MEASURING YOUR LIFE


“When you’re nearing your end of life,
your only measure of success
should be the number of people you
want to have love you actually do love you.”

WARREN BUFFETT

For the past two weeks I‘ve been using a yardstick and tape measure frequently.  First it was measuring a large piece of furniture and seeing if it would fit into the car for the ride back to the house.  Next came the measurement of a space in the Wolfpups’ new backyard to see if it would accommodate a new swing set (yes, we do spoil them, but that’s what grandparents do), and this past Wednesday I met with my trainer/nutritionist to do the measurements that would answer the question, “Were my training sessions and nutritional plan producing the expected results?”  Those are all tangible measurements, but how do we measure the intangible; How do concepts such as success and happiness. Perhaps most important, How do we measure a life?

Clayton Christensen is the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School.  In 2010 his students asked if he would give the Business School’s commencement address.  His speech was powerful and memorable, as it came at a time of intense personal reflection for Christensen.  He had just overcome the same type of cancer that killed his father, and as he struggled with the disease, he also struggled with the question, “How do we measure our life?”  Two years later he would answer that question with the publication of his book, “How Do You Measure Your Life.  Co-written with James Allworth and Karen Dillon, the book develops its focus through the use of three questions:

  1. How can I be sure I will find satisfaction in my career?
  2. How can I become sure that my personal relationships become enduring sources of happiness?
  3. How can I avoid compromising my integrity and stay out of jail?

Interesting questions to say the least.  Christensen goes on to share that his views were strongly influenced by American psychologist Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, and contribute to others.  Now there is a powerful set of metrics!

Srini Rao’s is the author of the Wall Street best-seller, The Art of Being Unmistakable.  His recent on-line post, Your Happiness is Impacted by How You Measure Your Life challenges us to consider what we measure.  Rao believes that because we live in a world of measurement and metrics, we are taught to prioritize a metrics-driven life over one that is values-driven. Thus, “more” becomes the ultimate symbol of success, and we are taught to seek more pedigree, status, money, fans, followers and more of almost everything that can be quantified.  Unfortunately this is not an accurate measure.  He proposes that we stop measuring our lives with someone else’s yardstick (which will always drive a need for validation), and replace it with our own yardstick, metrics we choose, which will permit success on our own terms.  He cautions that being successful on our own terms means you might not be successful in the eyes of other people or society. However, learning to prioritize eulogy values over resume values, hearts over eyeballs, and depth over reach, enables us to measure our lives with a very different set of metrics that would likely increase our happiness, well being, and paradoxically, the metrics we can quantify.  So what would they be?

  • Measure Time With People Who Matter – There’s nothing more precious in our lives than the time we have left with people who matter most to us. Instead of measuring how many likes we got on our recent Facebook post, we should measure how much time we spend face-to-face with our closest friends. We should measure the quality of our relationships instead of the size of our audience.
  • Measure Impact Instead of Reach – Instead of measuring how many people we are trying to reach, we should measure the impact we’re having on the people we’ve already reached.  There is greater value in taking better care of those already in our network, than continually seeking to expand it.
  • Measure the Commitments You Honored Rather than the Outcome You Expected – It’s tempting to judge success primarily by the number of deals closed, clients seen, or quarterly goals met.  Alternatively, you could measure the number of days you’ve honored your commitments or whether you’ve created something you’re proud of.
  • Measure What You Give Rather Than What You Earn – When it comes to our finances, we obsessively measure how much we earn, but we rarely measure how much we give.  What if we focused on the opposite; what if we measured what we give instead of what we earn, what we’ve contributed instead of what we’ve taken?
  • Measuring Experiences Instead of Goals – Goals are limited; once they are achieved, they tend to be replaced with a new goal.  Satisfaction becomes a task-driven and temporary. Instead, measure experiences that bring value into your life through the people you meet, the places you travel or the things that you do
  • Measuring What You Have Instead of What You Lack – We spend our lives trying to bridge the gap between who we are and who we want to be, what we want and what we don’t have.  Tim Ferriss, and entrepreneur and blogger shares, “If you don’t appreciate what you have now, you’ll never appreciate what you get later. So maybe we should spend more of our lives measuring what we have instead of what we don’t.”

Christiansen closes his book with a powerful statement, “I’ve concluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn’t dollars but the individual people whose lives I’ve touched.I think that’s the way it will work for us all. Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people. Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.” Measure Time With People Who Matter – There’s nothing more precious in our lives than the time we have left with people who matter most to us. Instead of measuring how many likes we got on our recent Facebook post, we should measure how much time we spend face-to-face with our closest friends. We should measure the quality of our relationships instead of the size of our audience.

Embrace the Challenge