How To Apply Design Theory to Life and Get Unstuck


I could not have discovered this book at a better time. I’ve reached a peak in my self-care routines — they’re now actual habits — and I’ve found my brain wandering into scary “who do I want to be?” territory. I’ve built a strong foundation that allows myself time away from mothering, work and volunteering. I’ve mastered breath and patience. But, of course, once you master one thing, you’re ready to be a novice at something new and I can feel myself wanting to grow into something lately.

Designing Your Life, written by Stanford professors William Burnett and David. J. Evans, is a catalyst for life changes, big or small. And it feels like a natural progression to incorporate into my self-care practice since I’ve developed the ability to let go when I need to. In our Beauty of Self-Care column, I’ve talked about my personal struggle as a woman to rein in my empathy and not try to solve everyone’s problems. One thing I haven’t shared is that I actually love to problem-solve, just not so much with my own issues. I think this is true of a lot of us. While my self-care practice has helped me detach emotionally so I can move forward at a steady pace, I sometimes miss the adrenaline rush of a intensely applying methods to solve problems and that invincible feeling one has when they come up with “a plan.” That’s exactly where this book comes in.

Designing Your Life started as a course at Stanford University, where students apply design theory, which is essentially problem solving, to some of their life issues. Using concepts and techniques that designers of all kinds use to create an optimal design (with practice), it becomes second nature to reframe all the “pain points” we experience and then take actionable steps to move past them into a more fulfilling and positive experience. In my life, this sounds something like, “If I can get my daughter to enjoy math, I will be happy.” I realistically should be thinking, “True happiness will come from my joy watching my daughter find her passion.” So, how can help my daughter find her true passion? This is the point where I stop. I do not move forward. I do not jot down steps I could take towards that goal. I tell myself I will start figuring this out when everything else is more settled, more stable. And that day never comes.

Designing Your Life actually gives me a roadmap and tools to answer some of my big life questions in a detached, academic way that is extremely human-centered. I just happen to be that human. Designing your life means you have so much more to do, consider, prototype and experience before you lay out “the plan.” The plan, in its most idealist form, is kind of a sham. Designing your life is much more about getting to a place where you’re comfortable throwing out a lot of ideas, acting on some and trusting your intuition to notify you that this feels right, this is resonating with me. I love how this book has encouraged me to be more curious about myself, enough that I’ve stepped out of my new comfort zone of cocooning self-care to see what else might be out there for me. Or honestly, what else might just be inside me.

If you’re feeling stuck in a certain area of your life right now, or have been stuck in the recent past, take a moment to identify that one pain point you wrestle with frequently. Write it down. Share it in the comments if you feel comfortable. Next week, we’re going to apply some design theory to some common issues and share some methods from the book that help boil down the issues so we can come up with solid, actionable ways we can move forward to get “unstuck.”

I’m very happy to be giving away three copies of this important book! It fits so perfectly into a new or existing self care practice in such a seamless, helpful way. Even if you haven’t had the time to make self care a priority, reading this book and working through its exercises will help push you in a positive direction in a way that works best for you. If you’d like to be entered to receive a copy of the book, please say hi in the comments and let us know you are ready, willing and excited to design your life.  –Caitlin

P.S. This book is already number one in its respective category on the New York Times Bestseller list!

This post is brought to you in collaboration with Designing Your Life. All words and experiences are my own and I highly recommend this book as a tool for moving forward into a thoughtful, considered life that you’ve designed.

from Design*Sponge


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