I Wish I Hadn’t Worked So Hard

HavingTime.com featured a post of mine entitled, “The Top 5 Regrets In Life You Should Avoid.” In the article, among other things, I touched briefly on a book written by a palliative nurse called “The Top 5 Regrets Of The Dying.” I have not read the book, but I did read the five bullet point regrets, and used them in my post. Now, in this series, I will be delving deeper into each statement, and reflecting on various strategies that we can implement to avoid having the same deathbed regrets.

Deathbed Regret #2:

“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

Is your job killing you or equipping you? 

A 2015 global study conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Ernst & Young found that one in three full-time employees are finding it more difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. One in three. With the internet shrinking the globe by streamlining communication through conference calls and Skype interviews, the line between work and home is blurring dangerously. The chaos of an office building is cluttering our homes, and it’s becoming increasingly harder for employees to leave work at work and fully engage after hours. Surely, this is the root of the second top-most regret of the dying. It seems working hard leads to success, but working too hard leads to regret.

Our Work Should Serve Life

The United States was built by the calloused hands of working America. Effort and grit are the pillars of success, and dreams come true for those who make them. We have built so much of our lives around careers that bosses, deadlines, and salaries determine where we live, what we do, how and when we do it. Jobs furnish us with a sense of security, direction, and value so we cling to them, not fully recognizing that that which we truly want is the very thing we work so hard to attain but never feel like we achieve – a satisfied life. For decades, our lives have been leashed to our careers – tied to a tree of ambition. Should it not be the other way around? Our work should serve life.

Too often, I’ve come home late tired and stressed, crashing down on the couch with a straw plopped in my beer. It’s easy to want to check-out in order to reset after a long day at the office. To help combat this temptation and motivate one another toward healthy priorities, my wife and I started using the term “first fruits.” It has biblical connotations referring to “the first agricultural produce of a season, especially when given as an offering to God” (Google Dictionary). Farmers, after working tirelessly in the fields, gave the first of their fruits as an offering to demonstrate that their hearts were aligned with their claims of affection. By exercising the vulnerable act of giving away initial reaping, these farmers displayed the faith they had in a later reward. They believed God would take care of their future needs, and according to the Bible, he was faithful. Investment communicates affection.

Offer Your First Fruits

I love my wife. I don’t like sharing my food. It doesn’t make sense to mull over a menu, trudge through the grievous process of decision-making, order a specific entree, and then give it all away in nibbles across the table. I eat my food. You eat your food. It’s as simple as that. Except for when it’s not. My wife loves trying bites and picking off the plates of others. It’s an experience for her, and it’s a point of connection as we converse about various flavors, likes, and dislikes. A key moment in our dating relationship was when I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to offer my sweet potato fries only to twitch incessantly with every fry she took. As she has had to learn how to deal with my irrational anxiety attached to edibles, I have had to learn (and am still learning) how to better share. And I have been challenged by the idea of first fruits to, not only offer her a bite, but to give her the first bite, demonstrating my love for her and my faith in the later reward of a rich relationship full of trust and boot-knocking.

To limit deathbed regrets, we should offer our families, friends, and home-life our first instead of giving only what is leftover after feeding our careers. To give the first bite, we can start by not staying late at the office, turning off our work phones, email, or by managing our energy wisely so that we can kiss our wives with passion and chase our children with a lion’s roar when we get home. Maybe some of us even need to update our resumes and start pursuing a career that helps us prioritize. Let’s roll around with our kids, date our spouses, and ensure we have our priorities straight to keep us from crying the same regrets as so many before us.

Give family–not work–your best, your first. Work hard. Work to live. Don’t live to work. It takes intentionality and planning, but it will be worth the effort. Life is simply too short. So, I’ll ask again, is your job killing you or equipping you?


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