For years I’ve had friends and clients struggling to find ways to “fit it all in” – the new work opportunity, their child’s new school project, that special vacation, the multiple holiday party invitations, and so much more. All of these were important to them, and they feared that saying no to any of them would be a lost opportunity and would lead to regrets down the road. Yet, but shoving all these things into their calendars, they felt the burden of obligation and, all too often, exhaustion rather than the joy they longed for.
I find joy comes from taking care of what I care about – living a life focused on the things that are most important. In any moment and over time, those may shift. When I took a new role in a Learning & Development group, my new manager asked what I wanted from my annual review that year. I told her, “I don’t want to be promoted, and I don’t want to be fired. I want to do work I enjoy that others appreciate.” She was at a loss (apparently, most people say they want raises and advancement). I explained that my son was five, and he and my wife were what I cared most about. I had grown up in Silicon Valley and had too often seen families dissolve, with children who had everything they wanted except a relationship with their parents. I did not know that spending more time with my son would ensure he grew into a mature, caring, and capable person, but that if I didn’t make the time for him and he didn’t turn out well, I would never forgive myself or the company.
That laser focus, and my amazing wife’s dedication to our family, allowed me to constantly assess opportunities and make decisions to decline (or accept) without feeling fear of missing out because every choice was leaning in to take care of what I cared most about. I moved from a Fear Of Missing Out to a Joy Of Missing Out, because I would “miss out” on things that were clear to me to be less important while taking care of the things I cared about most.
As we head into the new year with new insights from months of lockdown and, in some cases, tragic losses of those we loved, it’s a great time to think about what we care most about taking care of in the coming year and committing to making joyous choices to take more care of those we care most about.