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July 19, 2021

How will you measure your life?

Harvard Business School prof Clayton Christensen teaches aspiring MBAs how to build more profitable companies. But he also believes that the same strategies can help people lead better lives.

In his classes, he explores questions all of us need to ask: How can I be content in my career? How can I be sure that my relationship with my family is an enduring source of happiness? And how can I live my life with integrity?

Why bother? Well, in a recent study, 87% of respondents indicated that they believed that lack of ethics was a determinant factor in the current economic downturn, and 80% believed that someone can learn effective ethics principles through training.

The answer to the first question comes from Frederick Herzberg’s assertion that the most powerful motivator isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute, and be recognized.

That’s why management, if practiced well, can be the noblest of occupations; no others offer as many ways to help people find those opportunities, Christensen maintains.

Learning to use company resources efficiently can help people attain happiness at home as well, he suggests. That’s true in life too: If you’re not guided by a clear sense of purpose, you’re likely to fritter away your time and energy in search most tangible, short-term signs of achievement, not what’s really important to you.

“If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavours that offer immediate gratification,” Christensen says.

“If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.”

And just as a focus on marginal costs can cause poor corporate decisions, it can lead people astray, he adds. The marginal cost of doing something wrong “just this once” always seems alluringly low. But it’s frequently the first step on a path to disaster. The key is to define what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place, he advises.

Sound like anybody you work with? Can sharp business practices actually help our personal lives as well?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo), canoe.ca, AOL.ca, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...