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How Will You Know Your Life Has Been Successful?

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How Will You Know Your Life Has Been Successful?

At school, we receive report cards. At work, performance reviews. But how will you know if you’re succeeding at life?

I don’t believe this has ever happened to me before: I read through most of the book, How Will You Measure Your Life?, with interest – taking notes here and there but nothing too jaw-dropping.

And then, the final chapter of the book arrives…and I highlight the entire thing.

I chose this book randomly while roaming Barnes & Noble with a gift card in hand (one of my favorite life experiences, by the way). The author, an innovation expert and Harvard business professor, offers an interesting perspective of measuring life experiences similarly to business ones. He introduces business theory and innovation practices as a way to answer life’s big questions: Why am I here? What matters most? What does it all mean? His perspective is certainly unique and thought-provoking.

It wasn’t until I reached the final ten or so pages of the book, however, that everything came together and struck me with a profound sense of importance. A few takeaways:

Values are seen in action – not words. Christensen writes, “With every moment of your time, every decision about how you spend your energy and resources, you are making a statement about what really matters most to you.” Like a speaker I attended once shared, show me your calendar and checkbook and I’ll show you your values. An important reminder in our personal lives, work, and family.

Encourage big dreams. I was thankful to see this affirmation of one of my guiding principles. “As a parent,” he states, “encourage your children to stretch – to aim for lofty goals… If they’re not occasionally failing, they’re not aiming high enough.” We can all apply this to our own work and lives, can’t we?

Hold true to your values ALL the time – it’s easier than SOME of the time. When you set guidelines for how you want to live, don’t give in “just this once.” Difficult as upholding your core values may be, it’s easier than regretting where you end up because you gave in. “Decide what you stand for,” Christensen says, “then stand for it all the time.” I love this simple directive.

Do the work to uncover your purpose. The author makes a bold statement here: “If you take the time to figure out your purpose in life, I promise that you will look back on it as the most important thing you will have ever learned.”

My jaw dropped a little here.

I coach and teach the process of writing a personal purpose statement. It was the focus of our annual Spark event last year. I live, breathe, and work in the midst of purpose.

But I can’t say I’ve ever told someone, definitively, that it is the most important thing they will ever discover.

Yet reading this statement, I agree. I just haven’t been bold enough to state it.

Clarifying my values, defining my strengths, and writing my purpose statement truly changed my life. Knowing my purpose has given me the courage and confidence to do things I never would have thought possible nor would have attempted otherwise, from starting a business to raising a family in the way we are raising them to taking healthy risks that have caused me to grow immeasurably.

The distinction comes so clearly now: Pre-Purpose-Statement I was “fine” but floating, meandering, just taking the next step without much sense of grounding or vision.

Post-Purpose-Statement, I feel intentional about my decisions. I choose in favor of my purpose and clearly link my actions to my higher beliefs and the greater good. I have a “knowing” that I cannot say I experienced before discerning my purpose.

And I’m so thankful for the bold way Clayton Christensen stated this. It is how I will now voice my feeling as well.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in figuring out answers to the “bigger questions,” but in particular to business-minded people, young parents (or about-to-be), and those dedicated to creating a culture of growth and meaning in their workplaces, families, or organizations.

“The type of person you want to become – what the purpose of your life is – is too important to leave to chance.” Commit to an intentional, deliberate approach to fulfilling your purpose. It changes EVERYTHING!

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