The past couple of years have been…tumultuous, to say the least. Amongst the plethora of global events, we’ve experienced a pandemic, a war, polarized politics, and worsening climate realities. But within this storm, we’ve also experienced adaptability, perseverance and solidarity.
As the year comes to a close, there’s often an inevitable period of reflection. 2022 was a year characterized by dramatics that necessitated growth in hard to cultivate skills, and though past years also ended with the inevitable period of reflection, this year’s is all the more critical to better understand both our place in the world and how we can help improve circumstances in the year to come.
At the Clayton Christensen Institute, our application of business theory expands beyond the typical categories of business, management, and innovation. Business theory can also impart pertinent insights and lessons on health, education, global prosperity, even life.
Professor Christensen’s book, How Will You Measure Your Life?, provides powerful lessons for those in pursuit of both a meaningful career and a meaningful life. As we all reflect on the unique dynamics of this year and come up with positive resolutions for the new one, here are three business lessons from the book that can also be applied to life goals:
1. Allocate your resources accordingly
We all have limited resources: a limited budget, limited opportunities, and limited time. Before we know it, the shiny twelve new months that give us a sense of fresh starts at the beginning of the year have flown by and the holidays are upon us yet again. Therefore, how we choose to allocate our resources is of utmost importance. Thinking back on our 2022 goals, how much of our resources were actually spent on them?
There tends to be a predisposition to allocate resources toward endeavors that will give us immediate rewards, but many of the goals we set for our careers and lives are long-term and won’t offer immediate gratification. However, immediate gratification isn’t always synonymous with lasting gratification. For example, market-creating innovations take years to reach successful scale, but when they do, the investment returns of new markets are impactful both in quantity and quality, creating lasting sustainable prosperity. Similarly, investing time and energy in life-long projects, such as being closer to our families, might not give us immediate tangible results, but can provide powerful and enduring relationships and personal fulfillment.
My personal resolution toward resource allocation for 2023 will be to break down my year-long goals into monthly milestones, then pick one day at the end of the month to check on my progress. This way, even though my goals may not give me immediate gratification, I will still get a sense of accomplishment to keep me motivated and disciplined.
2. Don’t make the “marginal costs” mistake
Avoiding the allure of marginal thinking, or the “just this once” mindset, as we strive for our new goals will help us stay on track. Doing something that contradicts our goals “just this once” may seem enticingly trivial with marginal costs, but repeated or habitual “just this once” instances have led to company bankruptcies and financial crises.
As individuals, we must recognize when we are thinking marginally. Boundaries are set not just for discipline but for integrity, and knowing when not to cross them helps us avoid preventable setbacks. The decisions we make every day are what add up at the end of the year.
In 2023, I will endeavor to avoid the marginal costs mistake by taking a moment to stop and write out, not just think out, but write out the consequences and possible paths that one questionable decision might lead me down.
3. Address culture
A company’s strategy is what they do, not what they say, and, ultimately, these strategies and routines define culture. Similarly, how we live our lives is determined by what we do every day, not what we say, think, or hope we will do. Cultures can be built consciously or evolve unintentionally; but either way, culture is an effective management tool, both in business and in our personal lives because culture defines priorities.
Culture is the foundation of how we will function and accomplish our goals, so as we set and start working on new ones, we must take a moment to think about the kind of new routines we must develop to create a culture that will foster the accomplishment of our goals. When we begin to work towards our goals on instinct and not explicit decisions, we’ve successfully created that culture.
In 2023, I’m going to build a progress check routine to create a culture of both accountability and adaptability, allowing me to keep my goals on track, but also adopt flexible strategies when needed.
The Clayton Christensen Institute’s business theories and lessons can be used every day, and whether they’re used in entrepreneurial decisions or toward life decisions, they’re powerful tools. As we measure our lives in 2022 and think about measurement in 2023, remember these tools are here for you to turn to.