Then he said, “This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Luke 12:18,20
Michael Gordon is an attorney who often gets up at 3 a.m. and goes to the office before the roosters start to crow so he will be prepared for the "big one." Knowing he was a workaholic who was committed to succeeding, his brother gave him a hard hat and a pair of construction goggles when he got married along with this bit of advice: "Juggling family life and work is hard. Really hard. But if you keep at it and work hard, the rewards are sweet as sugar."
Having a clear perspective of what's important and a hard hat that helps soften the demands of others is all part of what is necessary to balance business with family. The fact is that balancing business with your marriage and family is one of the toughest things you will ever do in life. Why? It's the conflict of priorities and values.
One of the biggest challenges confronting us is how to keep the stress from work from spilling over into our personal relationships. Jake, for example, is a successful businessman, or at least he was until another competitor invaded his market and suddenly his orders fell by 50 percent, but not his payroll. He was fearful of defaulting on several large obligations, and the stress at work spilled over in his marriage. Eventually his marriage was threatened along with his business.
How do you stop stress at the door before you get home? There's no easy solution, but when The Wall Street Journal, a business publication, asked readers that question, they got a variety of responses that could be grouped around four themes.
First, prioritize. Says writer Sue Shellenbarger, "Successful couples consciously order priorities to put their marriages at, or very near, the top of their lists." Some couples wisely write down their priorities, and then strive to make decisions in light of this. "If events or plans aren't supported by the priorities list," said one marketing executive, "we try not to do it."
Then fortify your relationship with spiritual resources. This includes praying together and reading the Bible along with spiritual resource materials, attending church and Bible study groups together, taking time for weekend retreats and workshops. They feed the inner man, not simply strive to move up the totem pole of success.
A third theme is changing what can be changed, then accepting what cannot be changed. No, you can't always shorten your work hours, but you can change your attitudes towards each other when you get home, consciously trying to leave the stress behind and not take out your frustrations on each other. The head of a high-tech firm said that he simply decided to start treating his wife as if she were his largest client. He added, "This might not sound overly romantic, but I recognized the way I was wired and this approach has worked exceptionally well for me."
A fourth key is taking time for each other away from the stress of the working place and your environment. A business consultant who loves boats wrote, "When we're sitting on our boat watching a sunset, we become so relaxed together that we can talk about anything calmly and openly."
Another businessman was asked by his wife to go with her to attend a Saturday screening of the movie, "Gone with the Wind." He did, cutting the company picnic. He did, and got fired as the result of it. Any regrets? "I'd make the same choice again, every single time," he said, adding, "No job is worth damaging my marriage for."
Balancing your marriage and your family with your business can be done, and by thinking through what's important, you are well on your way to succeeding in both.
Resource reading: Luke 12:13-23