What is your reaction when you see this post title? Is your response “of course, I have a very good work life balance”? Or is your response “I wish I could, but I have to work a lot to make money, get ahead, take care of family. I have to wait to enjoy life later. What choice do I have”? If you are more like the latter, this is a story for you.
My colleague at Wells Fargo told me this story last week. She knew of someone who retired 6 months ago from Wells at the age of 69. He and his wife have been building their dream home in Hawaii for the last several years. They were both really excited to be able to finally enjoy it for their retirement. Last week, an email was sent out to his close colleagues that he sadly died of a sudden heart attack, leaving a devastated wife and 3 kids.
I felt so sad for this man and his wife. We may not think about mortality everyday. Especially in this economy, we think we better work even longer hours to ensure job security. But I wanted to share this sad story to broaden your perspective and ask you to ask yourself – how much life are you willing to sacrifice in the name of work? If you are abusing your health in the name of work, it’s time to stop and go see a doctor. If you are skipping vacations year after year, don’t. No one ever says on their death bed that they wished they worked more.
Based on a wired article, in a 2006 study, Kivetz asked respondents to think about a moment from the previous week when they had to choose between work and pleasure; then he asked them whether they regretted their decision. The % of people regretting working or relaxing was pretty much equal. But then he asked a second group to think about a similar moment but from 5 years earlier. This time, people who regretted working more than doubled the regret over playing.
Our future self seems to have a much better sense of work life balance than our current self. Remember you always have a choice, so next time you have to choose between life or work, ask yourself – how would you feel about the decision 5 or 10 years from now?