Do you have a major goal in your life that you are trying to achieve, but you are stuck in a rut as to how to get there? Have you broken down the steps needed to reach this goal? Sure, you probably have. Yet, you may be unsure about how to get started. The problem may lie in the way you look at your goals. You may be looking at the steps as problems to overcome instead of solutions to reaching your goal.

If you can change your mindset and start looking at goals as solutions, science has shown that you can develop more creative ideas. In the 1980s, business professors at Stanford University started teaching a relatively new business concept called Design Thinking. Design Thinking in business is intended to help businesses research and develop new products for customers based on their needs.

Design Thinking is based on five steps. They are:

1. Empathize: This requires the researchers to fully understand the experiences of the person for whom they are designing the solution. It’s done through observation, interaction, and working side-by-side to learn their problems.

2. Define: This step is where the researchers process the results of their findings in the first step in order to find a point of view to address with the design of the product or solution.

3. Ideate: Now, the researchers will brainstorm and work to develop numerous different possible solutions. They should be as diverse as possible to allow the researchers to step outside the box and explore many original ideas.

4. Prototype: Here is where researchers take their best ideas and develop them into physical solutions. Perhaps it’s a new product or service. This will be delivered to users in the last step.

5. Test: Of course, after developing the prototype solutions, the researchers must test them with the users they empathized with. Testing includes feedback on results to refine and improve the prototypes. It even includes learning more about the user and possibly adjusting your definitions even more to perfect your solution.

So, now that we know how businesses use Design Thinking, how can you use this mindset to accomplish your personal goals? One writer recently used Design Thinking to help her lose 25 pounds. It can also be used to find a life partner, a new job, go on that dream vacation, start a new hobby, or whatever goal you truly have.

Let’s take one of those goals from above and talk about how Design Thinking can help you achieve it. Imagine with me that your goal is to find a new job. We’ll go through the steps to see how we can accomplish that goal.

Empathize: Why do you want a new job? If you’re not working currently, that’s an easy question to answer—you need to make money. If you are currently working, what is it about your current job that makes you want to find another? Is it better compensation and benefits you’re looking for? Is it a better environment, or do you want a more rewarding work experience? Understanding the reason why you truly want a new job will help you in finding it. The key is to start asking yourself why you want this and what it would accomplish for you.

Define: After asking yourself these questions, here comes the hardest part—defining which answer is the real reason. Maybe you are disappointed with the money you’re getting paid, but the real root of the problem is that you are bored with your job and you need a new challenge in a new field. The point is, this where you find the true answer to those why and what questions.

Ideate: If you decide that you need a new challenge, and you’re not getting that through your current employer, you need to start formulating ideas of what potential employers can provide you with those opportunities. Start making a list of those companies and the positions you want. Be as radical as you can here to make sure you think of the best ideas. Changing jobs is not a minor decision to make.

Prototype: In our case here, this may seem hard to do. In reality, it’s not. Imagine the job you want. Create it in your mind and then develop a model of it at home or at another location outside of your current place of work.

Test: Now, try doing that job and record the results. Does it increase your happiness? If yes, then start pursuing that new job in the field you want until you find it. You may even need to use Design Thinking to land that interview with the specific company you want to work for. If your answer to the happiness question is no, then you will need to return to step two and make sure you have defined the true issue and continue from there until you get a yes.

By using the Design Thinking method, you are able to better understand your goals, why they mean so much to you, and you instantly become more creative in figuring out ways to achieve them.

Featured photo credit: Paxson Woelber via flickr.com

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