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I recently returned from “EO Thrive 2014 Cleveland,” the annual gathering of Entrepreneur Organization members that re-energizes and inspires us to keep leading our organizations in the best and smartest ways possible.

I’ll be touching on some of the themes I learned about, but one really resonated with me and I wanted to share it separately. No matter where we are in our careers, we all have lives outside work. Whether you are searching for your first position, going to school to move from assistant to hygienist, caring for patients several days a week, keeping the front office running like clockwork or leading a dental practice… that’s only part of who you are.

The past decade for me has been a whirlwind. I started DentalPost at about the same time I started a family. I’m the mother of active 11 year old twin girls, so you can imagine what our family calendar looks like. Add to that my work schedule: I am in the dental office each week, then travel or run my business the other days. Often, I’m at a hotel instead of my own bed at the end of the day. The schedule is very demanding. But I make sure I spend time with my kids. We have fun at the lake, the beach, on the slopes and even in the dirt! Earlier this month, they sang in their first chorus concert. I was on the front row. I wouldn’t have been anywhere else.

But entrepreneurs, business owners and any of us who work sometimes get focused on our jobs and we can miss out with our kids’ soccer games or other activities. We might tell them to be quiet while we are taking a call. I am guilty of asking my kids to hold on and let me finish this e-mail or make this call and then I am all theirs. In reality, that call or e-mail could have waited while we are more present with the ones we love.

At “EO Thrive,” a fellow EO member took the stage to tell the story of how he almost died from Crohn’s disease. He woke up one day with a fever of over 104. But he blew it off and went back to bed. The next day, he went to the hospital and was already septic. Doctors had to perform emergency surgery to save his life, removing a large part of his large and small intestines. His case was so involved that it spread throughout the hospital as a “miracle surgery.”

He awoke with a colostomy bag and a catheter, and was in the hospital 30 days. While he was lying in the bed for a month, all he could think about was his family. He did not want his three-year-old son to see him with tubes coming out of him. After he went home, it was still a long, difficult recovery. Four months he was in a special bed and still had a bag and a catheter attached to him.

Every day, he looked forward to his little boy coming home from pre-school. All he could think about was spending time with him, and not making that call or putting off his son when he wanted to play catch or watch the Disney Channel. After four months, it was time to remove the bag and catheter, so he explained to his son he had to go back to the hospital. He reassured him he would be okay, and wanted to know if his son understood what he was telling him. His little guy asked, Will you be able to pick me up? Will you be able to swing me upside down like tick tock? Will you be able to throw the ball?

This dad and entrepreneur finally understood the most important aspect of life: spending time with our loved ones. We don’t have to almost die to realize this. But sometimes we do have to force ourselves to slow down a little. Maybe you go play with your kids or take a walk with your spouse after a tiring day. Exercise rejuvenates us. Why not involve our families? Hiking and exploring places you’ve never been are always fun. For some parents, helping kids with homework is another great way to connect. All I will say is… I’m not one of those parents!

I have just cleared time on my schedule to coach one daughter’s basketball team. This will require that I not travel as much on the weekends during my busy season. I am so excited for her, and I played basketball, too. It will be a blast! I had been meaning to do this for a while but once I heard that story, it took on a whole new meaning for me.

For us as entrepreneurs and as dental professionals, work-life balance is not only for real, it’s essential. We have to focus on being happy and not just working all the time. Most of us work to pay for our lives. But don’t forget to live life. Make your family a priority.  Don’t look back and wish you had.

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