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What's your story?

Let me tell you about 'Old John'.

Old John is 91 today! And because he's still fit as a fiddle he's decided today would be a good day to go for a long walk along the coastal route. His wife Joan passed away a few years ago but he knows she's with him today, and she'd love a stroll along the coast. As usual, he rolled out of bed about 6 am and trudged to the bathroom to wake himself up and get set for the day. Old John knows that when you've had as many birthdays as he has, it's the same as any other day...

And because it's his birthday, he's reminiscing a little more than usual, so when he's put his old comb back on his drawers after tidying up the scraggly tufts of white hair he has left, he looks at his reflection in the mirror and a tear is rolling gently down his right cheek.

John wipes away the tear and wanders into the kitchen for the same breakfast he's had for as long as he can remember. Strong black coffee and a couple of biscuits - hobnobs, obviously!

He stands at the back door drinking his coffee and wiping crumbs from his jumper as and notices a blackbird on the lawn at the end of the garden. It's got a worm in its beak and as he watches it flutters away to the tree his kids planted over 50 years ago and settles in its nest. He hears the unmistakable tweeting of a few chicks demanding their breakfast.

As he watches he feels another lone tear rolling down his right cheek. He manages to wipe it away with his sleeve before it drops into what's left of his coffee before he wanders into the living room and sits to watch the morning news.

By the time the round of news bulletins has finished, John finds that he has a steady flow of tears. And despite his best efforts, he can't stop. But it'll pass. Because it's like this every time it's his birthday, Christmas, father's day or even his kids and grandkids birthday.

Why was Old John so teary on his birthday?

You've just read a tiny snippet of Old John's very long story. But it wasn't always like this. Because if you asked John about his life he would regale you with many a story about his time at school with his friends, or at uni, where he and Joan first met. He's got lots of stories about the trouble he and his colleagues got into throughout his career. Or even the amazing projects he's worked on.

And he would, given the opportunity, tell you how amazing his three (now pensioner) children and countless grandkids are.

But what John wouldn't be able to share with you was the memories of his kids and grandkids. Because John wasn't there enough in the good times. Please don't misunderstand, John wasn't an absent father (at least not in the traditional sense) - everything he's ever done, since the moment he and Joan met was to give her, and later their kids, the best life possible. They always had food on the table, always had the best money could buy and he made sure their bills were paid on time. So why was Old John so teary? Well, it's because Old John knows that despite everything he's done. He has no memories of Charlie's first football match at school. Or Harriet's first school performance. And the memories he has of summer days out are few and far between.

And John knows that, looking back on his life, he did everything he thought was right. But he'll never get back those small moments. He'll never watch Charlie's first match. He'll never see Little John take his first steps. And, if he did it all again, he'd make sure he was more present. Because then, he'd still be close to his kids, like Joan was.

Why am I telling you about Old John?

Because, there was a time in my life when I might have become 'Old Andy'. There was a time, almost 10 years ago, when I was so focused on my career that I missed far too many of the 'little' moments that make life worthwhile.

And during this time, being busy with work, trying to earn more money to be able to provide more, I realised that really, the money didn't matter. It was the time with my wife and kids really mattered.

You see, I was lucky. My wife, really is my better half. And she still is. Because she knows what's really important. And when I was putting focus into the wrong areas, it was my wife who opened my eyes. It was a moment in my life I often look back on. Because even now, when I'm really busy with work, I'm reminded that in my life, spending time with my wife and kids will always be the most important thing.

When I'm 91, I want my story to be one of a man who worked hard and, more importantly, shared a million special memories with my wife, my kids (and eventually grandkids).

Why should you care?

Let me point you back to the title of this blog - 'What's your story?' Well, what is it? Because given our culture's insistence on 'Consuming' or the influence of Social Media and other media outlets towards 'having the best' it's increasingly common for anyone to become trapped in a cycle of work-work-work. To fit the standards society sets for you. Only for you to find that doing all of this has been at the cost of 'life'.

As someone who spent a fair chunk of his adult life having to work longer, and harder, while still having to miss bills here and there - just to keep a roof over the head of my family, I can promise you that pausing, then stepping back, will make you realise it's not sustainable.

When so much of your mental and emotional energy is focussed on just surviving and providing you'll miss the special moments. When so much of your time is taken up with the grind, you're not going to be the best version of you, and those around you will feel it too.

So if you take anything from this post, take this:

1 - Family, living and joy should always be your top priority

2 - Work should only be an enabler of the special memories you want to have.

3 - Quality of life always trumps standard of living

Final note

I don't want to overplay my journey - I've had an amazing life and I am blessed with an incredible wife and four amazing kids. And there are still times when work takes over and I need to give myself a reality check. Because I want my story to be about living the best, most joyful life I can with my family.

Knowing what you want your story to be means you can start writing it, today! And you can do whatever you want, living life your way.

When you want to learn how do things my way, give me a shout:

Check out these Self-Help guides:

In the meantime remember you're the author of your story, no-one else!

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