Designing Your Life

November 27, 2018

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Many of us struggle when it comes to making big life decisions, in part because of a black and white framework that permeates our decision-making mentality.  Have you ever wondered how one decision can lead you down an entirely different life path? Whether it is choosing a city, a job, or even a college major, your decisions add up to help determine your overall trajectory.  Accepting one job offer could lead to satisfaction and success; the other could lead to dissatisfaction and failure.  It’s anyone’s guess as to which is which.

Stanford professors, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, wrote book called “Designing Your Life” which attempts to apply design thinking to life decisions. They created an “Odyssey Plan” which encourages individuals to map out a variety of different options. The authors believe that we all contain multitudes. Each of us has enough energy and talent to live many different types of lives; all of which could be interesting and productive.

The goal is to realize that there are many different careers and options for you – none of them necessarily better or worse than the other. Here’s how to start:

  1. List three different five-year plans
    Remember there is no right or wrong choice here. Your first plan could be your current life. Your second plan could be something that you have always dreamed about doing. Your third plan could be a practical back-up to your current life, if for some reason you lost your job or some other life event happened.
  2. Give each plan a six-word title and write down three questions about each version of your life.
    The questions are intended to be though-provoking for you, such as: “Would I like owning my own business?” “If I own an art studio in Brooklyn, would I miss living in the Midwest?” “Do I want all the student loans that come with medical school?”
  3. Rank each life plan
    Consider the resources you have to put this plan into place as well as your confidence level about whether you would really like it. The final scales asks you about “coherence” and how much sense this makes overall.

The authors recommend sharing your plans with close family and friends, not necessarily so they can critique each plan, but so that they can reflect and ask you questions. It might even be a shared group activity that they partake in as well.

To start designing your own life options, check out their online worksheet here: http://designingyour.life/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/DYL-Odyssey-Planning-Worksheet-v21.pdf

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3 Decision-Making Tips

March 21, 2016

Image of a person on a road that diverges in two different directions.We often talk about decision-making within this blog because so many decision points come up within a career.  We have discussed how people can drift into decisions and how one can use a prioritizing grid in order to help make a decision.  Making a decision is a highly personal experience, but if you are facing your next leap into the unknown, it can often help to do the following:

  1. Try it on for a while.
    Imagine yourself in both scenarios. Really try to adopt your decision, even if just for a day or for a whole week. How do you feel? Anxious? Well, try to remember that all change triggers anxiety. Even positive, exciting life changes are stressful.  So, if you feel anxious, try to tune in to that emotion. Is it an expansive almost energetic anxiety or is it one that feels constrictive to you?Still unsure? Flip a coin! Seriously, it has helped many people make a decision and not because they simply went with the outcome associated with heads or tails, but because in that instant as the coin was falling to the ground, they had a flash of a feeling. A gut feeling which helped them realize what result they were hoping for and thus helped them to make a decision.
  1. Become a thinking decider versus a feeling decider.
    Decision making is inextricably linked to emotions. Researchers discovered this when they found that patients who suffered damage to their orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in processing emotions, also often lost their decision-making abilities. It will be almost impossible to make a decision without even subconsciously factoring in your own emotions and feelings. Remember though that emotions ebb and flow. You can feel fantastic about work in the morning and leave at night thinking I have to find a new job.  Remember the often fleeting nature of feelings when you are making a decision.  You will feel much more confident in your decision if you look beyond your emotions to the actual facts.  Thinking deciders often sit down and makes pros and cons lists. Try this out as an activity, but make sure you only list facts.
  2. Remember this doesn’t have to be your last decision.
    There is a bit of a gamble in every decision. You can weigh your options carefully; however, there will always be an element of risk when you choose one thing over another.  And, sometimes the only way to know is to actually take the risk and decide once and for all. Many people relentlessly worry though. What if I make the wrong decision?  Be kind to yourself as you go through this process.  If it’s the right decision, fantastic! If it turned out to be the wrong decision, then remember this. You can always make a new decision later on and change the once decided trajectory. Sometimes remembering that every decision doesn’t have to be final can help alleviate the burden of making that initial choice.

Career choice and decision-making will be an ongoing process throughout your life, so try to find peace in the ambiguity and continually work to find an approach that works best for you.