I was meeting a friend the other day, and we ended up having a great conversation about the question, “Is it worth it?” He had been working longer hours than normal after committing to too many projects and speaking engagements – all of which he found enjoyable and meaningful. After one too many late nights, his wife asked him, “Is it worth it?” Most of us know the meaning behind this question – is the focus on work worth the time away from family, friends, sleep, etc.?
Of course we are supposed to say “No, it’s not worth it,” but if we are honest, this is not an easy question to answer. We are often told things like, “No one will say on their death bed, ‘I wish I would have worked more,’” by those who mean well, but these sorts of euphemism’s aren’t helpful for having an honest conversation about this subject – the reality is far more complex.
I know a lot of people filled with regrets about opportunities and risks they didn’t take – that would have required extra work. The world is filled with people who are unhappy with their role in the global workforce. They toil away week in and week out, in jobs that they find meaningless, and for what? To be able to spend more time with family, friends, sleeping, etc., while remaining miserable for 40 hours a week? That doesn’t sound worth it to me!
This is not to say one can’t work a standard 40-hour week and be happy, nor am I saying we should work excessive hours all the time. However, for many of us the reality is that, to achieve things that bring us happiness and conquer projects that give us satisfaction, a certain amount of extra work is usually required at different periods in our career.
In my own life, my work schedule is such that I can’t always go to all my kids’ sporting or music events, or I miss some suppers with my family because I am in a different part of the country. Yet, I have come to terms with this and don’t feel guilty about it. Granted, like many things it’s all about balance. I have rules that help me keep things manageable. I only fly between Monday and Thursday, which ensures that I’m always home for full weekends. Instead of working through supper, I stop work for supper and early evening activities, but may work again later in the evening if I need to. And I have always taken numerous weeks of vacation throughout the year with just my family.
So, the answer to the “Is it worth it?” question for me is, “Yes!” What I am doing is connected to a larger purpose and has meaning. The work I do brings me satisfaction and, in the end, the extra time I have to put in is indeed worth it.