Designing the Life You Love

When was the last time you stopped what you were doing and really thought about where your life was going? Or maybe even better, where you want it to go next? That’s the idea behind Alyse Birsel’s Design the Life You Love. It’s a recipe with not just ingredients like paper and pencil but also things like “your life, some of your heroes, mentors and other things that inspire you, optimism and playfulness, a cup of coffee or tea and some music.”

Birsel challenges us to break down our life into manageable pieces and then asks us to expand those out until we have a visual map of our life. Then, she wants us to think about a metaphor for our current life like a circus or a beehive. (In her case, she used scuba-diving). On a separate page, we’re asked to write down our everyday heroes. “As you imagine the life you love, they will inspire you about what you desire and aspire to,” she says.

Now to shift our current point of view to our desired one, we use the metaphor we’ve thought up to describe our new, desired life.

“In design, one usually uses tools to intentionally shift a current POV to a new and desired POV to solve problems. Most of us do this intuitively in our life. We turn a negative into a positive (constraints into opportunities). We take something we learn in one area and apply it somewhere else (cross fertilization). We shift hierarchies. We put ourselves into someone else's shoes (empathize), we combine two things to have our cake and eat it too (dichotomy resolution). We are jolted into a new perspective by life's events like 9/11, the economy, or the birth of a child (catalyst events). Think about the times when you found yourself shifting your point of view on something. You probably used some of the above tools already.”

Taking that metaphor, we find the focus. We find the center of our life, what supports it and what completes it. Then, make this chart several time using different centers. “Now you express your favorite design,” she says. “Choose one chart among the different variations that describes the life you love most, the life you aspire to. Write a few sentences describing it. And do a little drawing, even if with stick figures. Each one will tell you something a little bit different about the life you are imagining. You have just expressed your design in three ways: mapping, writing and drawing. You can either put this design in an envelope to be opened in a year or two. Or you can start prototyping the life you love, starting today!”

If you’re a little lost (I don’t blame you), you can read about the whole “recipe” on this website. Also, check out this article on FastCo Design. It’s a thought-provoking autobiographical essay on living a designed life by Stefan Boublil.

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