The year end is a time of reflection. A time to rethink our strategy for life and work. A time when questions about health, purpose, career and our legacy often arise. People, like companies, need a strategy for success – to create the life you want.
People and companies need a strategy
The demands of daily life often overshadow long-term considerations, leaving us to navigate life decisions solely by emotion or intuition. That’s a pity, given that we only have one life (depending on one’s faith) and, in the scheme of the universe, a relatively short life at that!
Without revealing my age, I can tell you I’ve done a few miles, taken a different path and had my share of stumbles along the way. That said, I’ve lived a very full and happy life. I had no master plan, no written strategy for life and work, but I knew what I wanted and have constantly re-evaluated my priorities as the years have rolled by.
Work has always been integral to my plan, but ultimately it’s the enabler. Whether that’s money, location, stimulation or competency.
Keeping work in context
But let’s be mindful of context. Ideally, work should enable us to live the lives we want. We often lose sight of this and let work be the driver of our destiny. Of course, there’s more to it than that and not everyone has the luxury to choose, but distilling this down to the very basics allows us to see the importance of knowing what we want out of life.
Good employer versus good employee
There is such a thing as a good employer, but equally I believe that it should be a partnership with the employee. Individually we have a responsibility to make our dreams known to the company and to give the company the opportunity to respond. We can’t do that if we don’t have a personal vision. Over the years, I made my ambitions clear to my bosses and in most cases, they delivered. As a result, I have lived and worked in six major cities across the globe.
Strategise your life
Much of this life-first thinking is echoed in an article from Harvard Business Review titled ‘Use Strategic Thinking to Create the Life You Want’. It proposes adapting corporate strategic thinking to help individuals design better futures for themselves. The HBR programme parallels the corporate strategy process, presenting seven steps:
1. Define a great life: Similar to how organisations define success, we need to identify the fundamental metrics for success, considering elements like pleasure, meaning and social connection.
2. Identify life purpose: Like corporate purpose, we should identify our core strengths, values, activities that excite us and things we want to address in the world.
3. Imagine life vision: As with businesses, individuals should set a vision for our future, considering where we want to be in terms of relationships, achievements and personal growth.
4. Assess life portfolio: Companies typically use portfolio analysis to assess their business units on key parameters such as market growth or share and to decide where to invest capital. HBR proposes six strategic life areas (SLAs, subdivided into 16 strategic life units) to analyse how people spend their time, energy and money. See image below.
5. Learn from benchmarks: Similar to business benchmarking, individuals should identify role models and study life satisfaction research, learning from what works for others while tailoring their strategy.
6. Make portfolio choices: Analogous to corporate strategy choices, individuals decide between maintaining their current lifestyle and making changes based on their defined goals and priorities.
7. Ensure successful, sustained change: Drawing inspiration from corporate OKRs (objectives and key results), individuals need to define objectives, break them down into actionable steps, share their plan, set incentives and establish regular check-ins to ensure successful implementation.
Behaviours that define the best
At Aprais we have defined seven behaviours that set the best team relationships apart from the rest. Following the parallels between corporate and personal strategies outlined in this article, I’ve adapted them slightly from their corporate team emphasis to resonate more personally, but I believe these proven team behaviours are equally applicable to personal behaviours and might help guide the way we act in our daily lives. Think of the following in terms of your special, personal relationships.
- Challenge: Use initiative to challenge the status quo and do not allow conflict to go unaddressed.
- Accountability: Take responsibility for your actions.
- Trust: Be trusted to deliver and behave with integrity.
- Functional: Be competent to do the day-to-day work.
- Goals: Have objectives in place.
- Communication: Maintain regular dialogue to ensure facts are shared in a timely fashion.
- Resilience: Withstand and bounce back from a crisis.
HBR makes a compelling case for applying strategic thinking to personal development. By adapting proven methodologies from the corporate world, we can create a structured approach to defining a great life, identifying a life purpose, envisioning a future and making strategic choices. This will also inform your ‘lifelong learning’ to continuously build your competencies to remain stimulated, relevant and competitive in the labour market.
Ultimately, we can learn much from the vast knowledge about corporate strategy to develop a more strategic approach to our own lives.
A powerful technique for shaping a life that aligns with our values, passions and aspirations.
Kim Walker is founder and chairman of Aprais.