Are you consciously designing your life? Do you really understand what that means and how to do it?
This matters because, in a time when online marketers are pitching their services or products, promising that they’ll give you the time and financial freedom you need to create your “life by design,” it is important for you to have an understanding of what designing your life actually looks like and how to do it effectively.
The problem is that, while it sounds great in theory, most people don’t understand what it means to create a meaningful life by design, and they do not have the first clue where to start to make that happen when they feel stuck.
For that reason, I’m going to share with you 7 steps for designing your life in a way that is both sustainable and wise.
Step 1: Get Clear on What You Want
At the core of designing your life is the question of what you actually want and what will help you wake up excited to live every day. In order to achieve this, you have to get clear on exactly what you want.
We live in a society where people are overwhelmed with the inputs, thoughts, beliefs, and opinions of others. Not to mention, the environments we are routinely in impact our values, beliefs, and desires on a deep level.
Because of that, it becomes very easy to lose touch with who we are and what we want in life among all the noise.
That’s why seeking clarity is so important.
Clarity is foundational to designing the life you desire to live because without it, the desires and expectations that everyone else has for your life will take over.
In order to design your life, you have to break free from the stories of your past that have told you who you are and what you should want. The only effective way to do that is by seeking clarity. You can do this through mind mapping, journaling, or meditation.
If you’re not sure where to begin when figuring out what you want to do with your life, check out this article.
Step 2: Prioritize
Now, when you’ve got clear about what you want, you might come up with lots of things that you want to take action on.
These might vary in size and effort. This could be changing a job, moving to another place and quiting a bad habit.
Whatever comes up, keep a list of all the things that will bring you closer to your well-lived life.
Keep in mind that it is extremely difficult to think clearly when you’re constantly distracted by social media alerts and everyday life, so try to find time when you can go to a quiet place and really think through your priorities.
If you do struggle to come up with a small list, then what you need is a little break. That can be as extravagant as a bit of solo travel or switching off your mobile phone for a couple of weekends here and there. Meditation can also do wonders when it comes to focusing and clearing your mind.
Whatever you do, find more time to be alone with your thoughts, without distractions.
Over time more clarity will come to you. You’ll notice the same things popping up over and over again. These are the ones that matter.
Nobody is expecting you to enter your action items into an Excel spreadsheet, become your own project manager, and oversee multiple workstreams simultaneously to make sure everything gets delivered before the end of the financial year.
Doing too much at once will be overwhelming.
You can’t go from your current life to, overnight, deciding that you’re going to sell your house and study for a degree in Physics and becoming a regular at the gym.
Figure out what is most important to you. What will make the biggest difference?
If you could action one thing on your list, what would it be? Why? Are there a couple of smaller and easier actions on your list that you can squeeze in?
Step 3: Create a Plan
Once you’ve gotten clarity on exactly what you want in your life, the real “design” work comes when you create a plan to achieve those desires.
If you’re not sure what a good plan may include, this article is a good place to start.
Think about your life like a beautiful work of architecture. A bunch of builders didn’t just walk out there one day and start throwing things together in hopes that something nice would turn out.
Instead, they did the tedious work of mapping out every single detail of that structure, and they did it long before they ever even broke ground on building it.
One of the biggest reasons people never get to live the life they desire is that they are unwilling to do the necessary work of creating a plan to get there.
Yes, hard work, perseverance, and belief are all essential parts of you effectively creating and living the life you desire, but all of those are for naught if there isn’t a plan in place to design and build your life.
Be like the architect and take the time to create the plan before you start metaphorically breaking ground, swinging hammers, and constructing anything of significance in your life.
Otherwise, you may find that the structure you’ve built isn’t the one you had hoped for.
Step 4: Set a Deadline
Setting a deadline when you design your life is all about holding yourself accountable. You decided you want to move to Orlando, to be “at one” with Mickey Mouse. You decided that when you were 10 years old, and you’re now 45.
This is what happens when you don’t set yourself a deadline.
In the meantime, every time you think about how you haven’t taken action, you feel bad.
To avoid this, set yourself a deadline that is relative to the mental/emotional/physical effort of the action item.
For example, you’ve already decided that you want to reduce the number of amount of junk food you eat. This is something you can start immediately and work on for several weeks while it becomes a habit.
As another example, you’ve decided that you want to leave a rocky relationship. It may not be realistic to expect that this will happen next week as you need to plan where to live, who to rely on for support, etc. The deadline for this could be three or four months.
At the same time, if you set yourself a deadline and end up not meeting it, don’t beat yourself up. Simply give yourself a short extension and get back on track.
Step 5: Be Flexible and Open-minded
Even when there is a plan in place, those who live the most fulfilled and joyful lives are those who are flexible and open-minded to change and new opportunities.
One of the downsides to planning is that, because you invest so much time, energy, and effort into creating it, you can get rigid about following it to a T.
The problem is that many aspects of your life are constantly evolving and changing, and it is that fluid nature of life that brings uncertainty and adventure into the picture. Therefore, the plans you make today may no longer be relevant tomorrow.
You may have plans of going back to school to further your education, but an opportunity to step into entrepreneurship may come available.
Accomplishing some big goal may be in your plans, but a bigger goal may present itself, or the original goal may no longer be of interest to you.
In both of those scenarios, being dogmatic about carrying out the original plan may be a detriment to future opportunities. The main point in all of this is that when it comes to designing your life, you absolutely want to have a plan in place, but you must also keep an open heart and open mind.
Step 6: Say “No” More Often
If you take away nothing else from this article, this may be the one piece of wisdom you want to hold on to.
We live in a society where “busy” is celebrated. The problem is that when busy becomes your default way of living, the things you care most about have a way of getting buried under other stuff.
That’s why the subtle art of learning to say no more often is necessary if you want to start designing your life.
One truth about life is that you can’t do two things at once — at least not effectively.
If you add together the unknown and the limited time you have, you’re either designing your life, or you are falling victim to others’ agendas.
We live in a culture where “no” has a negative connotation. Because of that, most people grow up lacking the ability to effectively take a stand for their time and confidently say no to something.
Whether it’s due to a fear of upsetting someone or letting someone down, or the dreaded fear of missing out (FOMO), people just aren’t great at saying no.
However, if you truly want to start designing your life effectively, it’s imperative that you take back control of your time and agenda.
Step 7: Understand That Failure Is Part of the Process
Most people live in fear of failure, and that fear stifles their ability to go after the true goals, dreams, and aspirations. However, if you want to be able to design your life, you must not only accept that failure is going to be part of the process, but you must also learn to embrace it.
I’ll tell you why: it is through the failures in life that we often learn our greatest lessons and are able to achieve more growth.
You see, most people don’t take time to reflect upon their wins to figure out what went well that allowed them to win. And they definitely don’t take time to evaluate what they can do better next time.
However, when people fail, they tend to be a bit more reflective, especially regarding why they failed in the first place. If you can learn to dig into your failures a bit more and see them as learning opportunities, you will set yourself up for long-term success.
One of the biggest problems with failure is that people see it as a stop sign. They think that is the end of the road, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
If you want to start designing your life, start thinking of failure as a yield sign instead — a place where you pause, evaluate the situation, and proceed when you’re ready.
When you can learn to view failure in this way, you start to understand the benefits of it, and once you can understand its benefits, you’ll not only stop fearing failure, but you’ll start embracing it.
Living a life by design is absolutely possible. However, you have to remember that it is a conscious process.
Just like with architecture, great works don’t happen by accident. It’s through conscious, intentional action that someone is able to build a well-lived life.
By engaging with the 7 steps outlined here, you’ll be effective and actually enjoy the process of designing your life. You can also check out the video below to find some inspiration on how to change your life:
Featured photo credit: Marcos Paulo Prado via unsplash.com
|Social Neuroscience: Taking another’s perspective promotes right parieto-frontal activity that reflects open-minded thought
|Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”