In the midst of another holiday season, I once again find myself trying to figure out where time has gone. I swear we just put all of the holiday decorations back in storage and started our New Year’s resolutions (and subsequently broke them 2 weeks later).

I also find myself reflecting on what the upcoming season means to me. In 2013 I shared some simple thoughts about Thanksgiving and Christmas, both of which had an underlying message of being thankful and possessing a giving mindset year-round, not just around the holidays. Here I sit again six years later having similar thoughts. Thoughts that are filtered through a slightly different lens.

Looking back, I talked about being thankful for the simple things in life and not taking those things for granted—one of those being time. It is not uncommon for achievement-oriented people to spend an inordinate amount of time pursuing professional success. So much so they get addicted to work at the expense of spending quality time with those they love. In fact, there are many that carry the title of “workaholic” with pride.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m a recovering workaholic. I really enjoy what I do and even consider it a hobby of sorts. But I didn’t realize the impact it would have on those around me, let alone myself. If not for some major life events over the past two years, I would probably still be running at an unhealthy level, even though it has never been an expectation of my job and, in fact, strongly discouraged by my colleagues at MJ.

Over Christmas in 2017, I lost my beloved mother and then, unexpectedly, lost my brother-in-law less than 48 hours later. Earlier this year, I began my last journey around the sun before turning 50 and two weeks later I dropped my oldest child off at college, which impacted me much more than anticipated.

Through all these events I finally realized that those who continually told me “time flies, life is short, and life is not guaranteed” were 100% truthful. Unfortunately, it took these events to stop me in my tracks, force me to reflect and ultimately conclude that time, for me, is the most important asset I have and one that I vow to spend very wisely going forward. I cannot take even one minute for granted.

I’ve previously discussed having a continual, daily mindset of giving back. Again, reflecting on the past few years and the insights I’ve gained through experience, I have reshaped what giving means to me. Giving is not just about giving of your time, treasure or talent. Those things are important without question. The single most important gift I vow to give going forward is my presence. It’s not just about the quantity of time we give others. In fact, the quantity of time is only as good as the quality of time you are giving. In today’s world, it’s not just our professional lives that are hectic, so too are our personal lives. Regardless of how busy we are, one thing we can virtually guarantee is whenever we are physically present, we can and must be mentally present. So, in addition to being thankful for the simple things, or those things we easily take for granted (like time), I’m also reminded in the season of giving that we can provide the wonderful gift presence when we are with others and those we love.

For the young folks reading this post, I offer some advice… Be very intentional in designing your life and align how you spend your time as closely as possible with that design. Don’t coast through life and let others determine how you spend it. I’m not naïve enough to think this can be done perfectly, and there are certainly times when you must get “out of balance” and spend time in ways you would prefer not to, or in ways that do not help you achieve your designed life. However, I would urge you to establish a plan and do your best to be disciplined in following that plan. This will help you significantly when you have the same realization that time flies, life is short, and life is not guaranteed.

Ensure that you not only work in an area that is aligned with your goals and passions, but also acknowledge it is important to work for a company that is aligned with those goals and passions. For work is where we spend the most time in our lives, second only to sleeping, so the choice we make in where we work is a critical decision that impacts quality of life. I am blessed beyond measure to work for a firm that values and facilitates professional growth, but more importantly the growth and quality of your personal life. Don’t get me wrong, we work very hard to deliver what our clients and partners have come to expect and deserve. But at the same time, everyone must take a step back from all of that and work just as hard at pursuing the most rewarding life possible.

For that, I am very thankful for MJ Insurance and wish everyone the best during this holiday season.