As We Search For What Matters, Must We Choose?

The Choice

The intellect of man is forced to choose
Perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story’s finished, what’s the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse. 

William Butler Yeats, 13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939

I came across this poem some time ago and was reminded of it in a recent discussion in my Vistage groups about “what matters”. Today we constantly talk about achieving balance; we perceive that it is the stress of modern times that creates this challenge. Yet this poem was written in the early 20th century. A reminder that this quest is the human condition, a daily challenge of choice. Here are the questions that come to mind:
  • Must we choose between success in life and work?
  • Or is it the search for perfection of one or the other that forces the choice? e.g. Albert Einstein was portrayed by his biographers as a poor husband and father. Was he, or was this the judgement of the biographers?
  • As we search for meaning in our lives, must we distinguish between what defines “life” and what defines “work” or is it possible to simply pursue what matters to us?
  • On this day devoted to mothers, what are you telling or demonstrating to your children about this question?


Why Vistage Works

Elisa K. Spain