At some time or another, you’ve probably read that famous life-work balance quotation, “Nobody ever said on their deathbed, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.'” Or words to that effect.
It’s based on some big assumptions: that work isn’t fulfilling, while spending time with your family is; that any time taken from family and given to work is a mistake; and that it’s a zero-sum game: that time given to work must necessarily come at the expense of family.
But I derive tremendous satisfaction from my work life. I’m often more present, more engaging, more open and more joyous a parent on a day when I’ve felt effective at work, because I believe my work’s important — and that it springs from the same values that I bring to my personal relationships. (For the record, those are love, compassion, justice, kerning and proper spelling.)
So many people yearn to have a larger impact in the world, and that’s not always going to be through family. Yes, by all means, if you see your family life suffering because of long hours at an unfulfilling job, find a new balance. But maybe it’s not just a question of the hours you work. Maybe we should demand more from our work. Maybe meaning should be a bigger part of the compensation package.
That would go a long way to cutting down on a lot of other deathbed regrets.