Last year, a friend’s husband joined a very young technology company who ambitiously sold a contract to their largest potential client in the very early stages of their development. He is the only employee with enough technical experience to trouble-shoot the plethora of problems being thrown at them on a daily basis. Coincidentally, he is the only employee over the age of 40.
The twenty-somethings have amazing skills but not enough experience to see the bigger picture to be able to anticipate potential problems. So what? He therefore carries an over-night bag with him to the office every day to jump on a plane any time a problem is too big for the talented youth to deal with. This month, he took several emergency (unplanned) plane rides across Europe each week. So what?
As his company lurches from one emergency to the next, his wife and children are getting lonely and perhaps just a little used to operating without him, even at the weekend. Worse still, when he does get home, he is so exhausted that he struggles to have the energy to have much fun with his family. This is the reality of life for us all, some of the time. But if this kind of work relationship extends more than a few months, it can suck the life out of our real lives.
The example above is extreme due to the young entrepreneurial nature of that business but there are definitely more mature businesses that continually suck the life out of our lives outside work. This is fine if work is your raison d’etre. If you’d rather be spending your free time climbing a mountain, riding your bike, volunteering for your favourite charity, cuddling your young kids, taking your older kids to the Ed Sheeran concert or... dancing naked in the sun, it’s about time you asked yourself one question...
1. Fast forward your life by ten years…what is the ONE thing that you will be doing a great deal more of in ten years that you just don’t have enough time to do now?
Write it down on a piece of paper and put it in your inside pocket, loose in your laptop bag, on your bathroom mirror or beside your phone charger. Somewhere where you will see it many times over the next few days. Then just let your subconscious absorb it and play with it while you sleep, while you work, while you shower, whenever.
Here's what some of my clients wrote. Forgive the hand-writing.
Over the next week or so, if you have chosen a place where you will see and touch this piece of paper regularly (which should be getting pretty scrappy by then) some things will happen:
a) You might find yourself thinking about your future more often.
b) You might find yourself thinking about your present situation more often.
c) You might even find that you have discussed/planned or actually done a little more of the activity that you wrote down on that scrap of paper. If you haven’t don’t worry but keep going. You are just very stuck in your busy work pattern. Make sure you place the piece of paper somewhere where you touch it multiple times a day.
On a daily basis, very few individuals think about whether our regular activities are contributing to the design of our future.
In fact what often happens is that you ‘wake up’ having wasted a few years during which your company has been at the helm of your entire life instead of just your working life. You've booked your holidays around quieter times at work. You've missed nights out with your partner due to prioritising something at work. You've missed all your planned exercise slots for more than a week. You've also not been much fun at the weekend because you are totally knackered from your work week.
This very basic handwritten “note-to-self” exercise over a week or two will give you some insight into how your ‘life auto-pilot’ often doesn’t take into consideration your longer term goals.
By choosing to define one very specific long-term goal to spend more time on X, we focus on making time for X (both consciously and subconsciously) in the present which transforms our future.
What will you choose to focus your mind on this week?
To get more ideas on re-designing your work to make sure you spend more time doing exactly what you want to do both today and in the future visit www.midlifeunstuck.com, sign up to my newsletter and contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.