that was nothing more than work. This result I've witnessed a hundred times or more in end of life situations. However, designing work around life produces true meaningful, rich, and full lives. Now, that what I call a CAREER!
Just My Thoughts