My last post was about: “Do you have a life strategy ?” Following up on this , I’d like to tell you more about the notion of purpose. Life purpose ! I happen to read today a blog post of my respected Harvard colleague Clayton M. Christensen published in Harvard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2010/07/how-will-you-measure-your-life?) where he’s developing some of the same ideas I wrote about last week.
We both agree on the importance of starting a life strategy by a statement of purpose. I like to link the purpose to a vision. In my eyes the vision can be more concrete than the purpose. Or, more exactly, the purpose is the way to transform your vision into meaningful objectives. Whatever, I recommend to write a vision and a purpose statement.
Although I love his sentence “Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people” , I differ on Christensen’s thinking on the fact that he seems to recommend some kind of purpose that would lead us for life. He regrets that most Harvard MBA students “…have given little thought to the purpose of their lives. And he mentions: ” I tell the students that HBS might be one of their last chances to reflect deeply on that question. If they think that they’ll have more time and energy to reflect later, they’re nuts, because life only gets more demanding…” . I must say I don’t agree with that.
First of all, we have plenty of time to reflect on the purpose of life at various times in life. It can be when we go through very important stages of life: marrying, having a kid, divorcing, burying a parent, etc. Actually, my experience is that it’s rarely related to job and career. These key moments make you understand that career is worthless compared to private life. And it’s good to realize that. After all, career, power and money beyond necessity are just lures !
Moreover, your life purpose is evolving. You cannot expect a 25 year old chap to see life as a 60 year baby boomer ! In fact, to tell the truth, my life purpose was never formalized. When i got out of Harvard, at 27 year old, I had a very conservative life purpose. I just wanted to have a nice life, 3 kids and a dog, a beautiful home and a challenging job. Nothing great in fact. But it reflected my values. Later, approaching 40, I started to understand that I was more happy teaching that being a businessman. I was not a killer. I liked to inspire. I also had my mid-life crisis ending with a divorce. Then I found true love and for some years, I lived on a day to day basis. Now that I reached 60, I’m more concerned about my life purpose. Time left is scarce. I don’t want to loose any moment with stupid people or working on stupid projects ! My life purpose is clearer: to keep my freedom, to enjoy every moment in life, to pass on my knowledge and experience and to leverage young people.
My vision is to be a man who is admired for his energy, emotional intelligence and caring. And to keep intellectually agile and always up to date. I have the vision of the father of one of my friends who stayed intellectually strong until an advanced age, being respected by all to the end of his life.
My young friends, try to have a life purpose ! Try to make it more specific than just “being happy” or “being successful”. But if you can’t, i will surely understand it !
Be inspired !