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In the movie Family Man, Nicolas Cage receives a glimpse of what could have been his life. His dreamscape reveals a seemingly ordinary soul – a happy individual who is rich in family. When he awakes, he realizes that he’s squandered what was most important.

I know individuals who regret beginning their family too soon. The opposite remorse can also occur from a singular focus on career achievement.

Material wealth (and its link to happiness) is the biggest lie ever told. The misfortune is that we realize this too late – after we’ve sacrificed our short lived breaks. In Hope Floats, Gena Rowlands states, “It’s the worst kind of extravagance the way you spend your chances.”

Similarly, Salma Hayek in Fools Rush In proclaims “Love is a gift.” Fulfillment is a matter of priorities, making time, and allowing oneself to be vulnerable – all of which in our egoistic society do not come easily. If we think that we cannot have it all, it’s then necessary to cherry-pick the opportunities that bring happiness. Large houses and letters behind one’s name don’t love you back.

The pinnacle of career achievement looks different once we ascend the summit. Looking up along the way, we might be able to see (and seize) otherwise missed chances. A colleague of mine stated that she didn’t want to be a “coulda shoulda woulda.” This sentiment only applied to her job, a focus which quickly faded.

Our real legacy resides in unbroken bonds with those around us (and not in what we’ve amassed). Love is a daily decision – the accumulation of which occurs over the course of a lifetime. For the sake of progress, we mistakenly eliminate that which comprises our life’s essence. When we “make it,” we seemingly have it made. Degrees, accolades, money, and accomplishments ring hollow if they are however all we have.

If success is one sided, our prize is nothing more than a pretty package that is empty upon opening. The reverberation from doors slammed shut is felt much later. When we forfeit social ties and family life, we are left with that which leaves us cold.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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