Measuring Your Life

Recently I came across the article “How will you Measure Your Life” by Clayton M. Christensen. This reflective and well written article looks at applying various perspectives, principles and theories to gain happiness in an individuals’ personal life. Christensen’s thinking is routed in his deep religious faith an uncommon occurrence in Business writing. Needless to say this article, lead me to think about various aspects of creating a strategy for life and its impact on other facets of my life outside of my drive to succeed in my career. I highly recommend reading it, the free preview is available on HBR.org website until the end of October: http://hbr.org/2010/07/how-will-you-measure-your-life/ar/pr

How can we be sure we find Happiness in our careers?

As theory suggests money is not the most powerful motivator. We have been taught throughout our lives that money provides us with the opportunity to satisfy our needs. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, money allows us to enjoy the foundation of his pyramid Frederick Herzberg asserts that the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others and be recognized for achievements then takes precedence. Surely, that has to be accurate; think about your careers and imagine yourself driving home with high self esteem, feeling you have learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. Such a perspective will have great beneficial impact not only on your wellbeing at work but will spill over into your home life.

Creating a Strategy for Your Life:

Sitting around a boardroom table with some executives very early on in my career I was asked what my mission and vision was. I quickly responded by indicating where I would like my career path to lead, how I was going to get there and what I was going to be able to contribute to the organization. I was stumped when asked how my personal life would fit into the overall happiness and strategy of my life. Back then, although familiar with managing resources within an organization the impact of the home life on my work life did not play a big impact. After all, I was still living at home, paid only minimal bills; had only so many responsibilities and resource allocation was something that could be distributed quite easily.

Fast forward a few years; and the resource allocation dilemma gets bigger; the strategy for life has to be well tuned so that all the aspects that I would want to fulfil within a short time would come to fruition.

How would I:
  • Move to a new city
  • Start a new job
  • Continue pursuing my CHRP designation
  • Buy a house, pay all my bills
  • Get married
  • Renovate a house
  • Start focusing on a Masters; a very demanding academic program
  • Establish myself in my faith community
  • Establish myself in the business community
  • Be effective at work
  • Succeed and contribute at work

The list becomes daunting and without a plan more challenging. How was I going to proceed? How was I going to ensure that my relationship with my family proved to be an enduring source of happiness? I surely came to understand and perhaps am still learning that “The choice and successful pursuit of a profession is but one tool for achieving my purpose”.

Allocating Resources:

Much like Clayton Christensen noted my list formed a “bunch of businesses that would compete for resources in my life”. Thinking about the investment of resources we have to look at investing wisely to try and eliminate mistakes. We do in fact place a lot of resources in our careers; as they are the most concrete evidence that we are moving forward. Christensen further explains that people who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers – even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.

Create a Culture:

My husband and I set out to create a model which Christensen refers to as “Tools of Cooperation”. We set out actions which we agreed upon that would yield positive desired results, we set out to utilize acceptable methods by which we could overcome various problems, challenges what role each one of us would play in the process and how things were going to get done. Priorities were set and the order of each success goal defined so that we can clearly evaluate the achievement along the way. The other quadrant was also analyzed; what aspects did we not agree on, what would the actions of pursuing a venture singlehandedly yield?

Remembering the Importance of Humility:

Humility is something I strive to hold on to during the course of my life; there is always something to learn from everyone, from every walk of life.”If you have a humble eagerness to learn something from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited”. Although, it is hard to think this way sometimes, I revert back to Christensens’ thinking –  “Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people.”

This article has provided me an opportunity to once again revisit my inner values, focus on both career happiness and personal happiness bringing to the forefront that they do interact. A well written piece which has rejuvenated my excitement for management; the business world; the possibilities for me as an HR professional making a contribution to society as a whole; and the pursuit of happiness in my personal life.

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