What’s really important to you? That sounds like a simple enough question, but give it some real thought. The first thing jumping to mind may not be right. Or is it? Ponder it a bit. There’s no penalty for changing your answer.
A friend recently posed that question to me. At first it seemed simple enough, but the more I thought about it the more complex it became.
My first response was based entirely on what was going on in my life at that moment. I was feeling unappreciated and used like last week’s newspaper at the bottom of the bird cage. My immediate response was “appreciated for my skills, knowledge and results.” A nanosecond later the mommy guilt kicked in and I felt my first response should have been “my family.” Yet, at that particular moment I was exasperated with the kids fighting and was entirely uninspired by the requirement of coming up with yet another dinner menu and cooking.
Perhaps, in the end, my initial answer and resulting guilty response was telling me I needed to take a few steps back.
The static of all the things we deal with every day can easily put what truly is important to us in the back seat. If we get too wrapped around the axle with the daily deluge, we can even forget to put a seat belt on those important things, leaving them exposed to some serious injury.
For me, I am in the process of expanding my career from a part-time, making ends meet while I try to be a mom the rest of the time proposition to a more full-time passion driven career. I’ve recognized just doing work for the sake of making money is nothing short of an energy vampire, leaving me short tempered and emotionally unavailable for my family.
However, building something that sets me on fire each day, putting my skills to the test and making a real impact on people I choose to help, takes time, energy and a great deal of rejection. It’s tearing me up inside, which, as it so happens, leaves me short tempered and emotionally unavailable for my family. Thus, the lack of a seat belt for what’s important.
What’s really important
As I stared at those words in an email, sent from across the Atlantic by a new but fast friend, “what’s really important to you?”, I was forced to stop and really think.
There are days I wish the kids would go play quietly, or possibly visit grandma, while I get work done. I thought about the last time I wanted that and made myself remember my life nine years ago. I was living alone in a very tiny house in a part of the country I detest, working for a thankless and overbearing employer. I was unattached and desperately wanted to be home in Seattle, find a wonderful man and have those two kids I’d been dreaming about.
I have all of that today. Every. Last. Piece. Of. It. Why then does it not come up as what’s important? I think we all suffer from overload. A 24/7 kid schedule is enough to drive any good mom to fantasize about running away forever with an immensely sexy hunk to live in an undisclosed location doing things that make E.L. James blush. That doesn’t mean family isn’t important. What it might mean is we’re letting the minutia of everyday life have too much weight.
So a potential new client or employer you so desperately want to work with has given you the “talk to the hand” treatment, repeatedly. Maybe folks you really want to network with are looking just too busy or unimpressed to return calls or emails. Perhaps you’re now in a position to re-wallpaper your family room with all the rejection letters.
Look away from the computer screen. What do you see?
I see family photos, drawings my daughter insisted I hang up, my son asking me to push him on the swing, my daughter practicing cutting with scissors, and my dog putting his paw on my leg asking to take a walk.
There is definitely a need for balance in life. We all need things that energize and fulfill us and it’s not realistic to think any one thing will do that. All things, family included, have positive and negative aspects. Yet, in the end, when you step back and take it all in, the most important things stand out.
For me, I’d rather have these wonderful little souls who love me unconditionally than my dream client, who could very well end up being as much work as a 4 year old anyway. Or possibly two.