The powerful motivator in our lives isn’t about money. It’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others and be recognized for achievements.
I have been nursing this post for the last couple of months. In some ways, this post led to me re-launching my website and in some ways, I started to think of this post after I made the decision to relaunch. Not sure which came first, but let’s just say they fed off each other.
If you know me, you know I’m pretty ‘sappy’, ‘sentimental’, ‘idealistic’ – whatever you’d like to call it. One of my favorite posts of all time is ‘You Can Do It’ – the guest post I wrote for Ron Culp (http://www.culpwrit.com/?s=boakyewaa+glover). The whole concept of that post – figure out what you really want to do and just do it – is like my theme music. It’s my catchphrase. It’s what inspires me each and every day.
Bottom line, I am a HUGE advocate for pursuing your dreams and your passions. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, if there is something you really want to do, you just have to give it a shot. This may sound simplistic, and maybe it is, but what I’m referring to is you need to take the first step. What comes next won’t be easy, for sure, but I think what is worse is if you do absolutely nothing at all.
A couple of weeks ago, I read a post by Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School (HBS) titled – How will you measure your life? (http://hbr.org/2010/07/how-will-you-measure-your-life/ar/1) There are a number of solid points in the article that I want to share.
1. Create a strategy for your life: Keep the purpose of your life front and center as you decide how to spend your time, talents and energy. You won’t have more time to reflect on the purpose of your life later. The choice and successful pursuit of a profession is but one tool for achieving your purpose. Without a purpose, life can become hollow.
Clayton’s article was part of his speech to his graduating MBA class. They wanted him to talk to them not on how to apply his principles and thinking to their post-HBS careers but how to apply them to their personal lives. Most often people assume defining your purpose, thinking about your passions and pursuing your dreams is relegated for those with artisan interests, such as writing, singing, acting, painting, etc. Like Clayton, I think figuring out your purpose in life is relevant for everyone. Each person must have some overarching direction for their lives which guides their everyday actions and pursuits. It doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible, but having a somewhat defined purpose helps you focus your attentions better. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, or every single thing must completely be related to your ‘purpose.’ What I think it means is it adds meaning to your life, and you’re able to spot activities that detract from your purpose quicker. I also think it makes the life you live now even more enjoyable. To wake up each day with a sense of direction and with a vision also gives you some comfort, some peace that you’re working towards something.
2. Allocate your resources: Your decisions about allocating your personal time, energy and talent ultimately shape your life’s strategy. Unfortunately, most people allocate resources to what gives them immediate, tangible results – immediate gratification.
I think it’s easy to be guilty of this. I was watching CSI last night, and Ray (Lawrence Fishburne’s character) said there are two types of people; those who pursue things in order to be satisfied, and those who pursue experiences. He said imagine, 50 years ago, there was nothing like public storage, but now public storage facilities have taken up 2 billion cubic metres of space in the US. Increasingly, people equate personal satisfaction to the pursuit of things instead of experiences. If your goal is to pursue things, then that is where you will focus your energy. If your goal is to enjoy the whole experience of life, that will shape your purpose and your decisions. I think the pursuit of things should support or supplement our pursuit of experiences. For instance, I want to buy a Sony all-in-one desktop. The reason I want to buy it isn’t because I just want to own one. The first time I saw an all-in-one desktop (it was a MAC), my immediate reaction was, bloody hell, imagine writing stories on that! That’s what I thought instantly – how having a screen/computer like that would make me even more creative and efficient. Let me add though, pursuing things isn’t evil. The issue is whether or not that becomes your sole purpose in life.
3. Avoid the marginal costs mistake: It is easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 90% of the time. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place. People often say, ““Look, I know that as a general rule, most people shouldn’t do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s OK.”
This one is a little harder, in my opinion. Compromising on our principles can be really easy, sometimes easier than pursuing things. The problem is we compromise in so many minute ways that we don’t even realize it all the time. In the article Clayton gives an example of a situation that happened when he was on a varsity basketball team. The team had a very important game to play on a Sunday and Clayton earlier in life had made a personal commitment to God that he would never play ball on Sunday. His coach and teammates tried to persuade him and they almost did but in the end Clayton prayed about it and decided not to budge. Clayton’s assertion is if you begin to compromise, where will it end? Last weekend, I had deadlines, a whole list of stuff that needed to get done. I felt going to Church would disrupt my day and throw me off balance. The service starts at 12:30pm, which means not much I can do in the morning. In the end, I decided to go, grudgingly if I may add. After church, I was stuck in some weird, annoying traffic for an hour (typical day would be 15 minutes) and by the time I got home after grocery shopping and stuff, it was 6pm. I was highly irritated. So for me, the compromise thing is still work-in-progress. And a lot of us do this, don’t we? When we have pressing deadlines, exams, work, etc, the softer things like going to church or visiting a struggling or sick family member can wait. What I think is worse of all is sometimes we don’t even set principles for ourselves. What would you call your key principle in life? What will you never compromise on? As much as I am a work-in-progress on the church going front, I can’t use that as a permanent excuse. You must strive to change the behavior you’ve identified as affecting your beliefs and principles – if you have any.
Chase knowledge, passion and happiness.
[Check out Features, Music, Books and Art & Fashion and read the stories of some Ghanaians I think have defined their purpose/strategy and are pursuing them full speed ahead!]