With a new year just around the corner, we’ve been focusing on creating goals that will help us become better versions of ourselves, but let’s widen the view a bit more and talk about designing your life.
Yes, you can in fact be the designer of your life. You are the one in the driver’s seat, the author of your book, the creator of your future.
Now, you may be thinking, but life is so unpredictable. How can you possibly plan for your future life when there are so many things you can’t control? What about those events that throw a curveball at your life and cause more than just a wrinkle in the best laid plans?
You’re right. Life is unpredictable and you cannot possibly plan for every curveball that life throws at you. In fact, that would be a pretty boring life, if you ask me! The greatest memories that I have happened when I hadn’t planned for it. It’s important that we leave plenty of time for the spontaneous.
Yet, you are still in an optimal place to design your life. In fact, as we’ve talked about before, you are 100% responsible for your own life, more than anyone else, so it’s so important to be intentional with how you are living your life and where you want to go with it.
When you are driving from Pennsylvania to California, you need to design a plan. A roadmap. You need to know some details and that means you have to make some decisions.
This includes the vehicle you will be driving or riding in, what you will eat along the way, where you will sleep, what you will bring, how much money you will need, the roads you will drive, what you will do on the way and once you get there, how long you will be staying, and so on.
Can we agree that this applies to life as well? You may never have been to California before yet you still must make these decisions and have a plan. You haven’t lived your life yet, or at least your future life, and so you need to have a plan.
Designing a plan for your life helps you prioritize what is important to you so that you can make decisions based on your priorities and move toward the life you want.
The following guidelines are based on the acclaimed book, Designing Your Life by Stanford academics, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. These will help you transition from dreaming about what you want in life to making it a reality.
Overall, we must remain curious. The unpredictability of life can lead us to feeling anxious but if we can open our mind to question the what if’s and allow our natural curiosity to guide us to try new things, we can move forward towards making our dreams a reality.
Speaking of trying new things, a well-designed life is open for trial and error, meaning that we need to be open to trying things, learning from what went well and what didn’t go so well, then be willing to revise and retry, using what we’ve learned to improve.
Life’s about experimentation and being able to experiment with new ideas. Trusting ourselves that we will be okay if things don’t go as planned.
This may mean playing the script until the end if we are fearful of making the wrong choice. You may tend to imagine the worst case scenario which can keep you stuck, but doing the work and asking yourself, “well, if that does happen, then what?”
As you learn that the worst case scenario is do-able although uncomfortable, you will become more willing to get outside of your comfort zone, and that’s where the real growth happens.
It’s important to keep your problems in perspective. Problems can seem like huge mountains in your path to happiness, blocking the way and insurmountable.
But learning how to recognize what thinking errors are playing a role, shifting your perspective, and reframing the problem can help shrink that mountain and recognize it for what it is- a learning opportunity.
At times, we get caught up with what we’re not- successful, popular, wealthy, famous, and so on. When we do this, we are focusing on the end product, when in fact it’s so much better to focus on the journey, because that’s where the joy can be found.
When you are feeling defeated and that you are not measuring up, take some breaths and realize that life is about the journey, not the destination.
Finally, be willing to ask for help. Surround yourself with people who support you and want the best for you. Life was not meant to live in a vacuum. We, as humans, need relationships and even though it may be difficult to admit at times, relationships help us thrive.
We are in control of who we surround ourselves with. If you feel like this is not so for you, perhaps you need to create stronger boundaries or take a look at the health of your relationships.
Being in the driver’s seat of your life means designing a life with intention. Creating a life that is in alignment with your priorities and values and that you want to be living.
Take a look at the various areas of your life - career, health, home, time, education, family, relationships, etc.) and identify what areas you feel like you are in the driver’s seat. Why do you feel like you have more control in these areas, more so than in other areas?
How can you move towards having the life you want and bring more intention to how you live in the various areas?