Monday, January 14, 2013

How Will You Measure Your Life?

I just finished reading How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen and found it inspiring! I don't consider myself to be a practical, business-minded person, but maybe I am more than I think.  I liked how he applied business and management principles to real life.  As a homemaker, sometimes I feel like running a family is like running a business- just because there are so many different aspects to it, but of course it is more than that.  Despite the successful business background, I found Christensen to be compassionate, as well as honest and very smart.  Overall, for me, I felt like he was stressing the importance of living life on purpose, with a definite and clear purpose- being more deliberate and focused in everything I do.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"Real strategy in companies and in our lives is created through hundreds of everyday decisions about where we spend our resources.  As you're living your life from day to day, how do you make sure you're heading in the right directions?  (p62)

"With every moment of your time, every decision about how you spend your energy and your money you are making a statement about what really matters to you. (p75)

"You will be constantly pressured both at home and at work, to give people and projects your attention.  How do you decide who gets what?  Whoever makes the most noise? Whoever grabs you first?  Overcome the natural tendency to focus on the short term at the expense of the long term." (p80-81)

"Our default instincts are so often just to support our children in a difficult moment.  But if our children don't face difficult challenges, and sometimes fail along the way, they will not build the resilience they will need throughout their lives... You should consciously think about what abilities you want your child to develop, and then what experiences will likely help him get them.  So you might have to think about engineering opportunities for your child to have the experiences you believe will help him develop the capabilities he needs for life." (p155)

"When the kids come home for a family reunion, I like to listen to their banter back and forth about the experiences they had growing up, and which had the greatest impact on their lives. I typically have no memory of the events they recall as being important. And when I ask them about the times when Jim and I sat them down specifically to share what we thought were foundationally important values of our family, well, the kids have no memory of any of them. I guess the thing to learn from this is that children will learn when they are ready to learn, not when we’re ready to teach them….Your parents most likely weren’t thinking consciously about teaching you the right priorities at the time—but simply because they were there with you in those learning moments, those values became your values too. Which means that first, when children are ready to learn, we need to be there. And second, we need to be found displaying through our actions the priorities and values we want our children to learn.” (p137)

I think my favorite part is when he talks about setting a culture in our family.  We all worry that when we aren't there our kids won't make the right choices and even though they will always have their agency to choose for themselves and they may not choose what we think they should, we can instill certain habits and "autopilots" in our families.  This is through consistency, repetition and basically stating "We want our family to be known for kindness" or whatever else you want your culture to be.

Christensen says: "It's not as simple as setting family rules and hoping for the best.  Something more fundamental has to occur- and it has to happen years before the moment arises when our children are faced with that difficult choice.  Their priorities need to be set correctly so they will know how to evaluate their options and make a good choice.  The best tool we have to help our children do this is through the culture we build in our families. (p159)

"Forming a culture is not an instant loop; it's not something you can decide on, communicate, and then expect it to suddenly work on its own.  You need to be sure that when you ask your children to do something, or tell your spouse you're going to do something, you hold to that and follow through.  It sounds obvious; most of us want to try to be consistent.  But in the pressures of day-to-day living, that can be tough.  There will be many days when enforcing rules is harder on a parent than it is on a child. (p169)

"'s easier to hold on to your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold to them 98 percent of the time.  The boundary- your personal moral line- is powerful, because you don't cross it; if you have justified doing it once, there's nothing to stop you doing it again.  Decide what you stand for.  And then stand for it all the time. (p191)

"I came to understand that while many of us might default to measuring our lives by summary statistics...the only metrics that will truly matter to my life are the individuals whom I have been able to help, one by one, to become better people." (p203

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