Life is daily. And sometimes it is hard to see if the choices you are making on a daily basis are leading to the results you desire in your life. During the late spring and early summer, we have some opportunities to stop and reconsider: “Am I living life the way I want to?” “Do my daily and weekly activities really reflect what is important to me?”
We are in the midst of the season for graduations (high school and college), weddings, family gatherings and the beginning of summer vacation. These life transition events, in combination with getting together with friends and family, allow us to check and see “how things are going” in our life, our marriage, our family and possibly, our career.
This past weekend, our family (my wife and I, our four adult children, a spouse and a fiancé) had the opportunity to gather together – all of us (a rare event these days) – to celebrate the graduation of one of my sons. [Another son graduated last weekend, which we also celebrated but not everyone could attend both.] So we all descended into Texas from various parts of the country and we spent a couple of days together. It was an opportunity to observe and hear how we all are doing: individually, as separate family units and as an extended family group.
This type of time and interaction can help to bring focus on what really is important and raises some questions: Am I spending my time and energy on things that are important and lasting? Do I worry too much about things in life that are really not that important? Did we choose well when our children were younger? (Parenting is a difficult pathway because the timeframe for feedback about choices and patterns is such a long time in coming.)
Let me share a few observations from our family time together.
First, we are truly blessed — and in many ways that have little to do with our choices. We are healthy, we live in a land of peace, we have had the opportunity to pursue quality education in our fields of interest, and all of our physical needs are met. While all of these are not true for all families, most families here in the U.S. have much to be thankful for. Focusing on what you do have, rather than what you don’t, provides an excellent foundation for contentment. (We all can think of things or opportunities that others around us have that we don’t. Focusing on these can lead to envy, jealousy and a general discontentment with life.)
Secondly, it is a joy to enjoy being with one another. How this happens, I am not totally sure, but I do know that it is rooted in the perspective of thinking of others as well as yourself (which my wife did an excellent job of teaching our children.) When individuals are considerate of others and are not primarily focused on what they want or desire, relationships tend to be less conflictual. We had a lot of fun, and laughed a lot!
A third observation is this: Many things that families spend time and energy on today will not be very important in the years to come. While our children were involved in different sports and other group activities, the level of involvement today for most families is far more costly than the benefits that they will bring in the future. We didn’t play sports together this weekend. We didn’t talk about our past coaches, teammates, personal accomplishments or tournaments won. (Neither did we care what “level” one another got on various video games.) But we did talk about long-term family friends and what they are doing, we told stories about past individual and family events, we found out what is going on is each person’s life — and we laughed a lot.
We didn’t talk about what kind of cars our friends were driving, what vacations other families are going on (or did in the past), which schools friends got into or what awards they received. But we did talk about each of our own current career paths, what we are learning, what enjoy about our work (whether paid or not), and thoughts and plans about the future – and how these intersected with friendships, family relationships and our lifestyle choices.
So, as you attend a relative’s or friend’s graduation or wedding, and as you get together with friends and family, take a moment to observe what lasts over time. Then take some time to do a mental checklist of what you are choosing to spend your time and energy on.
Is it an investment that will bring lasting rewards in the years to come?