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?

– Lei

4 Thoughts on “Choose Life Over Work Now

  1. Nice article. My father’s mentor, a physician, led a busy life that revolved around work. He could not go on a day without seeing patients or operating a surgery. This man’s colleagues, including my father, thought he was mad and the lifestyle was crazy. “Not worth it”, my father said. But, this mentor explained that where one finds pleasure in life is different for everyone. Just because your definition of “work” is “making money”, “climbing the corporate ladder”, or “sitting at the desk for long hours” doesn’t mean it’s the same for the next guy. An architect, who designs and builds sustainable housing in partnership with his son, for example, might find tremendous pleasure in his “work” both in terms of making a living, pursuing his passion, and being able to spend time with family. “Well, not everyone is lucky like that,” some might say. Who among us fell into a job we didn’t ask for, apply for, or worked for? If you asked for, applied for, or worked for the job you’re in, then you have intentionally made yourself unlucky. The trick is not giving in to an “easy” or conventional career. Typical jobs means typical life. Working hard doesn’t mean living less. Living more doesn’t have to mean working less.

  2. Leslie on April 23, 2010 at 5:42 pm said:

    Thanks to this article I booked a trip to Africa- someplace I’ve always wanted to go. Lei you are my shero!!!

  3. An important point that we often forget. When it comes down to it, we have to live every moment as if it was our last and make decisions accordingly.

  4. Love this article & this story. It is very prevalent & I have always been a “life can’t wait” person when I was in corporate and now as a life and career coach. That doesn’t mean shirk the responsibilities at hand, simply to consciously choose knowing tomorrow is promised to no one.

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