How do we navigate uncertainty and create a life that aligns with our passions and values? How to take advantage of the increasingly fluid notion of traditional career?

“Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans offers a fresh perspective, presenting practical tools and strategies to help us craft a fulfilling and purposeful existence. In this article, we will explore the key concepts from “Designing Your Life” and delve into how you can apply them to design a life that truly resonates with you.

Designing Your Life: The Origins

The origins of the book can be traced back to a course they developed and taught at Stanford University called “Designing Your Life.” The course aimed to apply design thinking principles to help students and individuals create fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Drawing from their extensive backgrounds in design and engineering, Burnett and Evans recognized that the same principles used to design products and systems could be applied to design one’s life. They believed that approaching life as a design challenge could provide a fresh perspective, allowing individuals to explore different possibilities, experiment with new ideas, and iterate on their life choices.

The course gained popularity among students at Stanford and eventually led to the publication of the book “Designing Your Life.” Released in 2016, the book expands on the concepts taught in the course, providing a comprehensive guide for readers to apply design thinking principles to their own lives.

Designing Your Life: The Method

  1. Embrace the Mindset of a Designer: Approach life as a design challenge. Instead of passively accepting the status quo, adopt a mindset that views your life as a canvas waiting to be painted. Embrace curiosity, experimentation, and iteration. Designers don’t fear failure; they see it as an opportunity for growth and refinement.
  2. Create Your Odyssey Plans: Develop multiple “Odyssey Plans” to explore various potential futures. These plans provide a framework for experimenting with different paths without the pressure of making a permanent decision. Consider alternative careers, passions, and lifestyles. Explore what brings you joy, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose.
  3. Reframe Problems as Prototypes: Shift your perspective on challenges and setbacks. Instead of viewing them as roadblocks, see them as opportunities to iterate and improve. Treat your life like a series of prototypes, constantly refining and adapting as you gain new insights. Embrace the growth mindset and embrace the process of learning from failures.
  4. Cultivate Work-Life Integration: Redefine the traditional notion of work-life balance by integrating your personal and professional spheres. Strive for synergy between the different areas of your life, seeking meaningful connections and shared values. Design your days to align with your priorities and create a harmonious blend of work, relationships, hobbies, and self-care.
  5. Use Prototyping to Test Ideas: Apply the principles of prototyping to test potential paths or ideas. Rather than getting stuck in analysis paralysis, take small steps to validate your assumptions. Shadow professionals in fields that interest you, take on side projects, or engage in volunteer work. Gather real-world experiences to inform your decisions.
  6. Practice Radical Collaboration: Seek support from others and foster a community of like-minded individuals. Engage in conversations, share your aspirations, and actively collaborate with others who can provide insights, inspiration, and accountability. Designing your life is not a solitary endeavor; it thrives on the power of shared experiences and collective wisdom.
  7. Embrace Curiosity and Play: Nurture your sense of curiosity and playfulness as you navigate your journey. Approach life with a sense of wonder and exploration. Allow yourself to try new things, follow your curiosity, and step out of your comfort zone. Embrace a spirit of lifelong learning and allow your natural curiosity to guide your path.

The Bottom Line

“Designing Your Life” is an invitation to embark on a creative journey of self-discovery and intentional living. By adopting the mindset of a designer, reframing challenges as opportunities, and cultivating work-life integration, you can craft a life that is truly your own masterpiece. Through prototyping, collaboration, and embracing curiosity, you will uncover new possibilities and design a life that aligns with your authentic self. Embrace the principles and practices outlined in “Designing Your Life,” and empower yourself to create a life that is both fulfilling and meaningful.

Remember, your life is your canvas—design it with intention and passion.

Get a copy of the book here