Life Priorities

I got married at age 45.  My first child, a beautiful baby girl, was born soon after.  More and more people are waiting to get married and start a family later in life.  However waiting to get married and start a family at age 45 is a stretch — as my Mom often reminded me.

For years I constantly put work ahead of anything else in my life.  My 20s flew by living, studying and working in Japan.  My 30s were a blur moving back to America, starting and running successful companies.  By age 42, having never taken a two-week vacation in my life, I was completely burned out.  Sure, I had achieved a level of professional success.  However, I was quite lonely and unfulfilled in my personal life.

So I went on a three-week vacation, more out of spite than anything else.  During my vacation I realized my priorities were all wrong.  Instead of putting myself first, I was way down the list behind job, family, friends and a host of other distractions.  And the irony was, by not taking responsible care of myself and constantly putting my job at the top of the list, I was actually limiting my professional success.  Once I was clear that my personal health and well being cup needed to be filled to the brim and overflowing with support, passion, and joy, I was able to make clear and empowered decisions around the other priorities in my life.

In addition to yourself, what are the other priorities in your life?  Unless you are a trust-fund baby, you need a job or vocation.  If you are married — your spouse is a huge priority.  What about kids, grandkids, parents, and other family members?  Friends are also very important.  Take a moment to think about where and how you spend your time, energy, and resources.  What or who come first?  Second and third?  Do they change?

So consider that to lead a truly rewarding and successful life, you have to put yourself at the top of the list.  I don’t mean you turn into a selfish person.  You have to take responsible self-care.  That is, you must ensure that your physical, mental, emotional, and environmental well being are all exquisite.

What comes next?  If you are legally married (and boyfriend/girlfriend does not count) your spouse has to come next.  Why?  The only people asking “why?” are single people.  If you are married, you know why — if your spouse is upset or angry or miserable for some reason or another, there is a 110% chance that you are going to be upset or angry or miserable.  Have you ever tried holding a team meeting at work or giving that rousing sales presentation having spent the previous night fighting with your spouse?  Ugh.

What is next after you’ve responsibly prioritized yourself and your spouse?  Some people tell me, “I will do anything for my kids.  They come first and are the most important thing in my life.”  Being a father myself, I can tell you that yes, my daughter is incredibly important to me and I love her unconditionally.  And for me to responsibly provide for my lovely daughter, I need to prioritize my vocation next on the list.  This does not mean working 12+ hour days and weekends, missing birthdays, or other milestones in my daughter’s life.  This means being in the right vocation — something that produces right livelihood — for me and my family.  A vocation that feels more like play than work.  That allows me the financial freedom to be with my wife and daughter when and how I want to.  A vocation that allows me to spend more loving, quality time with my wife and daughter.  (I am writing this from 30,000 feet as I travel on a week-long business trip.  Having ensured my wife and daughter are fully supported while I am gone, I am free to be creative, resourceful, and successful on this trip which will ultimately provide more time, money, and happiness for me and my family.)

Ensuring you’ve prioritized yourself first, spouse second, and job/vocation third, allows you to prioritize your family (children, parents, siblings, etc.) and friends in any order you see fit.  Many times, that order will shift depending on the needs of your family and friends.

How are you prioritizing your life?  Is your career actually suffering because you are putting it ahead of everything else?  Have you lost the ability to make the right decision at the right time when the stakes are high and the pace is fast because you have not responsibly taken care of your health and well being?