Leading the Life You Want

Summary Written by Ruby McClenaghan
"We must have our heads in the clouds and our feet on the ground, dealing with the reality while dreaming of a better future. We must be optimists and realists. And we must never quit trying to live the life we want."

- Leading the Life You Want, page 208

The Big Idea

Becoming Your Ideal Self

"…scholars in organizational behaviour argue that imagining your ‘ideal self’ – as opposed to the ‘ought-to-be self,’ the one you think others want you to be – can be a powerful guiding force for change in behaviour, perceptions and attitude."- Leading the Life You Want, page 160

By putting yourself, both personally and professionally, under a microscope, it should quickly become clear the components of your life that are enriching and adding value and quality to your days. It also becomes clear those things that are taking away from your experience or that take time away from the enriching components. This personal reflection is important and part of recognizing and working towards your ideal self.

Friedman asks readers to identify the roles that make up who they are; this can be in your personal life or at work. Next reflect upon “the type of person you wish to become in each role.” This categorization of the parts that make up the whole of who you are and then the focus on where you want to go in these roles is an affirming activity. It allows you to assess what is most important to you now and where you want to take those roles. By conceptualizing this ideal self it helps to keep you focused as you work towards your future goals. Maybe you want to be a more attentive partner or maybe you want to speak up more in meetings. By acknowledging the roles that are the most important to your development and by visualizing the direction you want them to head in helps to keep you focused and get you closer to your ideal self.

What resonated most with me is the value in periodically assessing your roles in life. Where are you in these roles? Are you where you want to be? If not, what can you be doing to get there? Sometimes we all need to step back and reflect on our direction so that we can end up where we want to be.

Insight #1

Find the Larger Meaning

"Spend a few moments thinking expansively about how a task you already do, or a responsibility you now have, contributes to the wellbeing of others, either directly or indirectly."- Leading the Life You Want, page 165

Take time out of your day to refocus and write down ideas of how tasks you are doing at work or at home are contributing to the wellbeing of others. This exercise falls under Friedman’s category of Aligning Actions with Values. When I read this it reminded me of words of wisdom I recently received from a mentor of mine at work. Her motto is flawless execution and when she told me about this she said it applies to everyone at all levels of an organization. People are always striving for lofty goals and ambitions and those are important to have to keep you motivated but you first need to master the basics. I am a recent grad and I am just starting out my career with a great organization in an entry-level position. For me this was an important exercise to reflect upon because it allows you to find meaning in the ways that your daily tasks can help support a colleague or your organization as a whole. By seeing the meaning in our daily tasks and how they effect others we can see the difference our work makes and feel purpose.

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Insight #2

Hold Yourself Accountable

"To be accountable means having the strength to act according to the values you hold dear."- Leading the Life You Want, page 171

An exercise that Friedman recommends for helping to hold yourself accountable is to use the buddy system. You are much more likely to follow through with something if you have made it public knowledge. You are also more likely to follow through with something if someone else is doing it with you. Make your goals known. Ask for help from your network to hold you accountable for the goals you want to meet. A great example from the book is if you want to run a 5k, why not train with someone else who is motivated to meet this goal? With both of you focused on achieving results you will both work to keep the other person focused and on task.

I am a sucker for an inspirational story. The six case studies in this book and their amazing rise to reach their positions in life leaves you in awe. We all have amazing stories and sometimes you just have to step back and appreciate how different everyone’s journey is from one another.

Read the book

Get Leading the Life You Want on Amazon.

Stewart D. Friedman

Since 1984 Stew Friedman has been at Wharton, where he is the Practice Professor of Management. In 1991 he founded both the Wharton Leadership Program – initiating the required MBA and Undergraduate leadership courses – and the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project.

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