Life Design: Ten Steps

What’s Life Design?

The following article has been adapted from Lumia and was originally published on July 9th, 2021:

Drawn from the work of Stanford University instructors Bill Burnett and Dan Evans, Life Design is a problem-solving methodology that can be used to navigate change and transition at any stage of life using creative, iterative, human-centered approaches. Life Design has its roots in the fields of career planning, psychology, and the design thinking process. This method “applies design thinking to tackling the ‘wicked’ problems of life and vocational wayfinding.” (Stanford Life Design Lab)

Life Design is rooted in the idea that you can “build your way forward” based on curiosity, trial, and evaluation. When we apply design thinking to our lives, we end up with a way of living that is generative. What this means is that your life is constantly evolving, creative, productive, challenging, and changing… and that there will always be the possibility of surprise. Life Design skills can be applied again and again as individuals navigate change and transition throughout life.

Here’s a short overview of Life Design’s ten unique steps – a journey that will invite you to accept where you are now, determine what’s important to you, and empower you to move forward toward your goals.

How Do We Do It?

1. Radically accept where you are on your life’s journey.

We can understand the heart of what this means through the words of Dr. Maya Angelou:

“We have to confront ourselves.  Do we like what we see in the mirror?  And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay – and rise!” —Maya Angelou

2. Forget finding your passion!

Seek first to understand yourself. Very few people have “just one thing” that they are passionate about. Life Design requires constant and continual self-reflection, so lean into your curiosity. You cannot design your life well if you don’t understand who you are, where you come from, and what unique interests and skills you have to offer the world.

‍3. Define what matters to you.

Investigate and take ownership of what matters to you about yourself, others, and the world. Release what doesn’t align with the person you want to be.

‍4. Brainstorm many possible pathways.

Instead of imagining one “desired future state,” think of 3, 5, or 10 very different future lives that you could picture yourself happily inhabiting. Consider an array of options.

5. Build a network to learn from others.

Connecting with other people with empathy and learning from their experiences is something many of us are not used to doing. Traditional schooling has taught many of us to be competitive, stay in our own lane, and do our own work. Point of fact: students often get expelled for copying, or “cheating” by working with another student to find an answer.

In Life Design, the idea is to cheat away! Talk to people. See who’s doing what, and which approaches you might want to emulate in your own life.

It’s important here to acknowledge that this can be intimidating and difficult for many, especially those who do not have strong social capital.

Attempting to break into entirely new networks, especially ones that have historically excluded people of diverse backgrounds and identities, can be challenging. Coaching can help model how to do this effectively.

‍6. Design your story + your personal brand.

Guess what? This isn’t a one-and-done process. You can and will change along the way!

‍7. Try it out.

Test your ideas and assumptions in the real world. Yes, this can and should be messy and imperfect. Know that you can always pivot and reverse course.

‍8. Be flexible.

Adapt your plan based on what you learn. Whatever the outcome, where you end up will rarely look exactly like what you thought it would be.

‍9. Focus on who you are evolving INTO!

Life design is all about the journey. You might find yourself in a life you absolutely love, only to realize three years from now that it’s time to move on to something new. So when that moment comes, as it likely will, remind yourself that life design is an iterative process. It’s something that you draw on again and again throughout life, and one that can be applied to help you redesign any arena of life.

‍10. Believe your life is worth designing.

Yes, you, friend! Your life has infinite value and worth. You deserve a life brimming with vitality and purpose. Bring intention to the process, and enjoy the unfolding.

“Every time you state what you want or believe, you’re the first to hear it. It’s a message to both you and others about what you think is possible.” —Oprah Winfrey

If you are interested in working through these steps together, I’d love to coach you through them. Book your free 30-minute coaching conversation today.