Can you design a life?

Talk about a high energy talk. Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a presentation by one of two Stanford faculty members who’ve recently published a book that’s doing really rather well: “Designing Your Life”. When I say it’s doing rather well, we’re talking a No. 1 New York Times bestseller.

It’s written by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans (it was Dave who gave the talk I attended) and its gist is that you can use “design thinking” to, as the authors suggest on the cover, “build a well-lived, joyful life.”

Design thinking is very in vogue for businesses at the moment, but using its methods to build a life is a relatively new idea. Actually, I say that, but Messrs Burnett and Evans have helped thousands of Stanford students find their way before they wrote their book.

When you use design thinking, it’s not surprising that you’re encouraged to think like a designer. Among other principles, this means doing lots of ideating (coming up with multiple possible solutions to problems), and “building your way forward” – trying things out, as quickly as you can.

I do the book a great disservice by trying to sum it up in such a very few words, but I’m enjoying it myself and it’s certainly making me think.

I’ll leave you with just one sentence, from the first chapter, which I love:

“You can’t know where you are going until you know where you are.”

It made me think of the mood tracking I’ve done over the years, and looking back I can certainly see where I was…

On a different note, huge thanks to the hundreds (wow) of kind readers who’ve already completed the little mood questionnaire I mentioned yesterday. It’s a bit different, because it contains twelve conventional questions about emotions, then asks you to select one of four images that best represents how you’re feeling.

Although I haven’t yet done the proper number-crunching, I can already see that there’s going to be some fascinating findings, which I hope to reveal in a couple of days, on Wednesday. If you didn’t manage to get to it yesterday, there’s still a little more time:

Thanks for being here, as ever, and I hope this can be a good week for you.

3 thoughts on “Can you design a life?

  1. Just did the survey from yesterday. Wanted to say that my initial reaction to the pictures was to the one that appealed most to me, but when I reread the question as closest to how I feel, I picked a different image. Not sure if that would skew your data, or whether I’m overthinking and should have picked the other image!
    I wanted to be in what felt to me as the happy image, but actually my mood was darker so picked the darker image.

  2. Just went straight to Amazon and bought the book! I’ve read a sample online and it looks very readable, not full of jargon, and very appealing. Thanks for the recommendation – and I bet they will have to thank you for the spike in sales!

  3. I found this to be an excellent book–the best I have read of this genre. As an Academic Advisor for undergraduate college students, I have already recommended this to several of my students, and I requested that the University library purchase one or more copies of it. I think it is a useful resource for people of any age who are trying to answer the questions, “What do I want to do with my life?” or “What is the next step on my path?”

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