December 11, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Achieving work-life balance by knowing the right priorities

I was once among those who had false views of my Christianity. Although I had grown up in a Catholic family and had been educated in Catholic schools all my life, I was only doing things out of compliance. Sure, I made it a point to be physically present in mass every Sunday and on days of obligation, but I was not spiritually or even mentally present. I was a “Cultural Catholic” who would check the box “Catholic” when filling out forms. However, I had no real understanding of what it meant to be a Christian.

My lowest point as a Catholic was when I started bringing down my family along with me. I am an IT professional working for a multinational company. For several years, I headed the company’s IT operations and its subsidiaries in the country. I worked for no fewer than 12 hours a day on weekdays to address IT system issues and problems. I also worked on weekends, usually on Saturday evenings until Sunday mornings, as most IT system implementation happened during non-peak hours. I was at the beck and call of my company. In my mind, I was doing all these for my family.

I was at the height of my career as I had the skills to handle all types of technical and management issues. However, it seemed that the more I gave time and effort to my job, the more it demanded from me, and my life became more stressful. At this time, I started experiencing hypertension. Worse, my schedule affected the schedules of my wife and children, as even going to mass had to be frequently adjusted due to my work. Sometimes, going to mass was just a routine. There were times when we were late, but I was not bothered as long as we were able to set foot in church.

My problems at work continued to increase, and I felt more helpless. I started to think that surely there was more to life than all these. True, I was earning good money for my family, but what was the meaning of it if I couldn’t even spend quality time with them? I knew the answer was something beyond me.

One day, while I was going through some old documents in my office, I was led to a drawing that I had sketched during a leadership development workshop. In the workshop, we were asked to identify, rank, and draw in a pyramid the most important things in our lives. My answer then was God, family, career, and community in that order. It was an automatic answer for someone who had been educated in Catholic schools.

I reflected on how I could have God and my family at the top of my priority list and yet spend the least time with them. My answer was not consistent with how I was living my life. I realized then that my Christian life was not in order. It wasn’t easy, but it was in my helplessness that I made an explicit decision to follow Him as I should.

In Matthew 22:37, Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Having a personal relationship with Jesus starts with an explicit decision, a choice to love Him, to follow Him, and to prioritize Him above all things.

When you have made a decision to follow Him, then you begin to have a growing, personal relationship by spending time regularly with Him, listening and speaking to Him in prayer.

We all have relationships with our spouses, parents, children, special people, and friends. I believe that we need to communicate and spend quality time with them for our relationships with them to grow. Our relationship with the Lord is no different.

Following my decision to make Him my priority, I started to pray more, and pray more intently to God to help me put order in my life, and this He did.

I still work for the same multinational company. Since my decision to have a growing personal relationship with our Lord Jesus, the problems in my office have not lessened, but they have become more manageable because I know I am getting help from Someone who will never fail me. He has also given me a new role, in which I am able to have better work-life balance and more quality time with Him and my family. Proof of that is that I am now able to spend time to write and share with you my story -- something that I did not use to be able to do.

Luis Lorenzo T. Africa is an MBA student at the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. He wrote this essay for his class on Lasallian Business Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Social Responsibility.