One of my favorite lines in Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning movie, Gladiator, is uttered by Maximus’s second, Cicero: “Sometimes I do what I want to do; the rest of the time I do what I have to.” In the film, this quote was the harbinger of events to come. Maximus had wanted desperately to go home to his wife and son to harvest his crops. Instead, he was required to risk his life to save Rome from the corrupt son of its beloved emperor.
As I write this on a cloudy Monday morning in a colder-than-usual southwestern city, I can’t help but think of my brother. He has lived the past 12 years in a tropical paradise. Now, in order to take care of his adorable newborn daughter, he has moved to a cold, high-altitude climate that is neither pleasant for him nor optimal for his health. Yet he makes that choice happily. It’s clear that he’d do anything for this adorable little girl. He will undoubtedly be an amazing Dad.
We all make these kinds of choices. We do what he have to do for those we love, instead of enjoying what pleases us in the short term. From a mental health point of view, I’ve noticed that people thrive when they focus on the reason they carry out their required mundane tasks. A woman works two difficult jobs in order to support her children because she thinks only about the satisfaction that comes with being able to send them to school after she has provided them a good night’s sleep and a decent meal in their bellies.
At the start of another winter week, it helps to focus on the loved ones who benefit from the work we have to do. Somehow, that helps to make it all worthwhile.