How to Measure Your Life

Andrew Chien
4 min readJun 21, 2020


Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

“How to measure your life” written by the author Clayton Christensen is a book about giving people the way to reflect our life and think the purpose and meaning behind it. Christensen was the HBS professor and business consultant, so it can be found that many parts of content inside the book are expressed through the business view or example. There are many precious insights and takeaways from this book. That being said, here I would mainly talk about 2 parts that impress me most.

Set the Right Goal to Pursue in Your Life

Nowadays, people tend to define the success by how much fortune we’ve made or how prestigious our title is. However, these are not really the things that can give the meaning to our life. Focusing on the tangible aspects of your job can actually put ourselves at risk of chasing a mirage. Christensen takes Motivation Theory by Frederick Herzberg as the way to explain why chasing these things could be a hopeless quest. In order to understand it, firstly we can take a look of how we see satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Many of us may think satisfaction is the opposite of dissatisfaction, but actually these two things should be regarded as the separate elements, which are independent to each other. But why is that? As we know, we can hate and like our job at the same time. Therefore, even with less hate to our job doesn’t mean we have more love to it. From Motivation Theory, the motivation is composed of two factors, hygiene factor and motivation factor. Hygiene factors are more related to something like status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policies, and supervisory practices. These things won’t really make you love your job but more is to stop you from hating it. In contrast, motivation factors include challenging work, recognition, responsibility and personal growth. These things can bring feelings that you’re making a meaningful contribution to work and it’s the one that can truly bring the intrinsic happiness to our life.

With that understanding, it’s important for us to align our life with what will really make us happy. We get to make sure that we allocate our resources in a way that is consistent with our priorities and those that really matter. In addition, it’s essential to put all these in the right time frame as time is limited — learning to overcome the natural tendency to focus on the short term at the expense of the long term is the lesson we have to always keep in mind. It’s necessary to think about what things need time to invest, for example, our relationship with our family, friends and God, our health or our children’s childhood days. Something can be really hard to recap once it’s lost. Everything has its time and opportunity. Sometimes halt our step and think about what really matters to our life can bring us a better life than expected.

Discipline Can Shape Who We Want Us to Be

In the days of emphasizing being ourselves, people are inclined to doing whatever they feel good. Nonetheless, freedom without discipline can be chaotic. Holding the mindset of being ourselves without the right discipline can lead us to excuse ourselves not to better ourselves but just stick in the comfort zone. I would say being ourselves is not doing whatever we like to do or feel good but more is to reflect on ourselves and with a complete and deeper thinking to find our strength and weakness. Sometimes, the things we feel good can bring ephemeral happiness but can be harmful in the long term. As a consequence, it’s essential to think the things, especially the life-changing related, in a more complete way in terms of the timeline and the impact it can bring to the others.

Holding the discipline we set is not as easy as always, especially under the extenuating circumstances. People sometimes tend to break the discipline with the mindset of just this once. However, those things feeling nothing like life-changing decisions when they first happened can roll up into a much bigger picture and turn us into the kind of person you never wanted to be. In side the book, Christensen also applies the marginal cost analysis used in business to explain this situation. The mindset of just this once is like the marginal cost that hides us from the true costs of our actions.

Personally, Christensen took his experience as the example that he decided to give up his dream finals of the British equivalent of NCAA tournament in order to keep his commitment to God for attending the Sabbath. With this story, Christensen reminded the readers that life is an unending stream of extenuating circumstances. If we decide “it’s ok” to cross the line one time, then over and over again, this “it’s ok” would happen. That’s why it’s better to hold to our 100% of the time than it’s to hold to them 98% of the time.

Christensen Clayton passed away in January 23, 2020, however the legacy he left to this world would keep waking more of us to pursue the life we should pursue. One of his speech on TED Talk is quite inspiring as well, highly recommended to watch.