Designing Your Life

Books 10 and 11 of 2020 are a funny story. My friend recommended a book, which I misheard as Design Your Life. I’m cheating by calling it book 10 because I only got through about half of it before giving up. The book she actually recommended was Designing Your Life. The book was recommended as something that could help me apply design principles to improve my life. My friend thought I would like it because it’s similar to one of my bibles, Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

So, I tried reading Design Your Life. At first I was puzzled. Sure, maybe personal style is somewhat important to living a satisfying life. I went with it. But when chapter after chapter featured long-winded expositions on the author’s personal style and personal opinions about what pieces make her look and feel the best, I was puzzled. I don’t care what makes the author feel feminine yet powerful. I don’t care what she thinks every woman should own. I don’t believe in the “law of attraction.” There were sections about shoes, jewelry, accessories and story after story where the author name drops people like Anna Wintour and brands like Chanel. Vapid. I gave up reading this book after it became clear it wasn’t about designing my life so much as designing my wardrobe to be a copy of the author’s.

No way my friend could be as vapid as this book. I went back to look for the correct book and found it. Thank goodness I did. It was so much more useful than the first book. The authors of Designing Your Life do not believe in telling people to find their passion and make a career out of it. Although some of their tools seem a bit woo, like “mind-mapping” and “grokking” or a bit goofy to implement, like having brainstorms with a group of 5-6 people specifically about how to improve your life, I want to try many of the exercises given.

I especially like all of the “reframing” statements and stories. In Marie Kondo’s book, it was these reframing arguments that helped me give up a lot of things I had been hoarding. Similarly, reframing in this book will help me get over inertia, fear of failure, fighting against gravity, and many other detrimental beliefs and behaviors.

The book offers techniques to figure out which parts of your life you need to work on: work, play, love or health. It seems basic that in order to improve something, we have to find a metric and determine the baseline, but I had never thought to sit down and think of it this way. There are also tools to determine which activities are engaging and energy-boosting. With such analysis, it’s easier to see the components of a good job, and to excise the aspects of your current job that you don’t like.

The book covers principles that I’d like to incorporate into my own thinking. For example, becoming immune to failure by categorizing failures to either get over them or learn something useful from them. I also appreciate the section on making choices, then moving on instead of agonizing over whether you’ve made the right choice. The bias towards action, prototyping, and failing fast/failing forward are also concepts I really need to implement. I am finding things hard to implement, so maybe I do need outside help for brainstorming. We’ll see.

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