It’s okay to invest in your career, but don’t forget to invest in your relationships.
One will make you a living; the other will give you a life.
It’s taken me years to learn this and still I make mistakes. I spent too much of my life thinking that I would first get my work done, then I could focus on my family. I thought once I was caught up, I could really listen to my wife and kids, or I could fully participate in some family outing.
The problem was, and the problem is, I will never be finished with my work. I will never be caught up. So I keep reminding myself to invest in my relationships – now. Maybe this story will remind you to do the same thing.
Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish author and historian, lived from 1795 until 1881. During his lifetime he became one of the world’s greatest writers. But he was a human, and humans make mistakes.
On October 17, 1826, Carlyle married his secretary Jane Welsh. She was an intelligent, attractive and somewhat temperamental daughter of a well-to-do doctor. They had their quarrels and misunderstandings, but they still loved each other dearly. After their marriage, Jane continued to serve as his secretary. Unfortunately, after many years of marriage, Jane became ill.
Being a hard worker, Carlyle became so absorbed in his writings that he let Jane continue working for several weeks after she became ill. She had cancer, but it was one of those slow, growing kinds of cancer. Finally, she became confined to her bed.
Although Carlyle loved her dearly, he seldom found time to stay with her. Afterall, he was busy with his work. When Jane died, they carried her to the cemetery. It was raining hard; the mud was deep, and the day was miserable.
Following the funeral, Carlyle went back to his home. He was taking it hard. He went up the stairs to Jane’s room and sat down in the chair next to her bed. He sat there thinking about how little time he had spent with her and wishing so much he had a chance to do it differently.
Noticing her diary on a table beside the bed, he picked it up and began to read. Suddenly he was shocked. He saw it. There, on one page, she had written a single line: “Yesterday he spent an hour with me and it was like heaven. I love him so.”
Something dawned on him that he had not noticed before. He had been too busy to notice that he meant so much to her. He thought of all the times he had gone about his work without thinking about her and without noticing her.
Then Carlyle turned the page in the diary. There he noticed some words that broke his heart. “I have listened all day to hear his steps in the hall, but now it is late and I guess he won’t come today.”
Carlyle read a little more in the book. Then he threw it down and ran out of the house. Some of his friends found him at the grave, his face buried in the mud. His eyes were red from weeping. Tears continued to roll down his cheeks. He kept repeating over and over again, “If I had only known, if I had only known.”
But it was too late for Carlyle. She was dead. After Jane’s death, Carlyle made little attempt to write again. The historian said he lived another 15 years, “Weary, bored and a partial recluse.”
Focus on two of your important relationships today — one at work and one at home. Then do one thing for each of those relationships that will make it better. Maybe you do a favor for one person and truly listen to the other. But do something.