In August, my fourteen-year-old son Tate is leaving for Shattuck-St. Mary’s, the top hockey prep school in the country. It’s been his dream to go there for many years now. Since Shattuck is in Minnesota, it means Tate will be leaving home for good. We’ll see him on holidays, at hockey tournaments, and summer vacation, but I know our household won’t be the same once he leaves. Since he got into Shattuck, I’ve been savoring our meals together, and there are precious few of them since I’m on the road so often for work.
In many ways I wish I could be more like my parents. My mom was always waiting for me when I got home from school. My sisters and I shared every dinner with my mom and dad. In fact, I can’t remember a single meal I ate alone in my house. My parents never missed a football game, Boy Scout event, or school musical. When I’m not traveling for work, I bring Tate and Caroline to school in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon. But unlike my parents, I’m not home for every single meal. I’m not able to pick them up every single day, as much as I want to. My work brings me to over a hundred cities per year—and that’s over a hundred times I won’t be with my family.
Doesn’t it always seem we’re too busy to do what we really want to do? If it were up to me, I’d share every meal with my kids just like my parents did with me. I’d build and launch model rockets with Tate, like I used to with my dad. But I’m too busy. I’d learn how to speak Italian. I’d take a cooking class and learn my way around the kitchen. I’d take ballroom dancing classes with Jill, which she has always urged us to do. Too busy. If I had more time, I’d take my dog, Gretzky, for more walks around the neighborhood. I’d play Monopoly with my family, which I haven’t done since I was a kid. If I weren’t so busy, I’d read the stack of books on my nightstand or try some of the Napa Valley wine in my wine cellar.
We’re taught to believe that being busy is good. We devote ourselves to work so that one day we have the time to do the things and be with the people that matter. Except, that time never seems to materialize. When one obligation goes away, we replace it with another. Truth is that humans are not wired to handle free time all that well. I read about a psychological study recently which found that having too much free time makes us just as unhappy as having too little free time. In other words, without a sense of purpose, we just get depressed. The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle, and that means we must be intentional about exactly what we spend our days doing. What matters? What doesn’t matter? As John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
Here’s an idea: Make a list of all the things you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the time for. Maybe it’s learning a new language, taking up a sport, starting a new hobby, learning a musical instrument, or just spending more time with your family. I bet you’ll be surprised by how long that list is. Instead of finding something new to do with what little free time you have, why not work your way down your list? Start with the easiest stuff first and watch how your motivation snowballs.
As for me, I’m going to start by buying a model rocket kit for Tate and me. Then I’m going to bring Gretzky for a daily walk down the block. I’m going to drag the kids into the living room and teach them Monopoly. Next, I’ll make a dent in my reading list while sipping some of that special wine in my cellar. After that, I’m going to sign up for a cooking class and learn to make at least one killer meal. I’m going to surprise Jill by signing us up for ballroom dancing classes, and then, finally, when everything else on my list is complete, I’m going to learn to speak Italian. Quello potrebbe volerci un po’! (That one might take a while!)