Sustainable leaders know their life priorities. “Time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters,” according to Margaret Peters.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing; at the end of our lives we can look back with the benefit of wisdom and hindsight. Very rarely do we take the time to think about our lives from the position of the ultimate hindsight, on our deathbeds. I don't mean to sound morbid or fatalistic, but we only get one crack at this life. It matters, it really matters how we live our life.
A survey of people in the latter years of their life, in the nursing homes, waiting for God as they say, revealed something I found profound. They had good stories and bad stories, and almost universally some regrets. Interestingly the regrets weren't about work, or wealth, they were about relationships, people and love.
How would we reorder our priorities if we took the ultimate view from beyond the grave? Not many people would say , gee I wish I spent more time at work. I have a friend who lives in South America who is also a leadership trainer and takes leaders away on retreats as I do. We were discussing this subject and he told me that he took one group of leaders, put them in a graveyard and asked them to write their obituary. Wow! Talk about defining clarity. They will never forget that experience.
Having clear life priorities causes us to bring balance to those things that pull on us, for our attention, our time and our resources. There's an interesting result that happens when we bring our life into balance around the true priorities of life. Not only does it bring a sense of peace and fulfilment, it also leads to higher levels of engagement and productivity. The most effective people I have had working for me, are not the driven, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, obsessed individual. The most effective people, the most productive, and quite frankly the most pleasant to work with, are the ones who have balance, know their priorities, and yet are sustainably more productive.
If you ask most people to rank in importance, money, health and relationships, people will quite rightly put relationships and health ahead of money. Although I did have one nameless character, who said how much wealth are we talking about? But, most of us would put health and relationships ahead of money, and yet almost universally I see well-meaning, capable business leaders, sacrificing relationships and health, in the pursuit of wealth. Sometimes we just need to stop, reassess, take a longer-term view and really know our life priorities. It’s much more sustainable.