Your life is a system.
On The BIGG Success Show awhile back, we talked about why the concept of work – life balance misses the mark. Looking at your life holistically – and understanding how the pieces work together – is one of the secrets of BIGG success:
Don’t separate, integrate. It’s the first step. The second is to find ways for your professional life to add value to your personal life and vice versa. That’s systems thinking!
On this subject of thinking of your life as a systems, we found a great post by Clayton Christensen on the Harvard Business Review blog entitled How Will You Measure Your Life? It’s a great piece which we highly recommend to you.
He applies management theories to questions about happiness at work and home. It’s extensive so we’ll hit on a few of the highlights below including an explanation of why people get divorced, raise bad children and go to jail.
Your decisions shape your strategy
Christensen says some of his college classmates come to class reunions “unhappy, divorced, and alienated from their children.” He says:
“I can guarantee you that not a single one of them graduated with the deliberate strategy of getting divorced and raising children who would become estranged from them.”
However, that has been the result for a significant number of his classmates. Why does this happen?
In many cases, it’s because there’s a disconnection between their strategies and their purpose. It stems from a misallocation of resources.
“Your decisions about allocating your personal time, energy, and talent ultimately shape your life’s strategy,” he proffers. If you allocate your resources in line with your purpose, your results will be in line with it.
Your actions are a mirror
As humans, we often seek instant gratification. This means we forsake activities with the greatest long-term payoff in favor of activities that yield immediate results.
For example, you could invest more time today and make more money. The feedback loop is immediate and tangible.
Or you could spend the same time with your family. You may not know for years if your investment had any impact. You may never really know.
The key is to focus on your actions instead of just the results. Your actions are a mirror. They reflect who you are and, more importantly, who you are trying to become. When you think about your actions today, do you like the reflection you see?
Live with purpose, on purpose
Keep your purpose constantly in your mind. BIGG success is life on your own terms. There are five elements of BIGG success – money, time, growth, work and play. Money and time are your two resources. As you consider allocation decisions, ask yourself:
If I choose to invest my precious resources in this thing / activity, will it move me closer to life on my own terms? Why?
Then ask yourself “Why?” again. And again. It may take 5 Why’s to get to the underlying reason for this allocation decision. Once you’ve arrived at this point, ask yourself:
Is there a better option? Brainstorm for possibilities keeping your purpose at the forefront.
This simple process helps you invest your precious resources intentionally, instead of inadvertently. It helps you live with purpose, on purpose. It helps you think about the long-term impact.
Staying out of jail
Two of Christensen’s 32 Rhodes scholar classmates have done prison time (one being Enron’s former CEO, Jeff Skilling). “These were good guys – but something in their lives sent them off in the wrong direction,” says Christensen.
He talks about the theory of marginal cost. The marginal cost of going against your values “just this once” often seems very low. However, crossing the line one time makes it easier to rationalize the next time. The full cost of this course can be devastating.
He concludes, “It’s easier to hold your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold them 98% of the time.” It also keeps you out of jail!
Image in this post from danisman