7 min read ⌚
How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
Everything you see around you has been designed to match somebody’s original vision.
Bill Burnett and Dave Evans have an idea: why not do the same with your life as well?
They have a manual to help you get started:
Who Should Read “Designing Your Life”? And Why?
There’s nothing more terrifying than a nine-to-five routine in a career you don’t love.
Burnett and Evans’ “Designing Your Life” is a book written specifically for those who are both stuck in it and want to do away with it once and for all.
Dubbed “an inspiring and thought-provoking graduation gift,” “Designing Your Life” is also the perfect book for recent graduates and last-year students.
About Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
Bill Burnett is a Consulting Assistant Professor at Stanford and the Executive Director of the Design Program at Stanford University.
After earning a master’s degree in product design from Stanford University, Burnett led Apple’s Powerbook product line, before coming back to teach at Stanford.
With Evans, he co-founded the Life Design Lab.
Dave Evans is an American entrepreneur and design professor.
After a successful career at Apple, he co-founded the famous video game company Electronic Arts, after which he became a Consulting Assistant Professor at Stanford University.
“Designing Your Life” is his only book so far.
“Designing Your Life PDF Summary”
Almost 70 percent of US workers are not satisfied with their jobs.
Moreover, about 30 million Americans aged between 44 and 70 believe that they have made the wrong college choice and, if given an opportunity, would choose differently now.
And now the twist:
75 percent of college graduates don’t really work in a field which bears any resemblance to the subject they majored in!
Even though at first glance the third statistics may seem bad as well, you can consider it your silver lining as well: it means that there’s always a chance to do something differently.
In other words, you can reach your final destination even if your current location isn’t the one you hoped for. You just need to know the direction.
Who cares if it takes you longer: the point is to live the life you always wanted to!
There are four critical areas of your life you need to assess before you embark on your journey:
#1. Health: physical, emotional, mental – they are all important, the basis of everything else!
#2. Work: and it doesn’t matter whether paid or volunteer.
#3. Play: the things you do for the fun of them!
#4. Love: now, do we really need to define love (yes, this one includes your pets as well!)
The goal, of course, is to find a balance between these four areas – one that you will find most suitable for your current interests and future expectations.
Another balance you should pay a lot of attention to is the one between your workview and your life view, aka your personal philosophy of what the phrases “good job” and “good life” mean.
Write about 250 words on each so that you have a clear vision of both. And set your compass accordingly.
In other words, don’t take a job which doesn’t fit neatly enough within your life view. No matter how much it pays, in time, it will bring you discontent and unhappiness, since it will eventually force you to either reconsider your principles or quit.
Speaking of happiness – don’t forget to keep a Good Time Journal.
This is nothing more but a simple diary documenting not only your experiences but also your reactions to them.
If you feel engaged and focused, underline those activities in green; if you feel bored or unhappy, underline them in red.
But, put in bold, highlight and circle the activities during which you experience full immersion, or what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to as flow. Some people experience flow while playing football, others when writing; yet, a third group while dancing or making lunch.
It doesn’t matter – once highlighted, these moments will help you realize which things energize you and which things drain your energy.
No need to point out the obvious: once you uncover them, choose the former, thus choosing yourself.
However, what if there are no such things at the moment?
In other words, what if you are all but drained out of all energy and stuck in a career, an environment, a life that seemingly you can’t get out of?
There’s a way out for that as well!
Getting unstuck starts with mind mapping, i.e., making a map of associations stemming from one central idea which should be your final goal.
Say that you want to become a good writer even though you spend most of your day working as a programmer at an obscure bank.
Put “writing” in the center of your mind map and start brainstorming associations, such as “books,” “reading,” “studying,” “free time.” Now jot down secondary associations, like “a room of one’s own,” “silence,” and “library.”
Now, put these ideas into an actionable plan: maybe all you need is a library card and two hours of silence a day to start your project.
After all, many authors managed to write award-winning books while having full-time jobs. How did they do it?
If you want to know more about the best ways to design your life, you can listen to TEDTalks delivered by both of the authors on YouTube.
Here you’ll find Dave Evans’ San Francisco TED Talk.
Below you can watch Bill Burnett’s:
Key Lessons from “Designing Your Life”
1. Your Life Is Just Another Designer’s Problem
2. Reframing Your Dysfunctional Beliefs
3. Develop a Failure Immunity
Your Life Is Just Another Designer’s Problem
Designers constantly deal with problems. Two of them – Bill Burnett and Dave Evans – realized that the biggest one of them all has been too rarely addressed in designer’s terms: Life.
In “Designing Your Life” they suggest innovative ways through which you can actually design your life the same way a carpenter designs a cabinet – with a lot of planning and flawless execution.
In their words:
A well-designed life is a life that is generative—it is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and there is always the possibility of surprise. You get out of it more than you put in. There is a lot more than ‘lather, rinse, repeat’ in a well-designed life.
The main philosophy of a life designer boils down to two simple rules:
1. You choose better when you have lots of good ideas to choose from.
2. You never choose your first solution to any problem.
Reframing Your Dysfunctional Beliefs
Possibly nothing hinders your life as much as your dysfunctional beliefs.
The best way to deal with them is by reframing them.
For example, a dysfunctional belief would be that there’s only one person perfect for you on this whole planet.
Reframe this dysfunctional belief (which has probably resulted in numerous heartbreaks so far) into the one which is statistically much more probable: there are “multiple great designs” of your ideal partner, and it’s your job to experiment.
Develop a Failure Immunity
We have mentioned this numerous times: not only failures aren’t that bad, but they are actually great learning experiences.
Just reframing your dysfunctional belief that you must never fail can help you live a far happier life. But if you follow Burnett’s and Evans’ advice, you can do one better!
List all of your failures (experienced and potential) and divide them into three categories: “screw-ups” (e.g., pouring coffee) “weaknesses” (e.g., you can’t drive) and “growth opportunities” (e.g., wrongly allocating the money for your first startup).
The first are trivial and will keep on happening no matter what you do; the former are part of your character and, instead of spending years to correct them, you need to accept them and focus on putting your strengths to work instead.
The third category is the one you should constantly assess, so that you can see what you have learned from your past failures and what you should do to prevent them from happening in the future.
There it is: now you’re failure-immune!
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“Designing Your Life Quotes”It doesn’t matter where you come from, where you think you are going, what job or career you have had or think you should have. You are not too late, and you’re not too early. Click To Tweet Dysfunctional Belief: Happiness is having it all. Reframe: Happiness is letting go of what you don’t need. Click To Tweet Living coherently doesn't mean everything is in perfect order all the time. It means you are living in alignment with your values and have not sacrificed your integrity along the way. Click To Tweet It’s not hard to imagine that if we added up all the hours spent trying to figure out life, for some of us they would outweigh the hours spent actually living life. Really. Living. Life. Click To Tweet As a life designer, you need to embrace two philosophies: 1. You choose better when you have lots of good ideas to choose from. 2. You never choose your first solution to any problem. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
In the words of Daniel Pink, “’Designing Your Life’ walks readers through the process of building a satisfying, meaningful life by approaching the challenge the way a designer would. Experimentation. Wayfinding. Prototyping. Constant iteration. You should read the book. Everyone else will.”
And you really should!
Even though it may not be as innovative as Burnett and Evans try to point out, it is, nevertheless, a great manual, combining numerous surefire strategies suggested by similar books and inspiring authors into one comprehensible guidebook on how to finally start living your life.