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Can You Design Your Life In These Uncertain Times? I’m Not Sure…But Let’s Give It A Shot


Procrastination is a wicked beast. Most of the time it kicks us up the backside for our sins of delay, excuse, and avoidance. But sometimes (OK, rarely), it serves us up a break.

I’ve known I was writing an article about the transformational book and program Designing Your Life for several weeks along with my colleagues at Smart Savvy + Associates. We had an editorial meeting to build out our newsletter content for the coming three months back in the winter. Much of the content for this article already lived in my notes, journals, and other materials. I’m a Certified Designing Your Life Coach, so my time with and access to authors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans is unique and blesses me with so much rich content to work with.

My job was just to bring it all together and tell a good story.

But I procrastinated on it. I didn’t get it done. And then everything changed around us…which meant that the frame and tonality of the article would have rendered it completely useless if I’d written it in February. (Thank you, procrastination. I owe you one.)

Editorial deadline rapidly approached and I asked myself, “How the hell can you write an article about how to build a more fulfilling, joyful life that fully embraces our work AND our lives during this period of crisis?” 

I sat with it for a few days and then responded to myself, “How could I not?”

Because right now, I think many of us are going through these kinds of experiences:

  • We are reflective about our lives more than ever, and we take solace and hope in thinking about the future. We think about what life will look like when it gets back to a more positive state, and what we’re going to do to make the most of that opportunity of a lifetime.
  • We are using technology to connect with friends and colleagues (sometimes friends we’ve not connected with for a long time) for some very powerful conversations. We are collaborating with our friends, colleagues, and community (from a distance) in new and unique ways, because we all need it so much right now.
  • We are “reframing” our lives and seeing things differently than before. The things we thought were problems before this crisis don’t look the same or we’ve decided that they never really were problems.

It’s not easy to bring sense to all these kinds of experiences right now, but maybe we can give it a shot. We’re in a time of crisis, and it reminds me that many people believe the Chinese word for “crisis” is a combination of two characters that represent “danger” and “opportunity”. Let’s seize the opportunity.

Now that I’ve tried to build a framework around Designing Your Life in the current context, let’s dive into the principles of how you take design-based thinking to build your way forward and design a more purposeful, joyful and well-lived life.

Try Stuff

Designers are great at just starting something. They don’t stare at a blank screen or sheet of paper for hours/days until a great idea descends upon them. They just try things and then build on the better ideas. When you have a Bias To Action, you make progress faster and get yourself unstuck from challenges much easier. Given the choice to do something or not do something, you actively choose to do something. No matter what it is.

Be Curious

We are learning that one of the superpowers of leadership and engaging with others is to be naturally curious. Using a Question-Based Framework, we explore the unknown and we pursue new ideas like never before. Rather than trying to always have the answer, we release ourselves of the shackles of certainty and we just get curious about others and the world around us.

Talk To People

Wow…this is kind of a great time to talk to people! While we are being physically distant, we don’t have to be socially distant. Design-based thinking pushes you to embrace Radical Collaboration and engage in non-transactional conversations that are mutually rewarding and purposeful. Share your ideas with others about what your future life could look like, and be vulnerable enough to ask for their feedback. Without a doubt, it’s been the most powerful element of the Designing Your Life journey for myself.

Tell Your Story

When you adopt the “tell your story” mindset, you are always looking for opportunities to reflect on your conversations and experiences and looking for new ways to engage the world with your story. Everyone loves a good story…including our own! Becoming a great storyteller is something you can learn and, once learned, storytelling will become one of the primary ways you engage with others and move your job and life design forward.

Bill Burnett speaks to the design-based philosophy that, “there is no best, only better” because we’re in a constant, generative state of self-improvement, learning, and reflection within our lives. The truth is that the betterment, not the best-ment, of ourselves is the path worth choosing. In these times we’re forced to live through, I can’t think of a more important thing to remember and carry forward.

I’m excited to engage with our community in the coming days and weeks about Designing Your Life. I’ll share more of my journey and give you the tools and ideas, crafted into a framework, that can help you build a more joyful and well-lived life.

I’ll leave you with these questions to consider for our hopeful future:

What stuff can you try now that you’ve been avoiding or holding back on?

What are you curious about that you can explore?

Who are some amazing people that you can talk to right now? Who can and will become new collaborators in your life design?

What will your story for the future be, and how do you want to tell it?

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