“How will you measure your life?”

I just finished reading How will you measure your life? by Clayton M. Christensen (with James Allworth and Karen Taylor). The book spends a lot of time focusing on the intangibles which make up the real quality of our lives. Things like time spent building close relationships, integrity, and values. These don’t show up on any balance sheet.

Christensen, a professor at Harvard business school, observed that so many of his brightest and most promising students ended up unhappy in their lives – divorced, struggling with addiction, or in jail. All this despite the fact that they had (by all outward appearances) successful careers, enviable homes, and the like.

Christensen points out something I’ve mentioned before: “You can talk all you want about having a strategy for your life, understanding motivation, and balancing aspirations with unanticipated opportunities. But ultimately, this means nothing if you do not align those with where you actually expend your time, money and energy.”

That is, there is a great difference, for many of us, between what we say is important, and what we actually spend our time and energy on. And according to Christensen, this is where the trouble starts. In other words, when we say things like “family is important” but then put family at the end of our long to-do list, we’re in trouble.

What’s tricky is, we’re not going to notice the effects of that type of decision-making until later. No, for now, it will look like everything’s fine. But down the road, if we don’t invest time and energy in important relationships (to name just one example), over time those relationships will not survive the neglect.

Consider this: “Many of us think that the important ethical decisions in our lives will be delivered with a blinking read neon sign…[L]ife seldom works that way. Instead, most of us will face a series of small, everyday decisions that rarely seem like they have high stakes attached. But over time, they can play out far more dramatically.”

Every decision you make is important in determining the quality of your life and charting a course for your future. For happiness and success (by your own definition), it’s worth considering the question, “How will you measure your life?”

Hopes and Dreams, Part II

Yesterday in the car I was listening to a cd of a lecture given by well-known leadership guru Orrin Woodward called 13 Resolutions for Life. In it Woodward discusses his 13 personal resolutions and the ways in which people create real change in their lives. In part one of this post, I characterized it as a question of grounded-ness and motivation. As an extension of that discussion, I’d like to share some elements from Woodward’s talk that shed further light on this issue.

Woodward identifies 3 factors necessary to create change:

  • Mind
  • Heart
  • Will

What he means is that it’s not enough to simply know, intellectually, what needs to be done, or what is the right action in a situation. Further, it’s not enough to become emotionally involved in what the right thing is (for example, to go to a seminar and have an emotional breakthrough). Lots of people do these first two things. It’s the third one, the will, that’s key.

It’s action, applied day in, day out, over a lifetime. This is what builds true character and creates real change. It’s not an easy process. But how many easy things are worth doing? In many cases the degree of difficulty of a task is directly proportional to the sense of satisfaction one has from doing it. Woodward suggests formulating your own personal resolutions for life. And then living them, throughout your life. Not just “taking up the resolutions, but being taken up by them.” Let the resolutions become who you are.

Now, without a doubt, we’re talking about a life-long process. Know that if you do this, you will fall short, you will make mistakes. But when you’ve gone off course, you will know it. Alexander Hamilton once said that people who “stand for nothing will fall for anything.” He makes a valid point. If we each, individually, take responsibility for identifying and aligning with our true purpose in life, and living that purpose on a daily basis, that is how we create real change in the world.

Change starts with each one of us – change starts with You.

Recommended reading: Resolved: 13 Resolutions for Life, by Orrin Woodward.