Extenuating circumstances

Clay Christensen wrote a powerful note on extenuating circumstances in his book “How Will You Measure Your Life?” –

“resisting the temptation whose logic was “In this extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s OK” has proven to be one of the most important decisions of my life. Why? My life has been one unending stream of extenuating circumstances. Had I crossed the line that one time, I would have done it over and over in the years that followed.

The lesson I learned from this is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.” 

Clay isn’t an exception in finding life to be a series of extenuating circumstances. We all find ourselves dealing with so many of them in our journeys – a new random problem pops up, someone falls sick, we have disruptive travel, and so on.

Every time I’m tempted to make a decision driven purely because of an extenuating circumstance, I think of this lesson and attempt to live by it.

Thank you, Clay.