Published on December 21, 2020

Designing Your Life: 5 Steps to a More Well-Lived Life

Designing Your Life: 5 Steps to a More Well-Lived Life

The passing of time is relentless, even when you decide to design your life to be the best it can be.

One day you wake up, and it’s January, and your cute little face is all excited about the possibilities for the year ahead. This is the year you’re going to overcome all the things holding you back and master a well-lived life.

All of a sudden, you catch that first leaf falling off the tree. Autumn has arrived. Where did the year go? And what about those possibilities?

The truth is that change doesn’t come without action. If you aren’t living the life you want, don’t expect to get any closer to it without taking action.

Without action you’re just relying on luck, and that likely won’t get you far. The day you decide to take ownership of your own life is going to be your luckiest day.

Here are 5 steps design your life and live it well.

1. Be Honest With Yourself

The action of being honest with yourself sounds simple enough, but it’s usually not as straightforward as we would like it to be.

Take this basic example:

“Do you really want another slice of cake?”

I think R Kelly says it best when he sings:

My mind’s telling me no


But my body…my body’s telling me yes

Even when the question begs for a straightforward yes/no answer, most of the time you will struggle to give yourself one without a little battle taking place in your mind first.

Some battles will create confusion and pain, draining all your energy and dragging on for years. Some will be a source of entertainment for your nearest and dearest. Either way, expect to be conflicted.

Just which route is going to make your life better and help you design your life in the best possible way?

This year in particular, due to Covid, I’ve heard so many people go from saying “I’m not happy at work” to saying “At least I have a job.”

Fair enough, but neither of those statements sounds like having a well-lived life.

How will you know what you really want if you are not being honest with yourself?

It’s when you convince yourself that everything is fine, but then you wake up the following week with that same nagging feeling you had before.

Ask these questions: What in your life needs changing? What needs actioning?

Be honest with yourself when you answer. If you’re going to design your life correctly, it has to start with a base of honesty and openness.

2. Prioritize

Now, when you’re honest with yourself you might come up with lots of things that you want to take action on.


These might vary in size and effort:

  • Buying a new mattress so you can improve the quality of your sleep
  • Selling your house and moving to the countryside to be closer to nature

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?


3. 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.

4. Don’t Pressure Yourself

When you decide to design your life and take action on something difficult, you should celebrate. If you fail, you should feel proud for trying.

The external world already puts a lot of pressure on us to be more, do more, and have more. Adding internal pressure to the external will do more harm than good. Instead, focus on being supportive of yourself and offering unconditional self-love.

Don’t be another battle you have to fight.

5. Embrace Life

It’s important to want to improve, but not at the expense of hating everything about your life now.


The philosopher Alan Watts came up with something called “the backwards law”[1]. The idea is that the act of wanting to achieve more is, in itself, a negative thing because it reinforces that what you have now isn’t enough.

In other words, pursuing something only reinforces that you lack it in the first place, and that makes you feel unhappy.

However, there is a middle ground. Go after what you want, but not at the expense of feeling horrible about yourself now.

Your future should feel exciting rather than a way out of your current life.

Every now and then, embrace the life you have, and stay excited about what’s to come.

You’re more likely to act on something if you feel excited by it, rather than if you’re fearful of what will happen if you didn’t do it.

The Bottom Line

I’ve outlined 5 steps to help you design your life and get you closer to a well-lived life. Keep in mind that perfection will not come during this process; simply aim for the best possible life you can live.

Decide where your priorities lie and what will improve your life in the long run. This is a process, so take it slow, enjoy the now, and keep moving forward with every decision you make.

More on How to Design Your Life

Featured photo credit: Sergei Gavrilov via


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Nicky Shah

Writer at, ex-business exec, University of Oxford - Inspiring you to live more of the life you want

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

7 Steps to Reinventing Yourself and Reach Your Goals

7 Steps to Reinventing Yourself and Reach Your Goals

Even though there are some people who feel great about their job and have somehow managed to find a good lifestyle that suits them, many still feel trapped and dissatisfied. There are people out there that are desperate for a change, be it in their personal life, their career or something else. The worst thing you can do is to keep your feelings bottled up and soldier on. Depression affects a good chunk of the population but making a change can be scary and difficult. However, if you decide to face the fear of failure and reinvent yourself, there are certain steps that you have to take to improve your chances of success.

1. Decide on what you want to focus on

Never plan a big change in your life and career, with only a vague idea of what you wish to accomplish. Sit down and think about all the things you are interested in, would like to do and see yourself investing a great deal of time in. Your motivation can be money, passion, reducing stress, being free to make your own decisions, or having more free time on your hands eventually. Find a path that suits you and bravely make the first step.

2. Always try to make some time for your new passion

We can all be busy and have hectic schedules, but if you really want to make a change you’ll need to find a way to make time for your new passion in life. You’ll need to spend a lot of time learning new skills and acquiring great amounts of information, so most of the free time you have will have to be used up for improving yourself. Even if it’s just fifteen minutes on a break or if you have to sacrifice your TV hour after work to studying, you need to make the sacrifice. Only by completely doing away with useless procrastinating activities like watching TV, YouTube clips or playing games, can you find enough time to earn a living, work on reinventing yourself and improve your mind and body.

3. Keep educating yourself and look for resources

A lot of people complain about the lackluster education system and rightfully so. Today you need a bunch of forms for everything, and although efforts are being made to switch to online forms that would make everyone’s life easier, we are still a long way from enabling quick and efficient decisions to be made within the education system. Changes are made very slowly as it takes ages to process all that written information.


This is why you don’t develop any applicable skills or learn a whole lot in school – everyone seems to be focused on bureaucracy instead of effective education. This is why you have to do all the research and learn on your own if you want to get anywhere. In this age of online courses, cheap eBooks and video tutorials it’s not very difficult to find the information you need from respected sources. Start off slow and learn about the basics, then branch out and keep devouring books on the subjects you wish to specialize in.

A good way to get started is to look at the bibliography listed in the more basic books and do some online research to find out who the most trusted experts on the topic are, and just get their books. Even if you’re very busy and strapped for time, devote an hour a day on reading and if you have plenty of free time, fill it up with reading and research. If you get bored, then switch to improving your general knowledge to keep things interesting.

4. Do plenty of networking, both online and offline

Between all that reading and your usual obligations you’ll have fairly little free time, mostly in the evenings or on the weekend, and you’ll want to make the most out of it by relaxing and having some fun. You may also take a few breaks during the day and scroll through your Facebook and Twitter feed for something interesting. These are great opportunities to do some networking. While you’re out about town, try sparking up conversations with people.

Keep going out, hanging out with your friends and meeting new people. Ask around to find out if anyone knows someone who works in the industry you are interested in and offer to buy that person a round of drinks in exchange for a short conversation. When on social media, look for people that share the same professional interests and follow industry influencers to get some inside info about new trends and tactics. Always be on the lookout for networking opportunities.


5. Create a schedule, but don’t look too far into the future

Having a clear schedule is a good idea when you are trying to make the most of any given day, and setting goals helps keep you motivated and on track. However, you can get bogged down on plans for the future, career choices you’ll have to make and the money you will be able to earn, so much that you lose sight of smaller goals.

You can also psyche yourself out and lose motivation, or spend a good amount of time daydreaming instead of doing something useful. In the begging it’s all about learning the basics, steadily developing deeper knowledge, getting a bit of experience and becoming more proficient in your new chosen profession. Only once you’ve become good at it, can you start thinking about career-building opportunities and make long-term plans.

6. Take care of your body and mind by staying fairly fit

If you have health problems, don’t sleep well, and have dietary deficiencies, living a fast-paced life and reinventing yourself is going to be a whole lot harder. Physical exercise can help keep your hormones in balance, prevent chronic aches and pains, and lower the risk of a lot of illnesses. It will make you feel more focused and full of energy.

Getting plenty of quality sleep is also incredibly important for keeping your mind fresh and working at 100% capacity – which is the key to fast learning and reducing stress.


A 30-40 minute workout session or 10-15 minutes of active running will tire you out and make it easier to fall asleep, which combined with some stretching and keeping your bedroom in complete darkness will help you get those 8-9 hours of sleep your body needs.

Eat a decent amount of fruit, vegetables and unsaturated fats (olive oil, nuts, and fish oil) during the day to keep your mind and body working at optimal levels and to keep your immune system in check. With 3-4 hours of exercise per week and some healthy food in your diet, you will be much more positive and productive.

7. Hang out more with people who are supportive and can help you grow

Most people won’t welcome change, particularly if you are doing something that doesn’t fit the side of your character that everyone has gotten to know over the years. Some will even discourage you or try to distract you. You will be pressured to spend more time with others, and time will become a very valuable resource to you.

This is why you should quickly and efficiently cut off everyone that keeps pulling you back or expects a lot from you without giving anything back. You know the kind, constantly asking for favors, looking after their own interests above all else and nowhere to be seen when you are in a pinch and need some help.


Focus your efforts on people who give you support, aren’t afraid to tell you their opinion without judging you and that can actually help you out. You need to be around people you are compatible with and whose company you enjoy in the little spare time you have, and around people who can help you improve.

There are no guarantees, and you might fail once or twice before finding a good path for yourself, but that shouldn’t discourage you. It’s better to work hard and overcome adversity in the end, than to toil away feeling miserable.

Featured photo credit: Sharon Christina Rørvik via

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