Newsletter #514 – Clarifying Your Life Purpose

In their recent book How will You Measure Your Life? Clayton Christiansen and his co-authors wrote that “if an organization has a clear and compelling purpose, its impact and legacy can be extraordinary.” Might the same be true of a career or a life? A life purpose rarely emerges inadvertently. “The type of person you want to become is too important to be left to chance.” Many Christians would agree that God gives us purpose if we look for it. We agree too that life circumstances often shape or derail our best-conceived plans. But deliberately clarifying one’s purpose can be crucially important. Christensen suggests that this process has three parts.

Looking forward

First is what might be called likeness. A master painter often sketches a likeness of what he or she hopes to produce. This is like a pencil sketch or rough blueprint of one’s goals, dreams, beliefs, values and desired accomplishments that will form the finished product of your organization or life. When your life ends how would you want it to look?

Second is commitment. The likeness that you draw only has value if you dedicate yourself to turning your dream into reality. Many individuals, organizations or churches set goals but these are abandoned in times of frustrations and distractions. With God’s help and the support of friends, determine to keep on track, moving forward as best you can.

Third is shaping the right metric. This really means measurement. How will you evaluate your progress along the way and at the end? For Christensen “the only metrics that truly matter in my life are the individuals whom I have been able to help, one by one, to become better people.” His legacy will not be in the number of his publications or in the length of his resume. It will be the lives he’s touched.

This could sound like another superficial self-help formula for success–but it’s not. These could be helpful guidelines applying to entire lives or to smaller parts of living such as starting a new career or shaping one’s retirement. Christensen calls clarifying your purpose as one of the most important things that we will ever do. Please comment with your reaction to this.


  1. Gary,

    Thanks for featuring this book the past two weeks. I purchased it last Thursday and am thoroughly enjoying it! Thank you for your ministry!



    1. Thank you Chris. I am glad you like the book. The research and theories in each chapter can be a bit distracting, ;perhaps, but I think this solid research basis helps give a stronger foundation to the practical stuff that pretty much appears in every chapter.



    People Builder’s Blog д

    Gary R. Collins, PhD posted: “In their recent book How will You Measure Your Life? Clayton Christiansen and his co-authors wrote that if an organization has a clear and compelling purpose, its impact and legacy can be extraordinary. Might the same be true of a career or a life? A li”


  3. Hmm. Of course. I agree… within our context. Much of my life was spent (wasted?) in villages of Africa and India where personal, self-development thinking simply does not happen, and if it does, there is no opportunity to become anything else. The prevailing belief resembles that of Revelation 13:10. Still, God is Grace!


    1. Ngallendou Dieye – I totally agree that much of what we read in this, or in any culture reflects the values and context of the writer. The Christensen book comes from a Harvard professor with training in the American way of business and with a belief system grounded in Mormon theology and practices. American self-help books and books on success (including those written by Christians) often are culturally limited, unaware of cultural differences and oblivious to the reality that even in the west many people cannot apply guidelines that were first presented to graduates of Harvard Business School.
      I doubt that you think your life was wasted, even though it sounds like much of it was disappointing. You know this: everyone is set into a culture or subculture that helps shape our thinking, values, and life work. Can’t we adapt and apply principles like those presented in the book but within the confines of Indian and African villages or in dead-end jobs, disappointing careers, dysfunctional families, of poorly functioning bodies in any culture? Coaches and writers (me included) help people set goals and life-purpose directions but it is easy to forget that none of us has complete control of how our lives progress or of the influences from environments where we live. Only God is in control. From my perspective that is best, even when my SMART plans come to a halt.


  4. As Christians we walk this tightrope of living with contentment, patiently trusting God’s plan and purpose (my husband) and punching at the limits, wrestling with sameness, and setting incredible goals (me). Makes life interesting! I’ve often wondered what is the right balance? I recently heard someone say that we worry too much about balance which implies an “either/or”. Instead we focus on healthy integration and synergy. Either way, it feels like a tightrope!


    1. Amy, this is a tightrope. I struggle all the time with things like you mention. But (this will sound simplistic) we move forward, seeking divine guidance and the insights of our close friends as we continue on the journey. At times I wonder about the meaning, the possibility or even the desirability of balance.


  5. You really make it appear really easy together with your presentation but I find this matter
    to be really one thing which I feel I might never understand.
    It seems too complicated and extremely extensive for me. I am having a look ahead on your subsequent put up, I’ll attempt to get the grasp of it!


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