Peter Drucker's Principles for a "Total Life"

Peter Drucker's Principles for a "Total Life"

Peter Drucker, "the father of modern management," revolutionized modern business practices, but most people don't know that Drucker's teachings on personal growth—or self-management—are as profound as his views on organizational management.

Drucker personified the value of creating and living a "total life" with diverse interests, relationships, and pursuits; what he called "living in more than one world." There are many aspects to creating a total life, but consider these five important principles:

1. Practice self-development Self-development is a major theme throughout Drucker's writings and teachings. "What matters," he said, "is that the knowledge worker, by the time he or she reaches middle age, has developed and nourished a human being rather than a tax accountant or a hydraulic engineer."

2. Identify and develop your unique strengths The concept of core competencies may have been created for organizations, but it applies to individuals as well. When you find new ways to value and cultivate your strengths, you can apply them to a variety of jobs, volunteer positions, and more.

3. Create a parallel or second career Drucker advocated creating a "parallel career" in areas such as teaching, writing, or working in nonprofit organizations. He also encouraged developing a second career, often by doing similar work in a different, perhaps more meaningful, setting. A lawyer, for instance, might move from a traditional law firm to a legal nonprofit.

4. Exercise your generosity An essential part of living in more than one world, Drucker believed, is to share your time and talents. When you contribute to others, you also benefit, from broadening and deepening your life experience to expanding your circle of friends and colleagues.

5. Teach and learn Drucker believed that knowledge workers should never stop learning, but they are responsible for incorporating continuous learning into daily life. One way to learn is to teach. As Drucker acknowledged, "No one learns as much as the person who must teach his subject."

Here are seven tips for creating a more satisfying and meaningful personal life and career:

1. Focus on achievement—not money Drucker drew an important distinction between achievement and money. That doesn't mean you shouldn't or won't make money, but that the pursuit of money ought to play a subordinate role to your own achievements and how they benefit others.

2. Make time for thinking Thinking is hard work in our fast-paced society. Break from the daily grind to think about where you are and where you're going. Carve out time for self-reflection, a walk, practicing yoga or meditation, or enjoying nature.

3. Practice "systematic abandonment" "People are effective because they say no,'" declared Drucker. What he called "systematic abandonment" means stepping back at regular intervals to determine which of your present activities can be scaled back or eliminated. Only then can you make way for something more fruitful.

4. Volunteer your time and talent Drucker saw volunteerism as essential to the smooth functioning of society, as well as a satisfying way of ensuring that work doesn't consume your life.

5. Become a mentor If you've been guided by mentors of your own, pay it back by mentoring others. If not, look for opportunities to both mentor and be mentored.

6. Learn the art of leisure Drucker observed that "loafing" is easy, but "leisure" is difficult. As important as work is, avoid allowing it to be your only source of fulfillment.

7. Be the CEO of your own life Drucker saw self-management as an ongoing discipline, requiring self-knowledge, introspection, and personal responsibility. “Managing oneself demands that each knowledge worker think and behave like a chief executive officer,” he said.

Finally, don't expect everything to happen at once. Start where you are and move towards your total life one step at a time.

This article is reprinted from the website of the American Management Association at ASME members can access the "members only" area of the AMA free and get discounts on books and courses by signing up at

Finally, don't expect everything to happen at once. Start where you are and move towards your total life one step at a time.

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