How Will You Measure Your Life



“The people whose lives you touch may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” — David B. Haight

There are a lot of yardsticks you could potentially use to measure your life.  Some work better than others.   If you use a “me”-centered yardstick, chances are you’ll fall short.  You amplify the power of purpose when you focus on the greater good, and the role you play within that.

Passion and purpose ignite us.

Stephen Covey, Randy Pausch, and others teach us that it’s not the things we did, it’s the things we didn’t do in life that we regret.  But how do we measure life along the way, and what’s our North Star?

Measure Against Your Mission

We can take a page out of the playbook of non-profits.  They don’t measure their success against profit.  They measure their success against their mission.  This is where your purpose comes into play.  Are you giving your best, where you’ve got your best to give?

Seasons of Love

If you’ve seen Rent, you know the song, “Seasons of Love.”  It starts off by putting time into perspective … “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.”  Those are the minutes in a year.  But counting the minutes, doesn’t count the smiles, the laughter, the sunsets, or even the cups of coffeee.

But you can measure in love … the seasons of love.

The People Whose Lives You Touch

Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor and author, shares his insight on how to measure a life and choose the right yardstick:

“I have a pretty clear idea of how my ideas have generated enormous revenue for companies that have used my research.  I know I’ve had a substantial impact.  But as I’ve confronted the disease, it’s been interesting to see how unimportant the impact is to me now.  I’ve concluded that the metric by which God will assess m life isn’t dollars, but the individual people whose lives I’ve touched.”

That’s a pretty clear yardstick … “the people whose lives I’ve touched.”

If you want to explore more, you might enjoy my guest posts, How Do You Measure a Life and What is the Meaning of Life, and Clayton Christensen’s HBR article, How Will You Measure Your Life.

My Related Posts


  1. JD,
    That’s one great metric. It brings to me my momories of my father who touched so many lives in a great way, though he wasn’t “officially” recognized for that to often. I always thought and felt my Dad is my Norht Star just because of that.

  2. What a wonderful post JD and I came right over to read it because it reminded me of the amazing guest post you provided me on just this subject. It is one of my favorites and thank you for the link.

    My mother’s response to the meaning of her life after her back fractured was how much she enjoyed her friends, her teaching, her community work and all the traveling she had done. She saw herself as having provided much learning and support to a great many people and that she could keep her standards high and practice what she believed.

    She had a regret in that she was always hoping (and pushing) for her kids to get some honors in life. My brother got Volunteer of the Year from the city and she was just alive with pride.

    That I did not get any scholarships to college and grad school was extremely upsetting to her and she grieved that as she was dying.

    I am finding now in my 60s that I just need to review my life once again and in that sorting process, I see that I am looking for the lessons of the event or experience – what did it mean to me? Was I a victim or a strength? I have an extremely short bucket list, but everything on it adds meaning – not things or even accomplishments.

    Life just gets better.
    I’m no fool – this is a great post. thank you for sharing.

  3. @ Alik — I think you right, and you carry on his light. I’m always amazed how some people really have presence, regardless of where they are.

    @ Patricia — Thank you.

    I think we empower ourselves when we know that we can re-write the meaning of the past, and we can write our story forward, a day at a time, a moment at a time.

    One of my favorite sayings is that we should age like a fine wine, and get better with age.

  4. Hi JD

    That is a beautiful way to measure our life indeed…..the people whose lives we touched! And to think that just by being us, and spreading our love, joy, creativity and passions there are so many people’s lives we will touch whom we will never even know….and that is all good and perfect, for each act of goodness or that adds positivity adds to the collective whole and vibrates throughout our entire world, coming right back to us 🙂

    It was so wonderful having you share your story on – thank you again and thank you for being the light of inspiration that you are!

  5. Hi JD .. I love the Seasons of Love idea .. and we can come to these happier, more compassionate paths later in life, realise that helping others is so valuable to them .. that’s where our wealth is ..

    I’m certainly doing more for the elderly residents with no visitors bolstering their lives, giving them something different to think about – we are in challenging times in more ways than one .. the health of nations, as well as the ‘wealth’ of individuals near the end of their lives … while remembering everyone else as we go about our day to day existence.

    I must pop over to Evolving Beings to read your post – glad Evita got here before me … Cheers Hilary

  6. @ Evita — What I really like about it is how it empowers us on a daily basis. We touch lives everyday. Each time is a new chance to grow a little more, care a little more, and be a little more.

    Maybe another related measure is, how high do we lift them.

    @ Hilary — Your contribution and service flows strong, whether it’s your blog or caring for the elderly. You set a great example of caring and sharing.

    I think you will truly enjoy the post. I wrote it a bit differently, and it’s more story-oriented, but it connects a lot of dots, and hits a few high notes along the way.

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