This morning, I took all three of my children with me to the grocery store, where we bought food for the next two weeks or so.
After I unloaded those groceries and we had a nice family lunch, I took my oldest son to soccer practice, did some household chores, then the five of us went on a long family bicycle ride including a stop at a park and a stop at the home of some friends. We had dinner together, then we worked on some projects out in the yard.
I put our three children to bed this evening and they collapsed out of sheer exhaustion. They got a ton of fresh air and exercise, as did I.
I’m writing this article as I sit on the floor outside their bedroom, with my laptop open in front of me. The hallway is dark, as is their room. I can hear the gentle rhythm of my daughter’s breathing as she sleeps.
I have that good physical feeling of a day spent doing things outside and that good emotional feeling of having a strong connection to my family.
It was a day where the most important thing was to spend time together, enjoy the outdoors, work on some personal projects and family projects, and see a few friends.
It was a day where none of us were stressed out about our work or about our money. We talked. We hugged. We worked together on things. We played. We simply enjoyed each other without the specter of financial stress.
Today is the embodiment of what my goals have been over the last several years. The number one thing I’ve wanted is a strong relationship with my family, one where my children feel safe and free from worry and happy and secure with their relationship with me and with Sarah and one where Sarah and I have a strong marriage.
Taped to my laptop are two notes, one written by my daughter and the other written by my oldest son. They wrote these notes the other day of their own volition, while I was busy changing our youngest child’s diaper and clothes after an accident. Each of these notes says “Dad I love you.”
Those notes pretty much embody what I’m talking about.
A strong family life seems like a mundane goal to a lot of people, but it was that goal that drove me to make every major financial and professional change in my life.
Almost everybody has something out there that they want. The biggest thing that you want might be a good family life, but most likely it’s something completely different. Maybe it’s a place in a city with a bustling cultural life. Maybe it’s a lot of long afternoons to read great literature. Maybe it’s a place in your state legislature where you can help mold the policies and laws.
The real challenge is to figure out what you want most and toss a lot of less important things to the side to get there.
For me, that meant making several incredibly difficult career choices. That meant abandoning many of the hobbies I used to fill my time. That meant giving up quite a lot of impromptu spending.
I gained something more important in exchange for those sacrifices, and what I gained is represented by the sunburn that’s on my cheeks right now, the peaceful breathing I can hear coming from the next room, and those two notes stuck to my laptop. To me, that’s worth a lot of hard decisions, little sacrifices, and a few mistakes along the way.
What do you want? Figure out what you want most and chase it – hard. It will probably require some financial changes, some shifts in spending, and maybe even some hard professional choices.
If it’s what you really want, though, it’s worth it, because everything else is really less important.