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Don’t go through life randomly on autopilot. Instead, make decisions about what you want in life and decide how you will get those things. Do this using the design thinking process.

You Can Design Your Life

You can design your life, or at least parts of your life based on design thinking. The idea is simple, rather than going through life like a tumbleweed being blown around by the wind, going wherever life takes you, you design aspects of your life. In this episode we’ll look at two things, what is design thinking? And how can we apply it to design our life?

Reflecting on the problem of “what we want in life” develops a healthy mindset. A super meta, but helpful use of design thinking is to apply it to your actual life. As young as kindergarten, or daycare kids are asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” This can be a very fun question to answer. We’ve probably all heard the saying “diamonds are formed under pressure” and while this is true, too much pressure can ruin a diamond.

I see the “what do you want to do with your life question” very much in the same way. Especially when I work with teenagers, it always feels like there is just so much pressure to “”quote unquote”” figure it out. Yet, with the right amount of pressure, this question can be a lot of fun. 

Remember, It’s Not Forever

The thing I find myself reminding people in order to make it fun is that it is an iterative process. An iterative process means something that can be applied repeatedly, over and over again to a challenge. Well in this case the challenge is “what do I want to do in life?” And the process to get those answers is design thinking.

It should be common sense, but just in case I’ll point out there are many results in life that we can not control. But when it comes to the work we do, they way we spend our time, the effort we make to live a certain life is possible. So many of us live in the same old pattern. Wake up, coffee, snack, get into work, pay our bills, cook, chores, bed and repeat.

There is a myth that if we have routine and success we will be fulfilled. When in reality, true happiness comes from designing a life that is truly unique to you. It starts with changing our mindset from unconscious to conscious about what we do want, what we don’t want and then we can put the steps in place to achieve that life.

What Is Design Thinking?

Design thinkers love problems. The problem is always something that is making life more difficult, dull, or annoying. So we solve problems by making things easier, exciting and convenient. There are many formulas to solve problems, say in the math world for example.

But in this case we are looking at solving problems with less specific data, that are more meta and esoteric. Typically when we think of design things like making a T-Shirt, an app, or a vehicle come to mind. But the same process we would use to craft those answers, we can use to craft our life process.

Design thinking is used when a challenge is hard to define, or keeps evolving. Well isn’t that a great metaphor for life? As an entrepreneur we use design thinking by going to our clients to gain feedback and insight into problems, we prototype, try little solutions, double down on what works, scrap what doesn’t, improve our offers and do it all over again.

Now, in this case, it’s the same idea, but the client is you. And the changing problem is “what do you want to do in life?”

Being able to answer questions like “How do I do the things I have always loved to do? Why do I do this? How do I create more balance? How do I make more money? How do I do work that I will love? How do I love my work even more than I do?”

Design thinking is a circular, non linear, iterative process, with stages that you may enter at any point. It is used as a process to understand problems make guesses, and create innovative solutions to prototype, test, get feedback and repeat. It typically involves six phases—Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test and Implement Feedback.

Get Clarity To Design Your Life

When it comes to achieving a goal, like we talked about in the last solo episode it can be helpful to have a plan based on priorities. But in such a complex, changing world, how do we know what our priority is?

Well this comes with a deep dipe into your own desires and establishing clarity. Something else that we can talk about in a future episode if you’d like. But, either way, you need to repeat the process of getting clarity and coming up with a plan because this is not a simple problem for most people.

When it comes to designing your own life it’s all about doing the difficult, well worth it work of figuring out what brings you meaning.

Using the design process we can build empathy for ourselves. I typically like to do this on a mindmap by answering questions like “what is your why?” “what negative emotions do you feel could be holding you back?” “what are your interests, skills, strengths, weaknesses and things you would like to learn more about?” “what areas of your life are going well?” “what areas of your life would you like to improve?”

Once we have an overall idea of true self we can define a specific problem to solve. There are two ways to do this. One, by simply seeing if anything really valuable to solve jumps out at us from our mindmap. If not, then we can create a more formal, data driven assessment.

One way to do this is to personally rank how we are doing in 4 categories. Health (spiritual, physical, mental) relationships (family, friends) our work, and our hobbies. Ask yourself how do each of these categories bring great joy and vitality to your life?

If they were completely filling your gas tank with the most energy possible and putting you in a tremendous state of flow what would they look like? Rank each category from 0-100 like a little self report card. 

Now, we need to ideate. Turn to a whiteboard, mindmap, sticky notes, or record a conversation, some kind of brainstorm style, non-permanent prompt to come up with a goal that you would like to put into practice for your own life.

This is so specific to you. What do you notice through the first two stages that you would like to improve in your life? What would be the most exciting, wild thing to add to try adding to your life right now? 

In order to test implementing this you can create a series of goals from someday goal, down to annual, six months, monthly, weekly and daily. Once you know what you need to do daily to make this a part of your life simply start doing it.

This will allow a reasonable sample size of testing your personal prototype and then at a later date, you can always gain feedback. Feedback from others, but most importantly from yourself about whether or not making this life design change is worth it, or if you would rather focus on something else. Perhaps something bigger, something smaller, or simply a little bit different.

Remember, that life will offer multiple, perhaps many great answers and plans, and you always get to choose which one to work on next. Not forever, just next. It’s not about creating some specific outcome, instead it’s about enjoying the ever evolving process so much that you live an amazing life.

And this is where Just Keep Learning comes in.


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Design Thinking, GoalSetting

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