What Are You Working For?

This past Sunday I had the honor of attending a special event for the two people you see in the picture. Frank and Dorcus were commemorating 60 years of marriage. Frank was also celebrating his 80th birthday at the event given by their children. While I could write much about their marriage, I’ll focus my comments on Frank since he has become one of my informal life coaches (he just doesn’t know it).

I couldn’t help but be in awe of what Frank has accomplished in his life (with Dorcus at his side of course). He has three children, happily married, and well established in successful careers. His five grandchildren were in attendance as well, exhibiting an authentic love and respect for their grandparents that was truly touching. Each one of them are also employed in amazing jobs or doing well in college.

At one point in the evening I found myself saying, ‘Now THIS is what you work for.’

At one point in the evening I found myself saying, “Now THIS is what you work for.” The jobs Frank held during his working years all helped contribute (financially, mentally, emotionally, and even physically) to his ability to be the spouse and dad that was celebrated on that breezy spring evening. While I have never formally asked him, I know there were times in his career when he had to make a decision about a job choice, and he would ask himself, “How will this affect my family?”

Work, at its most basic level, is what you do to provide the necessary resources for your survival. As your choice of occupations increase, you use different filters to help you determine what your next job could be. Those filters might include income, work environment, career advancement, physical location, or any number of things.

I wonder if the question that should be asked more often is, “How will this affect  __________________ (insert what’s of greatest importance to you)?” Not just when you are contemplating a job change, but also when you have decisions to make about assignments and responsibilities in your current occupation.

What made that evening so meaningful to me was that there was absolutely no hint of regret as Frank talked about his life. There was none of the tension I sometimes sense within a family due to “Dad not being there because he was always at work.” Frank possessed that inner peace we all strive for, and had achieved it because he made work and life choices that were in agreement with his highest values.

Tracy has, in effect, married her job and made that the primary focus of her life.

On Tuesday I met someone else who embodies the same mentality as Frank. Tracy is an amazing leader in the agriculture education profession. Her consuming passion to teach is infectious, and if I had someone contemplating a career as an agricultural instructor, she would be the first person I would want to talk with them. She is in her mid-40’s, has never married, and has no children. Tracy has, in effect, married her job and made that the primary focus of her life.

Do I think Tracy’s 80th birthday celebration will be as meaningful as the one I attended on Sunday? Absolutely! Tracy is making work and life choices that are in agreement with what she holds most dear to her. After talking with her I also know that if her priorities were to change, she would make the career changes to be more in line with those priorities.

Two people. Two very different life paths. Each one making intentional choices about their work to align with their personal values. Two people who are both successful in the ways that are meaningful to them.

What about you? Are your decisions about work (both the job and choices within the job) in alignment with your highest priorities? What I experienced Sunday night and Tuesday reminded me of what happens when we correctly answer the question, “What am I working for?”

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