As I reflect on my youngest daughter’s graduation from high school, I remember the excitement in the eyes of the 240 young people dressed in their caps and gowns. No doubt, some were ready for school to be over. But others were looking forward to the next chapters of their educations.
Whichever path these young people choose, some will be consumed by work or business. Others will strike a balance between work and life, either intentionally or accidentally. This second group is likely to experience more happiness and success throughout their lives — and less regret, too. Perhaps the changing demands of this younger generation reflect this.
The second-most cited regret of people at the end of their lives is, “I wish I hadn’t worked so much.”
Given all the things a person could possibly regret when looking back at the lives they lived, this is a powerful and telling statement. This potential reality from the end of life points to the wisdom of 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 of their lives 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. Once gone, these moments and experiences can never be recaptured.
The prevailing mantra in business is, “make as much money as you possibly can and achieve success at all costs.” There’s no doubt the primary aim of business is to outperform competitors and generate as much profit as possible. The question is: At what cost?
A business owner whose sole focus is on making as much money as possible typically believes team members should have the same focus. By forgetting these people also have desires, dreams, hopes and lives, they come to demand more and more from them. The reason is simple: When the focus is solely on success and the accumulation of wealth, the happiness and well-being of people are discounted and forgotten.
The prospect of becoming wildly successful financially — and the associated accolades, praise and recognition that come with it — can be addicting because it feeds the ego. As with any addiction, the pursuit can take over, blinding us to a more comprehensive view of life and all it has to offer. When this happens, we fall out of balance and limit the very happiness and success we strive to achieve.
One aspect of my work with business owners is to help them see the bigger pictures of their lives – to discover within themselves what they value and whether or not what they’re sacrificing in their pursuit of success is acceptable to them.
Once my clients develop skills to balance work and life, they begin to make 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 doesn’t become the driving force in life. In turn, there’s a trickle-down effect on team members as their efforts to balance work and life are encouraged and supported.
It’s important to understand once your children have grown, your youth has faded and your health has deteriorated, the dreams you left behind in the pursuit of success and money can’t be recaptured. That time has passed forever. We all know people who worked their whole lives to make enough money to travel and enjoy the pleasures of life only to find that by the time they finally “arrived,” they were unable to do so because they’d waited too long.
Your life is happening right now. There’s room within it for everything you desire, including making money and enjoying the multitude of other things that bring you pleasure and happiness.
Once you’re mindful about your work and life and have the skills in place to create balance, you won’t have to work so hard to experience the happiness and success you want. And at the end of your life, you won’t regret having worked too much.