Designing Your Life - How to Build a Well-lived, Joyful Life

William Burnett (Consulting professor of design), Bill Burnett, David John Evans

Key Insights from the Book

  1. Life is a series of design projects: This book presents the perspective that life is a design project, similar to the way a product or a service is designed.
  2. Focus on process, not outcomes: The authors emphasize the importance of focusing on the process of living rather than being overly concerned about specific outcomes.
  3. Reframing problems: The authors advocate for the practice of reframing problems in order to open up new possibilities and solutions.
  4. Prototype-driven life: Taking a cue from how products are designed, the authors suggest that people should create “prototypes” of different life paths before committing to any one path.
  5. Mindset matters: The authors stress the importance of having a growth mindset, which means seeing challenges as opportunities to learn and grow rather than as obstacles.
  6. Energy engagement: The authors introduce the concept of Energy Engagement, which involves doing activities that energize you, as a way to improve the quality of your life.
  7. Failure is a part of the process: The authors remind readers that failure is a part of the design process and that it often leads to better solutions.
  8. Life design team: The authors propose that individuals form a "life design team" of trusted people to support and provide feedback on their life design journey.
  9. Choice finding: This concept emphasizes the importance of identifying and making choices that align with your life design goals.
  10. Gravity problems: The authors define these as problems that are out of your control, and recommend accepting them rather than wasting energy trying to change them.
  11. Workview and Lifeview: The authors encourage readers to define their own workview (beliefs about work) and lifeview (general philosophy of life) as a foundation for designing their lives.

Summary and Analysis

In "Designing Your Life," authors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans skillfully apply design thinking principles to life choices, career trajectories, and personal fulfillment. Drawing from their experiences as Stanford University professors and product designers, they argue that life, like a design project, can be approached with creativity, flexibility, and a problem-solving mindset.

The book's central premise is that life is a design project. This reframes our approach to life from a linear, outcome-focused perspective to a flexible, process-centered one. It challenges the conventional wisdom that we should have a fixed goal and work towards it, advocating instead for an iterative, exploratory approach that embraces change and uncertainty.

The authors emphasize the importance of reframing problems, a core tenet of design thinking. By reframing, we can shift our perspective and unearth a broader range of possible solutions. This is a powerful tool for dealing with life's challenges, as it encourages innovative thinking and breaks down the barriers of traditional problem-solving.

Another key concept introduced is the idea of creating 'prototypes' for different life paths. This involves exploring different possibilities before making a commitment, allowing for experimentation and learning. This is a radical departure from the notion of making a single, lifelong career choice and highlights the value of adaptability and resilience.

The concept of Energy Engagement is another vital element of this book. This involves identifying activities that energize and stimulate us and incorporating them into our lives. This aligns with the concept of 'flow' proposed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which suggests that people find genuine satisfaction and joy when they are fully engaged in an activity.

Importantly, the authors remind us that failure is a part of the design process. They argue that each failure provides valuable lessons and insights that can lead to better solutions. This aligns with the growth mindset theory proposed by psychologist Carol Dweck, which emphasizes the value of effort and learning from mistakes.

Finally, the authors introduce the concepts of 'workview' and 'lifeview', encouraging readers to define their beliefs about work and their general philosophy of life. This provides a foundation for designing their lives, ensuring that their choices align with their values and beliefs. This is reminiscent of the concept of 'authenticity' in psychology, which suggests that fulfillment comes from living in accordance with one's true self.

In conclusion, "Designing Your Life" offers a fresh, empowering approach to life and career planning. By viewing life as a design project, we can tap into our creativity, embrace uncertainty, and create a life that is fulfilling, meaningful, and joyous.

Constantin Bueker
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Constantin Bueker DE

Founder, Coach, Product Guy
Stefania Campanu

Stefania Campanu FR

Team Manager & Finance Senior Consultant