How Will You Measure Your Life? Section I - Finding Happiness In Your Career

Guadalupe National Park

January 4, 2020

[This section consists of three chapters and addresses the first question Christensen poses on the last day of class - “how can I be sure that I will be successful and happy in my career?”  In this summary, Christensen sets the table for what he is going to discuss in Chapters 2 through 4.

As I read through this section, I realized how passive I was far too often in managing my career.  It was my career and I was the only person responsible for managing it. It is a cop out to say “external circumstances” dictated.  ☹️

But I also realized that I still have a career - the rest of my life. And this framework Christensen lays out is very helpful.

“You cannot let your work define who you are - that is a receipt for unhappiness.”]


When you were 10 years old and someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, anything seemed possible..  Your answer was guided simply by what you thought would make you really happy.

There are a determined few who never lose sight of aspiring to do something that’s truly meaningful to them.

But for many of us, as the years go by, we allow our dreams to be peeled away. We pick our jobs for the wrong reasons and then we settle for them. We begin to accept that it’s not realistic to do something we truly love for a living. 

Many of us who start down the path of compromise will never make it back. Considering the fact that you’ll likely spend more of your waking hours at your job than in any other part of your life, it’s a compromise that will always eat away at you.

But you need not resign yourself to this fate. 

I want you to be able to wake up every morning thinking how lucky you are to be doing what you’re doing.

In the next three chapters, we’re going to build a strategy for you to do exactly that.

A strategy is WHAT you want to achieve and HOW you will get there.

 In the business world, this is the result of multiple influences: what a company’s priorities are, how a company responds to opportunities and threats along the way, and how a company allocates its precious resources. These things all continuously combine, to create and evolve a strategy. 

This same strategy-making process can work for each of us. We have intentions for our careers. Against those intentions, opportunities and threats emerge that we haven’t anticipated. And how we allocate our resources—our time, talent, and energies—is how we determine the actual strategy of our lives. 

Occasionally, the actual strategy maps quite closely with what we intended. But often what we actually end up doing is very different from what we set out to do. The art of managing this, however, is not to simply stomp out anything that was not a part of the original plan. Among those threats and opportunities that we didn’t anticipate, there are almost always better options than we considered in our original plans.

The strategist in us needs to figure out what these better things are, and then manage our resources in order to nourish them.

The next three chapters are designed to help you leverage these concepts in answering the question “How can I find happiness in my career?” 

The starting point (Chapter 2) is a discussion of priorities. These are your core decision-making criteria: what’s most important to you in your career? The problem is that what we think matters most in our jobs often does not align with what will really make us happy. Even worse, we don’t notice that gap until it’s too late.

To help you avoid this mistake, we will discuss the best research on what truly motivates people.

Following this, I will outline how best to balance our plans to find something that we truly love doing with the opportunities and challenges that we never expected to arise in our lives. 

In Chapter 3 we discuss whether you should have a fixed strategy or a flexible strategy.  Some people will argue that you should always have the next five years of your life planned out, others have followed a strategy of just seeing what has come along and will tell you that it’s worked well for them. There’s a time and a place for both approaches. 

I will explain what the best circumstances are to be deliberate, to have that plan; and when it’s best to be emergent—to be open to the unexpected. 

Chapter 4 is final element - execution. The only way a strategy can get implemented is if we dedicate resources to it. Good intentions are not enough—you’re not implementing the strategy that you intend if you don’t spend your time, your money, and your talent in a way that is consistent with your intentions. 

In your life, there are going to be constant demands for your time and attention. How are you going to decide which of those demands gets resources? The trap many people fall into is to allocate their time to whoever screams loudest, and their talent to whatever offers them the fastest reward. That’s a dangerous way to build a strategy.  [see “Habits!“. Remember Urgent and Important?]

If you can understand and manage this strategy process, you’ll have the best shot at getting it right—of having a career that you will love.

10 views0 comments