The summary below and the full article was originally published in the Harvard Business Review.
Many of us are struggling to chart a path toward success in our careers and a sense of fulfillment in all aspects of our lives. But we can’t excel simultaneously in every role. Instead, at various points in life we must choose what to emphasize and what to relinquish. The goal is to make that decision consciously instead of unwittingly letting go of the most important item.
The author presents a framework he designed with Howard Stevenson, a business professor who has played many roles throughout his life, to help ambitious executives understand their limits and make tough trade-offs. It starts with considering all the dimensions of your life, developing a vision of yourself for the present and for the future, and then evaluating how your options advance you toward your goals.
Where do your options fall on the needs–wants spectrum?
Most things fall somewhere in the middle. Some wants are so strong that it’s difficult to separate them from needs.
What are the investment and opportunity costs?
Most decisions involve both kinds of costs. The challenge is to understand if incurring them will help you achieve your goals.
Are the potential benefits worth the costs?
Does the benefit you’ll receive warrant the investment you’ll have to make?
Can you make a trade?
Many of us try to exchange something we have for something else that we want. But sometimes the two items can’t be traded. Money, for instance, cannot buy health.
Have you considered sequencing your most valued options?
Consciously staggering your goals may enable you to be equally successful in many dimensions over time.