I’ve been engaged in some professional development stuff at work, so I’ve been doing a lot of navel gazing of late. I have also spoken with several people who have risen to impressive professional heights, and I’ve read several business tomes on leadership.
A truth has emerged from all of this: it seems that the higher the ascent, the less control one has over one’s personal life, and the more isolated one becomes from others in the workplace. The peer group, of necessity, gets smaller, while the weight of responsibility increases dramatically. And the chances of making a very public gaffe increase proportionally, if not exponentially.
What drives people to that lonely place at the top? I’m sure there are many answers to that question, some more noble than others. I won’t speculate here. But that question is related to another that may have more relevance to us everyday folk – what makes all of us somehow want “more” from our careers, personal lives, or relationships? It seems that we’re a nation of strivers, always looking for that next best thing, eyes on the horizon, hopeful about tomorrow.
What about today? What about what we have in front of us, right now?
I’m as guilty of this sort of thinking as the next person, and this isn’t a new phenomenon. When I was 17, all I could think about was high school graduation. I hated high school – I was not well-liked or well-adjusted, and I longed to have it over and have a fresh start in college. My dad, a very wise man, said to me one day – in one of those look-you-in-the-eyes, this is IMPORTANT sort of moments – that I should never wish time away, because I could never get it back.
At 17, this didn’t resonate. At 40something, it vibrates like a two-ton gong, and looking ahead, I can only imagine how much louder it will get.
I had the privilege of spending my dad’s last days with him, and of having some conversations with him when he knew, as did I, that he was dying. I looked into his eyes then, and it was eminently clear that he was not thinking about the money he didn’t make, the projects he didn’t complete, or the closets that went untidied. It was all about the love he had experienced in his life, and the lives he had created.
Many writers are minting money selling books on this topic – themes of “happiness now” and living mindfully permeate our culture, probably to counteract all of the mindless striving we’re engaged in. I’m not about to join the ranks of the self-help gurus or get all new-agey. But I do want to try to slow up, look down at my feet once in a while, and stop mindlessly wishing time away. My dad was right: we don’t get it back.