Today is my birthday! Unlike birthdays in my teens and 20s, which were 100% about indulgence, today is about gratitude, reflection, and assessment. To that end, I want to share the results of an exercise I did this week, inspired by the book How Will You Measure Your Life by Harvard Business School Professor Clay Christensen. Christensen applies business theories to the arduous yet crucial task of achieving fulfillment in your career, relationships, hobbies —in other words, your life. As I began reading this book a few weeks ago, I realized that I had set goals and milestones for WellBe’s first birthday, so why hadn’t I given my own body, health, and life the same level of attention and commitment?
While reflecting on WellBe’s first year in our newsletter last week, I explained that “birthing” a new career and company – and therefore feeling like I have severely limited time – made me realize I needed to go deep inside myself to understand exactly how, what, when, and, most importantly, why I am doing everything I am doing each day. Without that reflection, the hours, days, weeks, months, and eventually years and decades pass quickly, littered with endless appointments and “just-have-to-get-this-last-thing-done” tasks, leaving little if any time for reflecting and reaffirming whether those appointments and tasks were actually worth doing. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and wonder if I spent my time the “right” way.
I have noticed that I can expend a tremendous amount of blood, sweat, and tears each week, but if each drop of blood doesn’t actually achieve my personal goals, that’s just a waste of blood. Each society and culture has a generally understood definition of success, but it could be vastly different from my internal compass. Without checking that compass routinely, I can steer off in the wrong direction. It might just be a fraction of a degree off at first, but over time that fraction will bring me far away from where I meant to go. Worse, it’s likely I would realize the mistaken course late in life, when the voyage to the right destination might seem too far away to attempt.
So for the first time, I am using my birthday not only to celebrate being alive, but also to check in and take account of whether the way I’m spending my time aligns with my beliefs, dreams, and purpose. Yes, that dreaded word purpose. Queue the eye roll — but it turns out it’s really important. At the end of his book, Christensen spells out an exercise to make sure you really understand your purpose and ensure at least some of your time and activities each day reflect it. He recommended the following 3 step process to figuring out your purpose:
1) Find your likeness. Ask yourself – what would you like to be like? How would you define your ideal you? Today and then in 10, 20, 30, 40 years?
2) Make commitments. Make the actionable commitments needed to achieve becoming your likeness, have them drive what you will and won’t do each day.
3) Define metrics. Define success and the metric(s) by which to measure it.
I went through this exercise, and below are my results:
10 attributes of my likeness/the ideal me/I want to be someone who:
Moves and walks often, and takes care of the different parts of my body with a mix of cardio and stretching/strengthening exercises.
Shops for, cooks, and eats foods that nourish while limiting those that don’t, and applies the same standards to water, home, and body products.
Takes the time for routine maintenance on the body and mind, including — most importantly — 8 hours of sleep a night, but also natural therapies and self care; and works hard to get to the root of health issues when they arise so they don’t get worse and lead to other issues or require interventions with side effects.
Understands the addictive nature of devices and sets boundaries to prevent that addiction.
Makes the important people in my life feel very, very loved each and every day.
Has deep relationships (new and old), engages in community gatherings – whether for work or personal or both – and treats everyone with respect and kindness
Uses my unique attributes, interests, and skills to give back to the world and help to solve major societal challenges in whatever way I can – big and small.
Achieves my professional goals deliberately, steadily, and without sacrificing my health or morals.
Takes the time to feel some amount of JOY each day – laughing, singing, dancing, carefree walking or bike riding, swinging on a swing set, experiencing new cities and natural wonders, cheering for a sports team – whatever it might be.
Forgives myself each night, for all the things I did and didn’t do, say, think, feel, or learn. Full forgiveness and a fresh start the next day.
My 4 definitions of success:
To make it to at least 91 years and 2 months to happily see my 60th wedding anniversary without a chronic disease, and handling any health issues that come up along the way naturally, as much as possible.
To live in a way that makes my body, mind, and soul feel calm and flourishing.
To achieve professional fulfillment in a way that both helps others and makes me self-sufficient.
To experience joy daily and enjoy the freedom to have new adventures.
My 10 metrics to measure them:
Meditation: Can I observe my body, mind, and soul, notice when I’m not nourishing them in the way I need to, and right the ship?
Annual product assessment: On my birthday, getting rid of and swapping anything not nourishing in my house and life.
Assessing my calendar: Does it only contain things that bring joy, fulfill the needs of loved ones, or help me make a difference in the world?
Can I “turn off? Making sure I can be present in each situation where I want and need to be.
Communication: Do I tell the people I love, that I love them and do I ask them how I can support them?
Serving: Can I visualize at any moment how I can and want to serve?
Joining: Can I define which communities and groups I’m a part of, which ones really matter to me and of those that do, how I can join more deeply?
Professional Goal Setting: Do I have the next set of realistic professional goals outlined with dates to reach them by?
Joy: Did I feel it for at least 5 minutes today?
Forgiveness: Can I fully forgive myself as I fall asleep each night?
I encourage you to try this exercise on your birthday too! Or if you decide to do it now and want to share your thoughts or results, tell me on Instagram, I’d love to hear what you discovered.