After having several successful careers, a marriage of fifty-one years, four children, and eight grandchildren, people ask how I’ve done it all. With hindsight, I see that I’ve always had these five guiding principles in the back of my mind.
1. When opportunity knocks, answer. Take every opportunity that comes your way, even if you don’t have a clue how to do the task. You’ll either figure out how to do it, or you’ll fail and pick yourself up and move on. Either way you will have learned something. Remember, you don’t learn to play tennis without hitting the ball into the net a few times.
2. Work, family and community. Always have these three arenas in your life. Invariably something will be good in one of these arenas and something will be frustrating in another. In just one day, you may be praised at work and “dissed” at home, or vice versa. This helps you keep perspective that you are human.
3. Prioritize family. In the tough times that come to every life, loved ones matter, not money or things. It is easy to let the family take second place, because they won’t fire you. It often seems impossible to do this when you are working and bringing up young children. But merely putting down your phone or computer and looking directly at your partner or child while they are talking to you can save you time in the long run.
4. Take care of yourself. Figure out what is the most efficient way for you to get some time to yourself. For some, this is simply staring out the window while doing the dishes or vegging out during the work commute. For others, it involves listening to music or exercising for twenty minutes. If you only serve others you become resentful. Sometimes all you can do is take a second each day to note the beauty of the sky. Even this will refresh you.
5. Don’t strive for perfection. We are all a mix of assets and liabilities. Strengthen both, but recognize that what makes us unique is the combination. Don’t waste precious time being angry with yourself. Instead, learn from your mistakes and act better the next time. Moreover, in order to have good relationships with others, you have to have a good relationship with yourself. Enjoy who you are, be forgiving of yourself.
Life is filled with twists and turns. We cannot control everything that happens to us but we have some role in how we react to the circumstances that come our way. Make a plan, set goals, prepare for the future you want, but recognize the plan needs constant modification. Be nimble and be quick to change course as opportunities come your way. Do not waste time regretting what can no longer be. I learned from my father, who was a school teacher and a principal, that one must make decisions and then make them the best decision. Be proactive to do so.