When was the last time a single sentence changed the course of your life? A few years ago, my wife said eight words to me that have affected every choice that I’ve made since. She looked me in the eyes and said, “Even though you’re home, you’re not really home.” I knew exactly what she meant and not another word needed to be spoken.
I was guilty – I knew it – and it broke my heart to hear her say it. I had been working three jobs for the past couple of years in order to provide for her and our three little girls. We prayed and decided early on that she would stay at home with our kids and I would provide the sole income for our household, so I was committed to doing whatever it took to make sure that she had every opportunity to stay home and not worry about having to go back to work. We had no debt, the bills were being paid, and our children were well taken care of. With a steady, full-time job and a couple of side businesses, everything seemed to be working out just fine. That was, of course, until God graciously used my wife’s heart as the acid test for my priorities.
Instinctively, I had work on my mind constantly and was always thinking about what I needed to do next so that we could “stay ahead.” Ultimately, it left her with a tank that was running on empty and me with a major decision to make. I could either downplay it, standing on (or hiding behind) the principle of “providing for my family,” or I could see it for what it really was: a time to walk the talk I talked. I always boldly defended and declared that my family came first, but my actions (and thoughts) clearly said otherwise. Seeing the look in her eyes made my decision very easy. I promised she would never have to say those words again.
And that’s when I met Andy Stanley. Somewhere along the way, we’ve all heard or read something that was so powerful that it forced us to redefine the way that we lived our lives from that point on. For me, it was the book, “Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide?” by Andy Stanley. The title is what instantly grabbed my attention and piqued my curiosity. I mean, what kind of self-help book encourages you to cheat?! While never really considering myself a “cheater”, I instinctively knew that I had to read it because it seemed like my work and family life were always on a constant collision course. To my relief, Stanley powerfully redefined the word “cheat” from being something negative into being “the decision to give up one thing in order to gain something else.” You see, we all cheat. We have to. But it’s where we cheat that reveals our deepest motivations and highest priorities. Stick with me and you might be surprised to find out that you are (or want to be) a bigger “cheater” than you think!
How to Use Your Most Precious Commodity
Time. It can be our greatest ally or our worst enemy. We’re only given so much of it, we can’t buy more of it, and we are given only one chance to spend it before it’s gone. So how does one balance their desire to focus on what matters most to them in our fast-paced world with so many commitments and responsibilities pulling them in every direction? Here are three easy principles to follow:
1. Inventory Your Priorities
Stating the obvious, right? Me telling you this would be the equivalent of you telling the contractor building your house, “Hey, make sure you pour the basement first!” They’d look at you and laugh! The point here is to make sure that your foundation is firmly established. What’s important is that you take time to physically write down what (or who) matters most to you. It doesn’t matter whether the list is long or short. What matters is that there IS a list that serves as your filter through which every choice is determined. Not taking the time to do this would be like putting up the walls of your house first, instead of pouring the foundation. It’s going to fail before it starts!
2. Determine Your Goal
This is where you will find out what you’re made of and it’s where the list of priorities that you just made is going to be put to the test. What is your goal? Is it more quality time with your children? Retirement? Mission work? No matter what it is, you need to determine that you are going to let every single decision that you make flow from that one goal. You are going to pick your end point and take only those actions that serve the purpose of achieving that goal.
3. Cheat Everything Else
That’s it, plain and simple. It sounds crazy until you actually step out of your comfort zone and do it! I understand that we all have to work in order to live and provide for our families and ourselves. But the goal here is to do more with the time that we have! For me, I chose to cheat extra overtime hours or shut off my cell phone in order to be home with my wife so that we could invest in each other and in our kids. Once I determined what matters most, the decision to cheat anything that got in the way of that was easy. The list of how this plays out is endless and what matters most is that you have a plan and stick to it.
Following these profoundly simple, yet often sacrificed principles has changed my life in more ways than I can write down. In the end, cheating other areas in my life instead of my family has allowed me to remain true to the three things that matter the most: honoring God, honoring and spending time with my family, and staying true to myself and my passion. Are there areas in your life that you have a hard time balancing? Did any of my experiences or mistakes resonate with you or offer encouragement?
Meet me in the comments section and let me know where you’ve “cheated” to win in your own life!