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Clinical Assistant Professor Paul Corona addresses students during "The Good Life Sessions," a three-part workshop held in April aimed at finding a balanced, fulfilling life.

The Good Life

In search of 'The Good Life'

New series developed by students and faculty aims to help participants create a balanced, fulfilling life

By Dustin J. Seibert

6/10/2015 - How do we lead fulfilling, balanced lives while excelling in our chosen fields?

Seeking an answer to that question, two Kellogg students, Rohan Rajiv ’16 and Lexie Smith ’15, started “The Good Life Sessions”, a three-part workshop aimed at negotiating that balance.

Kellogg professors including Clinical Associate Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship Carter Cast ’92, Clinical Professor of Strategy Harry Kraemer ’79, Adjunct Lecturer of Leadership Coaching Kevin Murnane and Clinical Assistant Professor of Leadership and Director of MBA Leadership Development Paul Corona, helmed the inaugural workshops, which met for three consecutive Wednesdays starting last April at the Jacobs Center.

Good questions, good answers

The workshop was framed around three questions: “What do I value?” “How do I find my personal mission?” and “How do I create an action plan to live a life consistent with this mission?”

During each session, the professors facilitated workshops framed around a series of exercises based on their research and those of top researchers around the world. In addition to each workshop, students were given homework exercises to further reflect on the session’s topics.

Rajiv planted the seeds for “The Good Life Sessions” through his personal blog, “A Learning a Day,” on which he discusses his own personal journey in trying to strike a palatable balance of work and life.

The idea of finding a more balanced life also sat with Smith for a while, she said, in part due to working 80 to 90-hour weeks in her pre-Kellogg jobs. And while she worked, Smith said she wasn’t taking care of herself from a personal health standpoint.

“I was trying to figure out how to live my life: How many hours of sleep do I want? Do I want to exercise? Eat healthy? How important is it to call my parents every week?” she said. “I was starting to really struggle with those questions in my head, so breaking it down and figuring out what I was going to do about it made it more manageable.”

If you build it, they will come...

Rajiv worked with Smith, whom he met during a KWEST trip to Ecuador, to come up with the aforementioned foundational questions. But both admit the project took off after Cast signed on.

“I’d sent Professor Cast some material I’d been thinking through, and it really resonated with him,” said Rajiv, who also blogs weekly for the Kellogg Full-Time MBA Blog. “I figured we could build a creative structure that might make it easy for other people to go through this, and because he’s quite the influence, once he was on board, everything came together.”

With Cast’s help, other faculty members joined the project, Smith said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it on our own.”

Indeed, once Rajiv and Smith announced the program and opened registration, they received 270 applications in the first four hours, after which they closed registration.

David Berliner ’15 made it in before registration closed; he signed up for the program hoping it would “help with my path towards self-reflection and self-knowledge,” he said.

“From an immediate perspective, it helped me recognize a few high-level attributes of my goals and motivations that I would not have before, and also helped me identify a few reasons why certain activities are fundamentally enjoyable to me,” Berliner said. “For the longer term, I took away some frameworks that will help with my future processes as well as the knowledge of the challenges and pitfalls I will likely experience along the way.”

Living the “Good Life”

“The Good Life Sessions” will return next school year; Rajiv will coordinate it during his final year at Kellogg without Smith, who is graduating this year. He admits concern over what will become of his brainchild when he graduates in 2016.

“It’s a very personal thing for me, and part of me worries that if it becomes institutionalized it will be taken for granted,” he said. “But I appreciate having another year to figure out how to make it better.”

Smith, who will be joining Boston Consulting Group to do operations consulting after graduation, hopes that “The Good Life Sessions” will continue well after she’s gone, and possibly spread to other schools.

“I would love for this to be part of the formal curriculum and for there to be a core group of students accountable with helping you think about these things,” she said. “We’re uniquely positioned with a diverse and inclusive community, and our professors and faculty are a good mix of researchers as well as practitioners. A combo like that would make a program like this work at any school.”