“How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clayton Christensen

AUTHOR: Clayton M. Christensen

AUTHOR: Clayton M. Christensen

In a dog-to-dog world, sometimes it is hard not to be consumed by work. Getting your foot into an international relations career can be really demanding, giving up your free time to do free work and passionately pursuing your dreams until you have no more fuel to burn. Sometimes, chasing a dream can be relentless and once in that dream career, your desire to do other things may be sacrificed because you’re too busy at work. This is a common problem for diplomats where the diplomatic lifestyle takes over quite dramatically. There may be no down-time for weeks on end and suddenly, your work-life balance becomes non-existent but we must learn to take back control and lead the life we want to lead. 

To help us get to grips with balancing work with the rest of life, we recommend the book “How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon to support Chapter 4 “Know Thyself” of the Diplomatic Planner. Like many of the books recommended for Chapter 4, this books touches on diverse topics such as motivation and how to harness it for your career. As a leading expert and cancer survivor, Christensen draws upon his own experiences that could go a long way in supporting your diplomatic development and career training that balances with life’s other priorities.

From the author’s point of view, motivation trumps money when it comes to job satisfaction, contradicting the ‘incentive theory’ popularised by economist Michael Jensen and William Meckling. The theory goes that the more you are paid, the better you will perform. However, the author argues that in the long run, tangible aspects like money and prestige may not be enough to fully satisfy you. At times, professional success may come at the expense of family failures, family dissatisfaction, professional struggles, or even criminal behaviour. Using financial incentives can be extremely unhealthy, not only in the workplace but to one’s well-being.

The good news is that people who work in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been reported to being one of the hardest working people doing world-changing world without using a big pay check as incentive to do good. The satisfaction of they work and motivations behind why they are involved in this work has delivered more results and kept people happy in their jobs. This why we stress so heavily on finding your WHY and motivational drivers in the Diplomatic Planner as this sets as the foundation of your diplomatic training in international relations. Motivation factors concern responsibility, recognition, challenges and personal growth.

A well maintained work-life balance requires a career strategy that combines opportunities we anticipate. In the diplomatic world, we know that the longer we serve the government and apply to foreign missions, the sooner one can reach the position of Ambassador or Head of Mission. This is an anticipated opportunity which you can deliberately plan for. However this doesn’t necessarily mean that our plan will in fact go to plan. Sometimes, our most deliberate strategies may not work despite our best efforts. We therefore need to come up with an emergent strategy. In other words, unanticipated opportunities that arise from challenges and situations. For example, a few years down the line, you may decide that you no longer want to serve in the government but love the country that you are stationed in. This anticipated plan leads you to discover other possibilities like growing a new career in a new country that falls outside the remit of your government which can be very exciting. Creating a balance between emergent and deliberate strategies will allow you to make use of any opportunities that come your way without being too rigid.

If you think of your life as your “business”, what do you need to make your business thrive? For a healthy business, you need proper management and resources. In your life, these can be things like your family, friendships, skills and physical well-being. But like in many businesses, our resources are limited and we must be able to nurture what little resource we have and invest well in them. It is crucial to ensure that we invest time and energy into other things we value so that we don’t burn out. We must, therefore, ensure that we focus on long-term challenges more than just immediate gains.

The author learned the hard way that relationships with our friends and family is the most important sources of happiness. Dedicating effort to family life brings valuable rewards that may not reveal themselves until several years later. Therefore, underinvesting in longer-term issues will prevent them from flourishing. Relationships reflect a paradox. They require consistent dedication even if it may appear unnecessary. However, damage done to a family in early stages will manifest as problems later on such as a relationship with a child, and in the long run, you may risk losing the support of loved ones due to your negligence.

The author stresses the need to tap onto our intuition and empathy towards others. If we learn to understand the needs of others, we are able to better nurture a relationship that isn’t just one-sided. Using empathy and intuition takes practice. Mistakes will happen but you can always learn from them. Don’t be afraid to fail.

The one lesson we can learn from Christensen is that the most successful professionals are those who invest their resources to their work, family and lifestyle. By making it your responsibility to nurture relationships rather than neglecting for the sake of short-term goals, you can achieve a work-life balance that ultimately keeps you happy.

“How Will You Measure Your Life” is recommended for the purposes of the Diplomatic Planner. The Diplomatic Planner is a 12-month career development for diplomacy and internationals for professionals looking to explore or grow their expertise in the field. Both books are available for purchase via Amazon. For further recommendations, insights, case studies and practicable worksheets, please join the Grassroot Diplomat Online Academy via: www.grassrootdiplomat.org/register

How Will You Measure Your Life?
By Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, Karen Dillon