I think it’s because when I’m spending time with my kids, I don’t feel as productive as I do as when I’m working. I still choose family over work more often than not, but sometimes I look at the money and accomplishments my peers are collecting, and I wonder if I’m making the best use of my time, especially when we’re just sitting around doing “nothing.”
I used to feel pretty guilty about feeling this way, until a book called How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen shed some light on things.
He points out that it is our nature to unconsciously choose the things that give us an immediate, tangible accomplishment over something for which we aren’t likely to see a return for decades. With our work, it’s easier to see an immediate payoff to the efforts we put in, which makes us feel like we’ve actually accomplished something.
We can close a sale, finish a week’s worth of lesson plans, deliver a presentation, show one more house, publish a paper, or redesign our web site in less time than it takes to raise great kids or build an awesome marriage.
And the tiny choices — like staying a bit longer at work, taking calls from the office on the weekend, or leaving vacation days unused — don’t seem to negatively impact our relationships in the short run. After all, your spouse and children will still be there when you get home. Meanwhile, we justify these decisions by telling ourselves that we are doing them to better provide for our families, by helping to earn a raise, increase our savings, or solidify job security.
Danger, Will Robinson!
Like a leaky faucet in a clogged sink, those tiny choices really add up as the years go by. They gradually form a track record overflowing with evidence of where are true priorities lie.
This is why we see so many broken marriages and estranged relationships even though most people consider relationships to be the most important thing in their lives, ahead of money or career success.
This concept served as both a wake-up call and an affirmation for me. It woke me up to the power of tiny choices and my innate desire for immediate gratification, while affirming me in the decision to spend as much time as possible “doing nothing” with my kids, no matter how successful others may appear to be.
I may not be as “productive” as my peers, but in the long run, I will be a very rich man indeed.