“How Will You Measure Your Life?” is both an age-old question and the title of a new book by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen, also author of the business best-seller “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” “How Will You Measure Your Life?” is co-authored by James Allworth and Karen Dillon.
Christensen reminds us that no matter what our accumulation of material wealth and earthly achievements or how much we satiate ourselves with physical pleasure, life without purpose eventually becomes hollow. In the absence of a strong sense of purpose, a north star to guide us, our decisions about how we allocate our time and energy often are driven by short-term gratification and quick results. The outcome is often tragic—a life wasted—or at best, underutilized, contributions forgone and joys missed, both individually and for family, friends, and community.
In Christensen’s words: “If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.”
In search of our purpose Christensen suggests we ask ourselves
– How can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?
– How can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness?
Christensen postulates that our greatest, most lasting sense of satisfaction (and happiness) comes from the opportunity to learn, growth in our responsibilities, contributions to others, and recognition for our achievements. For himself, Christensen wishes his life not to be assessed in dollars, even though he is a chaired professor of business at Harvard, the world’s premier school of business. Rather his desire is to measure his life in terms of the lives he has touched.
“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” — “Tuesdays with Morrie,” by Mitch Albom
“For what doeth it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?” — Mark 8:36
“If you don’t have a dream, how are you going to make a dream come true?” – “Happy Talk” lyrics, by Oscar Hammerstein, from “South Pacific”