27 Jan How will you measure your life? – Book Review
How do you find meaning and happiness in your life? How can you be sure, one day, that you will look back on your years – confident that you spent them well? According to Clayton M. Christensen, this is particularly difficult for “high achievers”; people who build successful careers or businesses, but who often end up falling into traps which cause deep unhappiness.
In his book, “How will you measure your life?”, world-renowned innovation expert Christensen offers answers by bringing together thoughts from his seminal speech in 2010 to his Harvard Business School class. Using academic research from the business world, he offers a series of ideas about how people can build happy, meaningful lives not marked by deep regret.
Christensen draws upon his experience of overcoming cancer to build his case (the same cancer that killed his father). His diagnosis brought the questions of meaning and happiness close to home, as the reality of his mortality struck very personally and more urgently.
The first key question to address is, ‘what are your priorities?’ In other words, what things do you value most deeply and how do you order them? Which do you put first – staying out of prison, finding happiness in your marriage or building a satisfying career? After all, our energy and attention are both limited, and we need to prioritise. Being honest with yourself about this and working down your list of “life priorities”, therefore, is a good starting point towards building meaningful happiness.
Christensen gives particular attention to career happiness. After all, too many people think they are stuck in jobs that they hate and cannot get out of. This is cause for great resentment and often can spill out into our relationships. Just like a cancer, compromising on the career that you want will metastasize over the years. It is worth waiting and fighting for if you are just starting out, and it is worth prioritising if you have spent too many years doing something you are not passionate about. Christensen’s book emboldens the reader to recognise this and do something about it.
The book also highlights the importance of “key relationships” in a happy life – most notably, close family and friends. Without these, our lives often end up empty and lacking direction. Here, the book warns against the danger of “sequencing” – i.e. putting career first, then marriage and then the kids. It is vital that relationships come first over making money. After all, your loved ones can be there at your deathbed to say goodbye. Your career – although important – cannot be.
Another key point in Christensen’s book is the importance of the parenting role. Today, it is all too easy for “high achievers” to outsource this to other people whilst getting on with their busy careers – relatives, friends or professional caregivers. Whilst modern life complicates things to a high degree, we should all be wary of the greatest gift we can give our children – our time, especially in the early years (which you never get back, and which are so vital to their development).
Overall, Christensen’s book is a powerful reminder to get our priorities straight and to own how we spend our time and energy on the things we value. Written using compelling personal stories and useful, interesting research, this is a great read for anyone looking to gain more happiness and meaning in their lives.