The tension between career and family burdens anyone who has them both. How do you know how many hours and effort to give to each one? Should they get equal time and attention or is there some other magic formula?Â In my own life and in mentoring other guys, I’ve learned a scary but important lesson: it’s far easier to succeed at work than it is to succeed at home. In fact, this is true for most people who go to “work” somewhere each day.
That’s because my job has clearly measurable outcomes. The decisions I make either result in success or something less than. I get performance reviews and have the potential to get a raise at the end of a good year. I’m constantly receiving feedback and adjusting accordingly. More than anything, I’ve figured out how to make it work. That doesn’t mean it always works as I’d like, but I’m pretty clear on what it would take if I’m willing and able to do it. This is an easy win.
Contrast that with my home-life. There are few, if any, measurable outcomes. The decisions I make are usually investments into a distant future. My kids rarely provide feedback on my stellar role as a father and my wife seems to overlook how often I’m winning at being a husband. I’m constantly adjusting, but it’s much more difficult and ambiguous. More than anything, I’m still learning how to make it work. If I’m honest, I’m not always sure what it would take to be better at my roles at home, or even if I can. This is a difficult win.
What happens to the typical person when presented with these two scenarios? You go for the easy win. And that is the worst thing you can do. That’s why we see so many people become a success in their job only to get divorced and estranged from their family.
You could expect the difficult win to get easier. I could ask my kids to constantly talk about my role as a dad or plead with my wife to point out every moment I’m a great husband. But that’s absurd. They’ll never do that and they shouldn’t. Yet my prayer is that I die an old man, with my wifeâ€”of more decades than I have fingers on one handâ€”by my side. That I’ll have the chance to see my kids rise up to be leaders in their generation and display the Kingdom of God through their influence and the influence of their kids as well. That’s a huge win. And a difficult one to make happen.
While I’ve learned this lesson from the tension of balancing work life and home life, this premise applies to any area where we find an easy win. An easy win is a siren song which unknowingly lulls you into complacency. It will cause you to spend your time and energy disproportionately. The immediate success serves as a drug to numb you to the greater awareness of what you are missing.
The solution is not to avoid the easy win as there are usually great results from those. The solution is to balance your effort accordingly so that you are able to invest yourself into the easy wins as well as the difficult wins. Think about how you will spend your time, energy, and attention today. How are you balancing the wins?