George Clooney’s character in the film, Up the Air, gives a memorable speech where he asks, “How much does your life weigh?”
I’ve seen the movie twice now, and both times I’ve got lost in thought each time I’ve watched this scene.
How much does my life weigh?
Currently it weighs a lot. I’m responsible for providing life’s basics for six people and one dog. When I write that I can feel the weight. Yet that’s how I set it up. That’s what I was taught. I go to school. Get married. Buy a home and have some children.
Isn’t that how we define success in America? The size of our home and the emblem on our cars. The instruments our children play and the camps and schools they attend. The blueprint for success has already been created. All we have to do is follow it. Yet nobody forced me to follow the blueprint. It was my own doing.
I’m starting to rethink how I define success.
I used to place a lot of value on not only my job title but the prestige that came working for a well-known and respected company. I used to think we had to raise our children in a certain neighborhood among people of our education and economic levels. At times I’ve felt the need to spend more time at work and church taking on more projects. Whoever can complete the largest to-do list was the winner. The busier the better.
But the older I get I see that this way of thinking does not lead to happiness. It focuses on the quantity instead of the quality of life. More is less. A lot less.
I recently came across an interview with former CNN host, Lou Dobbs. He worked at CNN for nearly 30 years and served as the host of Moneyline as well as a corporate executive at CNN. This is a man who graduated from Harvard and earned tens of millions of dollars as a news personality.
Yet when asked to complete the phrase, “I wish…, Dobbs replied “I spent more time with the kids”.
Here’s a guy who had the means to do whatever he wanted. Certainly he could find time to spend with his four children if he so desired. Yet our culture doesn’t place a lot of importance on how much time fathers spend with their children. That’s mom’s job or, more often, the nanny or child care provider’s responsibility.
I hope I never look back on my life and answer that question the same way Dobbs did. That would be a nightmare scenario. Dobbs lives on a 300 acre farm. He has whatever money can buy. Yet what he wishes for something which can’t be bought. No amount of money will bring back the years he could have spent with his children. Who cares how big your house is if it’s empty.
I’m slowly starting to remove things from my life that take away from time I can spend with my children. I’m going to commit myself to fewer projects. I’m going to watch less TV and more time reading or telling stories with my kids. I’m going to call my parents and siblings instead of goofing around on the internet so much. I’m going to look for opportunities to give service. I worked on a friend’s computer for a few hours this month, and I felt great afterwards.
I want more of that in my life.
This past week I did something I wish I had done months before. I turned off email on my iPhone so I would not be tempted to read or reply to it. I had over 30 unread emails when I sat down at my desk this morning. And you know what? I survived. No email is so important that it should pull me away from my family on the weekend.
I’m hoping that as I strip away distractions and activities that the next time I hear Clooney give his speech, I’ll say to myself, “My life weighs less than it did it a month ago”.