The phrase “Life by Design“ seems to be thrown around quite a bit these days. However, what the heck does it mean? …or, perhaps, should it mean?
The perception of life by design can easily be swayed by lofty posts on photo sharing and marketing sites (you know the ones) of excess photos from beach walks, coffee breaks on decks with breathtaking scenery, and/or work on a laptop in a picturesque setting that is more or less polar opposite to an office.
Although these images are certainly inspiring and pretty to look at, they may not be representative of entirely realistic goals for everyone.
So what IS… realistic in thinking about a “life by design”?
Essentially, life by design is an approach to mindful living with respect to overall well-being for one’s self as well as their influence on others. Often this would consider how one eats, spends time, thinks, and outwardly behaves. It may also include how and where money is spent.
A positive life by design typically consists of specific intentions and a heightened self-awareness for one’s abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and inter-relationships with others. Meanwhile, as further illustrated in this Inc article, Do These 5 Things to Live Life by Your Own Design, it also emphasizes not playing a victim’s role.
However, most of all, it’s realistic. Instead of a fantasy, it’s more of a grounded perspective on or a mindset for one’s circumstances which ultimately influences personal behavior, conduct, and/or engagement with the world.
…and, how can you make the shift?!?
A few steps to take in the shift to a more positive “Life by Design“ are;
Identify your why or why’s: This is likely the most cliche, yet relevant step in any personal or professional development plan. However, there is a legitimate reason to give this significant priority.
People with a strong sense of purpose typically live happier and less stressful as well as have stronger relationships or bonds with others. In fact, it is a key pillar in the Blue Zones Project, a world-wide, geographical research initiative centered on groups of people with most favorable health outcomes.
A simple way to integrate this into your life is to find time for self-reflection and write a few things down. This can be a consistent placeholder on the calendar or something you do when the thought strikes you in some sort of easily accessible journaling tool.
Set realistic goals: There are more than one valid frameworks to set great goals, aims, or objectives. One option that coaches love is the SMART goal framework (click for a worksheet from the University of San Diego). The approach has been leveraged in numerous evidence-based behavior change programs, is easy to teach and implement, and, best of all, “smart” is more than just an acronym! The framework can help break down overarching goals into actionable steps which can be oriented towards daily, weekly, monthly or annually.
The art, so to speak, is to set goals, aims, and objectives that are both intentional and creative. This is where visualization tools can come in handy. We have likely all seen those vision board parties… you get the idea! Focus on where you can thrive vs get bogged down or riddled by bottlenecks in productivity.
Great times for goal setting and/or review are at the end or start of a year and some version of a mid-point to the increment of time that you are trying to achieve the goal. Finding time and space where you can be clear of distractions, think creatively, and have sufficient duration for a full brainstorm.
Identify how you are spending your time: This more or less boils down to making determinations for when you are operating on auto-pilot and, perhaps, not actually productive. What are your power hours? When do you feel most creative? Furthermore, are you including time to focus on your passions, causes you wish to support, and relationships?
Once you have answers to these type of questions, you can shift your projects on your calendar around to best meet your personal tendencies and better fit to desired outcomes. Bundling tasks that are synergistic with one another is also a great tactic.
Reframe obstacles or challenges: A significant facet to life by design is how you respond to your specific circumstances. Behavior results from a combination of conscious and subconscious minds.
The subconscious essentially catalogs all the information you have been exposed to and experiences you have had across the course of your life. It is typically more influential than many people realize. Counseling Psychologist, Christiana Star, discusses this further in her Thrive Global submission, How Your Subconscious Beliefs Affect Your Life.
Reflection on how you have responded to hard times or circumstances in the past can help to illustrate tendencies. This Mind Body Green article, Out-smart Self-sabotage: 5 Steps to Change Subconscious Beliefs, sheds more light on this.
A basic reframe tactic is to recognize setbacks as key lessons learned or stepping stones. Furthermore, clear and transparent identification of what gets in your way can help determine where a little personal development and growth work may be relevant.
Be open to support when needed: “Superwoman” or “superman” may be fun to watch on tv or in the theater, but is completely fictitious. At some point, we all need a little support to balance our potential weaknesses or challenges we may be facing. Most of all, accountability can help us stay on track and accomplish things.
This HuffPost article, Life by Design, Not by Default, presents a light-hearted, yet likely relatable story of “falling on her face” a few times. Yet, details further the intricacy behind making a positive “life by design” a priority including surrounding yourself with positive examples.
Finally… define your version of success! (BONUS TIP: this may not be the status quo!)