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 July 21, 2021

What Is Passion and What It Means To Have Passion

What Is Passion and What It Means To Have Passion

I like to use the word passion interchangeably with words like determination, conviction, and love. Passion is a strong desire that can get you to do amazing things.

Passion is an emotion to be acted upon. Without action, passion yields no worthwhile results. Passion is the fuel in the fire of action. When you have passion for something, you love it even when you hate it.

So what is passion? How do you recognize your passion, and how do you put it to good use?


What Is Passion?

A desire fueled by passion will bring about the greatest results in life.

I like to skateboard, but I don’t have the determination to push myself through broken bones and hospital visits. That’s why I’m not as good as I could be. I don’t have a passion for it.

Passion can push you through difficult times because you don’t care what it takes to become better. We all have the ability to create whatever kind of life we want. The secret to living the dream is hidden in our passions and what we do because of them.


How to Know What You’re Passionate About?

Finding what you are passionate about is a journey in itself. Don’t be frustrated if you don’t feel like you know yet. Keep trying new things. It will come even if you have to build it. If you find your passion, or find yourself hot on its trail, don’t give it up.

What if you know what you have a passion for but you don’t do anything about it? This is the main problem with passion. You can have all the passion in the world for something but if you never do anything about it, that passion is useless.

Maybe you work a good job that pays all the bills but it doesn’t allow you to truly follow your passion. You’re afraid of what will happen if you change things up. Yes, change is scary, but it’s not until we leave our comfort zone that we find what we’ve been missing out on.


You’re the author of your life. Don’t settle for the bare minimum just because it’s working out right now.

You will never know what you’re truly capable of unless you push yourself.

But even when you pursue your passion, you will find yourself tripped up by failures and other obstacles. You can’t let that get to you. It happens to everyone on the path of following their passion. Abe Lincoln had a strong passion for building a great country. You think he let a few failures stop him from that? Don’t let obstacles get you down.


What About Passion for People?

The idea of passion also applies to people. Don’t fall into the common trap of thinking you love someone and not doing anything about it. Ask yourself, is giving up my pride worth it to maintain a relationship? What about being unselfish and sacrificing your time or comfort? If you can’t do that, it’s probably not real love, or you need to start making changes.

Often, I think we need to remind ourselves who we love and act accordingly. It’s easy to let family relationships weaken because of pride. Of course, you say you love your family, but when your brother is in the school play, and you hate plays, do you go?

The same applies to intimate relationships. Do you only love them when it’s easy? Real love takes sacrifice and work. You push through the difficult times because you love them and you understand that every passion pursued will have bumps in the road. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand what it means to have passion for someone. This is why divorce rates are so high and families are often torn apart by hurt feelings and unnecessary drama.


Following any passion takes vulnerability and work. But I promise in the end, the outcome of such efforts will be the most fulfilling to your life.

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Featured photo credit: Randalyn Hill via

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