Welcome to the Life Design Tool Kit!
Here we’re going to cover the process of how to design your life. I’ll walk you through each step and show you how to use it to create the results you’re looking for.
A BETTER LIFE
We all have many different areas of our life which often seem at odds with others and pull us in different directions. The need to relax and be well-rested seems to conflict with the need to make money, and vice-versa! There are nearly endless examples of this tension; many of which you might encounter every day. Thinking of this conflict, I’m reminded of this quote from the Dalai Lama:
“[Man] sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
How, then, do we find a better way to live?
Many of us feel as though we never have the resources we need to get where we want to be. No matter how hard we work, we always feel like we lack the time, energy, health, money, etc., that we need to achieve our goals. A common response is to try to speed up, to multi-task. You might feel the need to start many projects or keep an endless list of resolutions to hold over your own head. However, this approach will only divide your attention until it is spread too thin to attain even the slightest results.
Instead of fumbling through one area of your life at a time, you can bring many facets into alignment so that your time, energy, and productivity are maximized and support a more focused progress where you need it most. By committing to a life well designed, you are committing to improve your whole life without sacrificing the things most important to you- time, money, family, health, or integrity. Design your life well, and you will achieve your goals efficiently and effectively.
DESIGN BRIEF: YOUR LIFE
In the creative world, a design brief is a written document for a project outlining a specific need to be met by the design and the designer. This document focuses on outlining the desired results of the project. The same concept can be applied to your own life. A life without a specific direction lacks focus, but outlining what you want out of life will help you to meet your needs in a direct and effective way.
The more specific a design brief is, the better work you will get out of it. It may seem counter-intuitive to think that a restrictive design brief would produce more creative work, but in reality these initial rules mean that the designer can zero-in on the task at hand without being overwhelmed by going through every single creative possibility. Design briefs that are very specific eliminate distractions and maintain focus on finding a solution.
In my own creative work, I often found that design briefs which, at first, seemed way too detailed and limiting helped me to produce my best work in less time.
Imagine that you are instructed to complete an obstacle course, but are not told where the end is or which markers you need to complete. You might start off slowly and meander around the course like a child on a playground. You might attempt sections randomly or go for whatever is nearest or easiest or most exciting. Completion of this obstacle course would not seem urgent, and though you might happen upon the correct sequence by simple trial and error, it might be after hours or even days.
In fact, with absolutely no instruction you might abandon the course altogether. You may revisit it later or just think about it while doing other things.
Wandering might be fun at first, but you will soon find yourself wondering whether you’ve gone about it the right way, or questioning whether you’re really ‘done’ with it- after all, with no clear goal there can be no assurance that you have achieved anything.
Now, imagine instead that you are given a design brief when you are first introduced to this obstacle course. Your design brief says: Find the best way to complete this course, completing markers 1, 3, and 5, and ending at marker 6.
Now, there is some urgency attached to the task in front of you. You can focus, think about the best route you can use to balance physical strain with your own stamina. Instead of hundreds of potential ways to complete the course, there are now only a few viable ways that remain after the design brief has narrowed down your choices. You might not find a solution in one day, but the design brief will alleviate the worry and stress that comes from meandering through a task.
This idea is applicable when designing your life. The more detailed and specific your design brief is, the better results you will get. Outlining your goals & requirements in a clear & ordered way will eliminate distractions and help you get down to business.
So how do you create a design brief for your life?
DEFINE YOUR PRODUCT
First off, you need a target. You need a clear vision of what you want out of life so you’ll have a reason to wake up excited, every morning. You need a reason to work hard. You need a reason to be the best version of you possible. Without that, you are missing the most essential part of the puzzle which is knowing what you are working towards. You cannot work towards something if you don’t know what that something is!
The more specific you can be when defining your target, the more effectively you can work towards it. Consider this example: say I have a client who wants me to design a promotional poster for them.
Design Brief 1 says “Create something neat.”
Design Brief 2 says to “Create a poster that features the product, is in eye-catching, primarily uses the color blue, shows a promotional code, and will be used in color and black & white for the web and print.”
The first brief lacks focus, and I will waste time creating options that the client won’t know if they like it, or not, as they have no standard for judging whether it is what they want.
The second brief gives me a clear focus, and I can create several examples that will meet their needs, and the client will know whether or not they like it based on how well it fulfils their needs.
The more clearly you can imagine what the final product will look like, the easier the design process will be because you have a clear criterion of making choices. “How does this help get the desired outcome?”
Do I use pink or blue? Answer: Blue, because the design brief specifically asked me to.
Do I stay here or move to another city? Answer: Move to another city, because where I am now has no opportunities for the job I want.
DREAMING WITHOUT LIMITS
Let’s try a thought experiment: wave a magic wand and create the life you truly want, without restriction. What would it look like? Be completely honest and upfront with yourself about what it is YOU want. Got it? Great!
To make a design brief for your life you need to know what the end product should look like no matter how impossible it might seem based on your current situation. By identifying what you want most out of life, you are eliminating the distraction of pursuing everything that you could possibly ever do.
You’ll find out, that when you get the big picture right, you can figure out the small stuff by asking the question, “How does this help me achieve the life I’ve imagined?”
Understand, this is a fluid document. It can change to suit your needs. The same design brief you use now, may not be the same one you use a year from now. Or six months from now. A design brief is only applicable so long as it is useful. As you grow and improve your ability to design your life, you’ll need more and more subtle design briefs for yourself.
Once you have the design brief in place of what you want, you have to make sure you answer the question, “WHY do I want this?”
Most of what we do is to make us feel a certain way. Maybe it’s to feel happy, to feel proud, or to be excited about the life you’re working for.
Maybe you want to be a leader and an example for the people in your life.
Maybe it’s to be the best partner possible.
Maybe it’s to be financially free and to do whatever you want, whenever you want.
Whatever it is, you have to know why you want the life you want. Without this “Why” you’re lacking purpose.
WHO ARE YOU DESIGNING FOR? WHAT IS YOUR IDENTITY?
When you’re designing anything, you must know the identity of the end user. For example, you would design a different commercial for radio than you would for television because your end user will be in a different situation in both cases.
In this case, we’re designing your perfect life, so you have to know who you are. If you don’t know who you are, you won’t know whether something will work for you.
Without that clear vision of who you are, you’re basically looking to design something “neat” instead of something tailor-made to suit you.
If you’re confused about who you are, you have to figure that out. Without your own clear idea of who you are, other people will dictate that for you.
It’s often said that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
Without your own identity, you’ll let your friends define who you are. Are these people who support you? Who encourage you to be a better person? Do these people embody the kind of life you want to live?
You are not the things you buy. You are who you are in the deep quiet place at the center of your awareness.
Who you are now is the result of the choices you’ve made up to this moment, right now. Who you will be in the future will be the result of the choices you make starting right now.
If you don’t know who that is supposed to be, how will you know to make the right choices to create that person you want to be?
I’m a left-handed southerner who loves solving puzzles, and I want to continue being a person of humor and integrity that functions by providing value. I love improving lives by being a resource to others to learn skills, strategies, and ideas for achieving success.
In the design world, there are universal design principles that guide every choice and decision made in the design process.
When you commit to a set of principles, it will help you make the tough choices that you may not have enough information to make, otherwise.
Every choice you make should be in alignment with your principles, and move you closer to being the best version of you possible.
Without principles, your final design will lack conviction.
You can design for a variety of scales. There are people who design cities. There are people who design things that are smaller than postage stamps.
Think about this: Facebook wanted to redesign their like button. It’s smaller than 100 pixels wide, but it took almost a year for the redesign. Why did it take so long? Because it is one of the most viewed design elements of the human race. With billions of impressions of this one element every day, it’s important to get this right.
With that in mind, you have to design for the big and the small.
You will apply the first four elements to all areas of your life on a one year, one month, one week, and one day scale.
For the one year scale, set goals you’d like to have achieved at the end of the year. Most people pay lip service to this idea at the new year. Some people, like me, do this on their birthday. It can be done any time of the year.
The one year goals should be set for every area of your life which include:
Apply the first 4 steps of
- Imagine your desired result in as much detail as you can for the time you’re designing for
- Know why you’re doing it
- Stick to your principles
- Do what you know gets the results you want
EAT THE ELEPHANT: ACTION PLAN
How would you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Once you’ve set your one year goals for each area, you can break them down into smaller and smaller chunks to deal with until you get to what you can do *today* to get you closer to your main goal.
You’ll establish a specific plan that will outline your weekly and daily duties that once taken care of, will help fill out the big picture.
“Matters of great concern should be treated lightly. Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.”
This means, don’t worry so much about how impossible the big picture may seem; stay focused on what you can do *today* to work towards it, and eventually, you’ll have it taken care of. Your daily mission is incredibly important, because that’s what your life is built from.
If you don’t know how to do something, break it down even more until you do know. There’s another saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” There’s someone in your life that can help you reach the next level. You may not know it because you didn’t know how to see it. Once you’ve opened your eyes and started to expand the scope of what you want out of life, your brain will begin looking for solutions to these improved questions.
NEED FOR REPETITION
This is a process that should be repeated. You don’t get incredible muscles by lifting weights once. It takes consistent effort.
At first, this process will seem cumbersome, awkward, and make you self-conscious. Guess what, that’s what happens when you’re learning any new skill.
Eventually, the more you do this, the easier it will feel until it becomes second nature. You’ll find yourself doing this on a weekly basis, and checking in with yourself about where you are in your life. You’re taking measurements of where you are, so you can see how far you’ve come as compared to where you were.
The more often you measure, the more progress you’ll make.
And that’s it! That’s the whole process. Again, it is:
- Imagine your desired result in as much detail as you can
- Know why you’re doing it
- Stick to your principles
- Create a plan of action that will get you the result you want
This is the process that you can use to bring clarity and focus into your life so that you can use your maximum potential.
Thank you for checking this out and I look forward to talking with you soon!