Wednesday I was sitting in an eight-hour planning session with about 15 other leaders. We had a packed agenda sprinkled with hot topics and complex problems to solve. Sitting that long is hard for me. I lose my ability to concentrate and I have almost zero creative juices sitting in a sterile room for that long. I have only been working with everyone in the room for about two months. Some of the people I interact with daily and others less frequently. I could never minimize the impact the work each of us does on people’s lives, we were hashing out real problems that impact real people. However, I can tell you that no matter the criticality of the work a person does at the end of the day we all leave that work and have to interact with friends and family who should be the most important gifts in our lives. Putting our families and our own personal health first does not mean that we do not give 150% to our occupation; on the contrary I would argue that the more I take care of my family and myself, the more I am able give to my vocation.
I would like to share a true story with you in order to place an emphasizes on what I am trying to covey. Life can blind side us all. On Wednesday one of the leaders in the room and I had a passionate discussion about an issue facing our staff. We were both on opposite ends of the debate. I thought he acted a bit too passionate about the issue, but I bet he felt the same too. After all I do know that I can be very direct and black and white on issues that I feel strongly about. Twenty four hours later that same leader found themselves looking at an MRI scan showing a golf ball size tumor in their right lobe. The only reason that the MRI was performed was because they said to another leader of our organization, “Hey I have been feeling funny last couple days, I think I even had a seizure”. The response to that was, drop all these critical work tasks and get over to a neurologist ASAP. Within 12 hours the surgeon had gone in and removed the tumor and confirmed that it was malignant. This real life story goes back to my point that no matter what we are doing for our vocation when the realities of life hit home (personally or family) work takes a back seat and we are forced to look at priorities. For my co-worker everything changed, recovery is the focus, not the debate they had with me Wednesday. For me the focus changed from solving work issues, bringing up obstacles and where I thought we needed to rethink things to a person. My co-worker needed support and although none of us could stop what was required of us at work, we all did pause. I heard the pause of the other leaders and I sensed a real concern. That day we did all our tasks with a greater sense of recognition that life is fragile.
Which leads me to my topic for this post. What are you doing each day to ensure that you are taking care of yourself and those you love? We all talk about work/life balance, we all talk about taking more time for this or for that. Funny thing is we all live life-like we have all this time and the reality is that today is a gift and tomorrow is not certain. You may recall a post I wrote a month or so back titled Trade-Offs where I talked about:
- Family first.
- Impact is more important than title.
- Be present in your life, stop looking for the next best thing and embrace the now.
I constantly struggle with this. There are times when I think to myself you gave up the big title and now you have to work hard to get it back; obtain that title and status, increase your income. I have to fight the thoughts that make me think when I get this I will be able to do that. Then in an instant something like what happened with my co-worker occurs and I find myself grounded again. I am reminded through his experience that I am right where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I encourage you as you interact with others this week, really stop to see them as people. Take that extra 5 seconds to let them know you appreciate them and if you have kids or a spouse hold them a bit tighter tonight when you come in from work. I know for me that when I can look back over my week and reflect on the personal interactions versus the big strategic marathon meetings I contributed to, I feel a greater sense of accomplishment and purpose. Give it a try.