The Top 5 How Will You Measure Your Life Quotes

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "How Will You Measure Your Life?" by Clayton M. Christensen. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to find quotes from How Will You Measure Your Life? How can you apply these quotes to your own life?

In How Will You Measure Your Life, Clayton Christensen shows how economic theories can be applied to your relationships, career, and family life. In this article, you’ll find important quotes from the book with explanations. 

Keep reading to find some of the best quotes from How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen.  

How Will You Measure Your Life: Quotes With Explanations

In How Will You Measure Your Life, business consultant and Harvard professor Clay Christensen shows how economic theories that help businesses succeed can also help individuals make better life decisions. He presents theories and business case studies that show you pitfalls to avoid, and also how to be happy and successful in your career and personal life.

Below you’ll find some of the best quotes from How Will You Measure Your Life with explanations:

“Intimate, loving, and enduring relationships with our family and close friends will be among the sources of the deepest joy in our lives.”

Many people over-invest in their careers at the expense of their families and relationships. However, your career, by itself, won’t bring you happiness and fulfillment. Your career priorities are just part of a larger set of priorities, including your spouse, children, friends, faith, health, and so on. Work can be rewarding, but it doesn’t compare to the deep happiness you experience in relationships. Like your career, your relationships need consistent attention. But two things work against this:

  • You’re tempted to invest your resources where you see an immediate payoff; careers provide immediate rewards, while the payoff from investing in your relationships doesn’t show up until later.
  • You pay less attention to friends and family because they’re less demanding than your boss. Because they love you and know your career is important to you, they want to be supportive. This can lull you into thinking things are going well at home and you can put your relationships on the back burner. You may not realize you have a relationship problem until it’s too late to fix it.

“Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.”

If you cross a moral or ethical line once because of seemingly justifiable circumstances, you’ll keep crossing the line. The best way to avoid this is to never compromise your morals—it’s easier to maintain your standards 100% of the time than 98% of the time. You either stand for something, or you don’t. Once you’ve crossed your moral line, it no longer has any power to stop you—so when faced with the temptation to cross it, stop, think about the long-term cost, then turn around.

“For many of us, as the years go by, we allow our dreams to be peeled away. We pick our jobs for the wrong reasons and then we settle for them. We begin to accept that it’s not realistic to do something we truly love for a living.Too many of us who start down the path of compromise will never make it back. Considering the fact that you’ll likely spend more of your waking hours at your job than in any other part of your life, it’s a compromise that will always eat away at you. But you need not resign yourself to this fate.”

A key decision in life is choosing your job or career, but many people choose them for the wrong reasons. They end up unhappy and resigned to the belief that doing what you love isn’t a realistic option. But you don’t have to settle—the key to finding happiness in your career is creating a strategy for where you want to go and how to get there. A successful strategy involves three components:

  • Determining priorities based on what truly motivates you
  • Balancing plans with opportunities and challenges
  • Allocating your resources

“As I look back on my own life, I recognize that some of the greatest gifts I received from my parents stemmed not from what they did for me—but rather from what they didn’t do for me.” 

A generation ago, more U.S. families involved children in work, such as gardening, caring for animals, preserving food, and doing sewing and repairs. Children developed processes for solving problems and getting these things done. Wealthier parents have outsourced much of this home-maintenance work today. In its place, parents go overboard in providing resources for children—youth sports, music and art lessons, summer camp, and semesters abroad. 

While these opportunities (resources) allow some children to apply what they learn, the activities don’t resonate with or engage many others. This is because the opportunities tend to involve things parents think their children will like, or that reflect the parents’ ambitions rather than the children’s interests. Another issue is that the activities may be too scripted.

Along with providing opportunities, parents need to ensure the experiences challenge children to take responsibility, do difficult things, and create or invent things. These help children develop the processes they’ll need in the future, as well as the self-esteem that comes from accomplishment.

A focus on showering children with resources has resulted in a disproportionate number of young adults lacking the capabilities, especially processes, necessary for employment. Parents should start early with providing problems for their children to solve.

“It is important to address hygiene factors such as a safe and comfortable working environment, relationship with managers and colleagues, enough money to look after your family—if you don’t have these things, you’ll experience dissatisfaction with your work. But these alone won’t do anything to make you love your job—they will just stop you from hating it.”

Incentives (also known as hygiene factors), like compensation, job security, status, work environment, manager practices, and company policies, will leave you dissatisfied with your job if they’re not adequately addressed. But improved hygiene factors won’t make you happy (just less dissatisfied). What makes you happy are motivators, such as challenging work, responsibility, learning, the chance to grow, and the chance to make a meaningful contribution. Motivating factors are mostly inherent in the work itself and in the person doing it, rather than external like hygiene factors.

When seeking a job or career that will make you happy, look beyond whether a job meets basic hygiene factors and ask whether it meets motivational criteria. For instance, ask yourself:

  • Do I find this work meaningful?
  • Will I be able to learn and grow?
  • What are the opportunities to achieve and be recognized?
  • What kind of responsibility will I have?

Focus on the factors that really matter to you—those that make you love coming to work each day—and the hygiene factors, after a certain point, will take care of themselves.

These explanations of quotes from How Will You Measure Your Life can help you to better understand key passages from the book. 

The Top 5 How Will You Measure Your Life Quotes

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Clayton M. Christensen's "How Will You Measure Your Life?" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full How Will You Measure Your Life? summary:

  • How economic theories that help businesses succeed can also help individuals make better life decisions
  • How to build a career that makes you happy
  • How to deepen your relationships with your spouse and children

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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