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5 Ways To Build A Better Life Through Design Thinking

Improving your life is just a matter of design.

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Improving your life is just a matter of design.

Opinions

5 Ways To Build A Better Life Through Design Thinking

Improving your life is just a matter of design.

Share this article

Not everyone can design the new iPhone, but everyone can think like a designer. We have been teaching the Designing Your Life course for over a decade and now we’re sharing our (scientifically proven) Life Design movement with the world in our new book Designing Your Life.

Our five mindsets will help you get started on your way to building a well-lived, joyful life.

Curiosity- Be Curious:

Remember the joy you got from play and exploration as a child? You can still do that as an adult! Life Design teaches you how to make connections between things in your life that you wouldn’t normally, revealing innovative new life prototypes to try. Deviate from your norm. Eat something new.

You make better decisions when you have lots of options, so don’t limit yourself to only that which is normal/comfortable/regular. The philosophy of quantity over quality of ideas is important. The best solution is not always obvious.

The enemy of curiosity is judgement. Good designers and thinkers know the best ideas come from a safe space, where all thoughts are bounced around freely. The wild ideas may not end up being the winners, but without them, you can’t travel from the obvious to the innovative.

Challenge: Curiosity invites exploration. It makes everything feel like play. Do something new before the end of the day that you’ve never done before. Read about the history of your neighbourhood, or better yet, ask the shop owner around the corner. Learn more about your favourite hobby. Curiosity is contagious. Pass it on.

children play pirates

Curiosity needn't be exclusive to kids

Bias to Action- Try Stuff:

Now that you’ve explored a few things you’re curious about, try them. Designers don’t just read about possible product design solutions, they build and prototype them. In Life Design we do the same thing. Thinking only gets you so far.

When you have a bias to action, you are committed to building your way forward. Failure is embraced in Design and often leads to a great outcome. Your life is no different. Each prototype is a step in the direction of a more joyful life.

You can prototype your life through a conversation, experience, or brainstorm. You can spend an hour, a day or a few months on any given prototype. There are no rules in creative design other than to keep exploring.

Challenge: Write down three things you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t found the time/money/ability to do so yet. Don’t worry about mastering anything new, just starting to explore what that thing could mean for you. Interview someone who has your “dream job,” take an art class, see an improv show… better yet, ask someone to join you at it you’ve been too shy to in the past.

Reframing- Reframe Problems:

Each and every one of us have a set of icky thoughts that stand in the way of our confidence. These are our Dysfunctional Beliefs. We kick these negative thoughts by Reframing them.

Reframing is how designers get unstuck. When you reframe the problem, you make sure you are working on the right problem. Life Design involved 12 key reframes that allow you to step back, examine your biases and open up new solutions in the negative spaces.

Unless a challenge is physically insurmountable, the only thing stopping you from being your best you is your mind. Avoid the “woe is me” framework it’s easy to fall back on. Build your way to the solution. Don’t worry about having all the answers until you’ve started prototyping.

Challenge: Write down 2-3 thoughts/beliefs you have that are currently limiting your potential. This can be I can’t afford to do x, I’m not x enough to do x, etc. Now crumple them up and flush them down the loo. They may or may not be one of the 12 key reframes in Life Design, but they need to get out of your life regardless.

Awareness- Know it’s a process:

Life Design is a journey, and part of thinking like a designer is being aware of the process. The messy, silly, emotional, and unpredictable process. You have to let go of the end goal to be open to the solutions. Often we don’t get started because we don’t know every step in the process. That’s normal. Remember, be biased towards action. Here’s a Reframe to help:

Dysfunctional Belief: “I need to figure out my best possible life, make a plan, and then execute it?”

We’ve all been asked about our “plans,” frankly, they’re nobody’s business but yours. Your community, aka your design team (more on this below), know there isn’t one best life plan for you.

Reframe: “There are multiple great lives (and plans) within me, and I get to choose which one to build my way forward to next.”

Challenge: Write down three things you still want to be when you grow up and three things you want to have more of in your life. Remember how you believed all of these things were possible as a kid? They still are as an adult. Each prototype is a step in the process of building a well-lived, joyful life.

Watch movement

Focus on processes not outcomes

Radical Collaboration- Ask for Help:

This is perhaps the most important design thinking mind-set in Life Design. The best designers know that great design requires radical collaboration. You are not (and should not be) alone.

An artist can create a masterpiece holed-up in a cabin in the woods but a designer cannot create the next global-behavior-changing piece of hardware solo. Your life is more like a great design than a piece of art. It is a collaborative process.

Many of the best ideas will come from other people, you just need to ask. Essentially, Life Design, like all design, is a team sport.

Dysfunctional Believe: It’s my life, I have to design it myself.

Has the voice in the back of your head ever told you “you can’t do that,” or “you could never be like them,” before? Us too. When we see others achieve, we are inclined to think they did it alone. Humans see the obvious ideas first. They were singled out.

The reality is that person didn’t get there alone, it took a village, as it will for you. We all need help, and it’s not healthy to think otherwise.

Reframe: You live and design your life in collaboration with others.

The sooner you build your Life Design team, the better. Engage the people you love and admire and work together to design a better lives individually and as a community.

This is one of the core differences in the design thinking mindset versus other “coaching” or “strategy” frameworks. Community.

Bill and Dave are authors of Designing Your Life: Build a life that works for you (Chatto & Windus, £14.99) out 15 September.

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5 Ways To Build A Better Life Through Design Thinking

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