If you marry the right person, start a family, and find yourself on the fast track to business success, there may come a time when you will need to reassess your priorities and then redefine your life purpose, your goals, and where you devote your attention.
Is it family? Is it business? Is it both?
To be a successful entrepreneur, you pour your time, focus, and heart into your business. While this tunnel vision approach can lead to a very successful business, it may leave some entrepreneurs feeling deeply unsatisfied (even after decades of financial success) when they reflect on their life and sadly wish they could do it over again in a different way.
There's a simple--and, while admittedly dark, effective--exercise you can do to help:
Write your own eulogy.
To be highly effective, Stephen Covey instructs in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" to begin with the end in mind. This exercise illustrates the map for your voyage to a destination only you have imagined in your mind and felt in your heart.
We can do this very well when building businesses, developing real estate projects, designing products, or bringing to market the services we wish to offer. We envision the end result and then reverse-engineer the way there.
Where we often fail is in applying this same logic comprehensively to include our personal lives in the reverse engineering process. Our laser-like focus for the business growth can result in a wildly successful business, but tremendous, irreparable failure in marriage, family, and the close relationships we value most.
Traditional goal-setting can be very one-sided and can overly favor financial and business goals. There's a certain momentum that leaves people always aspiring for greater achievements in the more tangible aspects of life--to get into that certain college, to land that coveted job, to get that promotion, to start that business, to make that fortune, to live in that part of town, and so on.
Your brain likes these goals because they are clear, measurable, and have deadlines. Your ego craves the applause you receive when you check off each achievement on an imaginary list in front of your peers. It takes a different kind of thinking to set goals for your family and personal life.
To bring instant clarity to your life mission and to be sure your business and personal goals are in harmony, start with the real end in mind: Write your own eulogy. At first glance, this can seem like a downright depressing suggestion. However, this can be a powerful exercise that will very quickly sort out priorities and sincere life goals.
You may find that deep down inside you aspire for rich relationships with your children, spouse, family, and friends above all else, but are unknowingly dedicating valuable discretionary time to other areas of your life that weren't even worthy of a single mention in your eulogy. This exercise will mine out of you that which you treasure most as you're forced to craft the kind of story you want your family and friends to tell about you once you're gone.
It may also be helpful to view the important relationships in your life as investment accounts. Successful entrepreneurs sometimes make the mistake in thinking that the close relationships in their life are entitled to them by providing materially to children or spouses.
Relationships are like all other investments. While it's a basic concept that consistently putting money into a certain investment will build financial wealth for us, this simple logic is sometimes lost on many people who forget that a similar law exists for the creation of riches in relationships. In relationships, though, there is a different currency: time. Quality time invested in your children, spouse, and family pays guaranteed dividends in the form of strong, genuine, love-filled bonds just as surely as you will reap what you sow in your financial investments.
You already have an advantage.
The priorities and goals uncovered through this exercise will be different for everyone. The key is to be just as thoughtful and dedicated to your personal and family goals as you are to business and achievement-oriented goals. If reaping the rewards of a close, loving family is high on your list of priorities, then you must invest in your family just as you would invest in a business you expect to grow. To have the best of both worlds requires a different playbook.
You have a jump-start on this: You're an entrepreneur, and writing your own playbook for life is what you do best. Rely on your strengths of organization, goal-setting, sharp focus, and your "get it done" attitude to build a life that will someday leave you wishing you could do it all over again in exactly the very same way.