Gary Kunath, a 56-year-old Atlanta-area entrepreneur, speaker and author, says he realized suddenly one day 20 years ago that he was investing too much of his life into work after telling his 12-year-old son he was too busy to play baseball.
"The look of disappointment was something I would never forget. It was like someone had smacked me on the head," Kunath said.
Shortly afterward, he experienced another defining moment after taking an arduous overseas business trip while he was ill. "I knew in my bones that if I did not draw the line right there, I would ruin every part of my life that mattered."
Kunath, who was running on overdrive building his own sales-training company called The Summit Group, vowed to always make time for his three sons. About five years ago he sold his company, and now spends time on the speakers' circuit trying to help companies make it easier for employees to adjust the treadmill and achieve a better work-life balance.
"Often we lull ourselves into thinking we are working hard to give our family a better life -- nice vacations, private schools -- but the truth is all they want is you," he said.
"At a certain point you realize that money doesn't make you rich. It just allows you to buy more stuff."
How do people know when their work and home life are out of whack?
"If you come home and you don't know your kids," that's a good indication, said Kunath, author of "Life ... Don't Miss It. I Almost Did: How I Learned to Live Life to Its Fullest."
"Look at how work has affected your family life. Are you engaged in discussions at home? Do you know your kid's favorite color? Do you know his or her favorite book?"
Kunath encourages people to "set boundaries on what you are going to allow your company to do to you."
There will be occasions that require staying late at work or maybe taking calls at night, he said. "But if you are working for a company or boss that doesn't respect (your home life), if that is a constant thing, you have to decide, 'Is this how I want to live my life?' "
He acknowledges that a good work-life balance can be tricky to achieve.
One of the key ways to help attain balance is to prioritize, he said. "You always have time to do the things you do first."
Learning to be satisfied with less also is important.
"I have a friend who was talking to a guy bragging about money. My friend said, 'I have something you will never have. I have enough.' "
"There is no argument for that," Kunath said.
He calls time, memories and tradition the three biggest gifts anyone can give to their loved ones.
"You only have one shot to see a son or daughter off to the first day at school, or one shot at a second birthday," he said.
"You don't want to wake up after 25 years with a company that doesn't respect life outside of work and say, 'I wish I had.' Then, it's too late."
(Contact Patricia Sabatini at firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.)