What Harvard Business School and Coaching Have in Common

In 2010, Clayton Christensen, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, wrote an article for Harvard Business Review called ”How Will You Measure Your Life?  (The article has since been turned into a best-selling book. Explore the first few chapters here.)

As you can read in the article, at the end of his course, Christensen asks his students to take the management theories and models they’ve learned about business, and focus them on their individual lives. He asks them to consider three questions:

  • How can I be happy in my career?
  • How can I be sure my relationships with my spouse and family become an enduring source of happiness?
  • How can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?

(This last question can be quite literal, as Christensen explains how one of his former classmates ended up in jail after making bad business decisions. It can also represent “marginal costs”: losing sight of your priorities and principles).

Christensen challenges his students to create a strategy for their lives, encouraging them to dive deep and truly understand the purpose of their lives. He writes: “I apply the tools of econometrics a few times a year, but I apply my knowledge of the purpose of my life every day. It’s the single most useful thing I’ve learned.”

This approach is very similar to the work I facilitate with my clients. Here are a few ways coaching has helped my clients navigate some of the topics addressed in the article (which has ultimately led my clients to the creation of strategic plans for their lives):

Resource Allocation

Everyone has the power to make choices in life. My job is to hold up a mirror for you, so that you can see if how you say you want to spend your time and live your life is your reality. If not, I ask tough questions about what’s getting in your way of living the life you wish to live. When you invest your time and energy in what really matters to you, life has a way of being filled with more purpose, joy, and gratitude.

Create a Culture

Using a variety of tools and resources, I work with you to develop your personal culture. You establish what’s most important in your life, who you wish to spend time with, what you spend time on, and how you engage in your community. Once you have a clear understanding of what your culture is, you’re able to live a more purposeful life.

“Marginal Costs”

 A peer of mine once shared with me a simple question she uses with clients: When you say yes to something, what are you saying no to? The marginal costs I address are all grounded in this question. Many of us often say yes to extra hours in the office, while saying no to time for personal growth, family, and social gatherings. Repeated over the course of time, these decisions have debilitating consequences. I help you identify your marginal costs and create strategies to overcome those habits so that you may experience a more meaningful life.

“Choose the Right Yardstick”

 The closing sentence in Christensen’s article is a powerful one: “Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.” My coaching sessions often include exercises where you write your personal mission statement and come up with a set of your own core values. When you are clear what your life’s work is supposed to represent, it makes living a successful life more attainable.



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