BCG Henderson Institute

In times of crisis, many of us ponder existential questions about health, security, purpose, career, family, and legacy. However, more often than not, such contemplation is short-lived. The demands of everyday life — the here and now — can overwhelm us, leaving little time to think about the long term and what we are working toward. As a result, when faced with life decisions both big and small, we are left with nothing to guide us but emotion or intuition.

The corporate equivalent, of course, is attempting to run a business without a strategy, which every HBR reader knows is a losing proposition. But as longtime consultants to organizations around the world, we wondered: Could we adapt the model for strategic thinking that we use with institutional clients to help individuals design better futures for themselves? The answer is yes, and the result is a program that we call Strategize Your Life. We’ve tested it with more than 500 people — including students, young professionals, middle-aged employees and managers, C-suite executives, board members, and retirees — to help them develop their individual life strategies.

You can create a life strategy at any time, but it can feel especially appropriate at certain milestones — a school graduation, the start of your first job, a promotion, becoming an empty-nester, retiring — or after a major life event, such as a health scare, a divorce, the loss of a job, a midlife crisis, or the death of a loved one. When you have a strategy, you will be better able to navigate all those transitions and difficult moments, building resilience and finding more joy and fulfilment while minimizing stress. This article will help you get started.

A Surprising Symmetry

Every corporate strategy project is different. But the hundreds that we’ve conducted for large organizations have had commonalities, including the use of certain methodologies and tools. We typically work through seven steps, each guided by a question:

  1. How does the organization define success?
  2. What is our purpose?
  3. What is our vision?
  4. How do we assess our business portfolio?
  5. What can we learn from benchmarks?
  6. What portfolio choices can we make?
  7. How can we ensure a successful, sustained change?

These steps can be easily adapted to an individual:

  1. How do I define a great life?
  2. What is my life purpose?
  3. What is my life vision?
  4. How do I assess my life portfolio?
  5. What can I learn from benchmarks?
  6. What portfolio choices can I make?
  7. How can I ensure a successful, sustained life change?
Sources & Notes