welcome to your dream life

Is it possible to live your dream life?

We’re into the second week of January and while many well-intentioned goals/resolutions may have already been shunned to the back of the 2023 closet (*cough* dry(er) January *cough*), any self-help guru will tell you that the start of a new year is a great time to consider where you’d like to be in 12 months.  

Honestly, I’d like to be on an island in the middle of the ocean somewhere, sipping on cocktails!

Sandy beaches and tropical cocktails aside, imagine spending the next 12-ish months living a life you didn’t want to escape from.

Imagine living your dream life. A dream life in every possible way. Is that even possible?

In my last post I listed some of the standout books I read in 2022 (click here for a recap).

Another book I read was, Designing Your Life – Build the Perfect Career, Step by Step, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans (available here).

I first learnt about the book – and the life design concept – after watching Burnett’s TEDx Talk titled, ‘5 steps to designing the life you want’.

I mean, who doesn’t want to design their perfect life. Right?

The basic premise of the TEDx Talk is how to design the life you’ve always wanted using “design thinking”.

Throughout his talk, Burnett explains that designing thinking is “an innovation methodology [that] works on products [and] services” so, why not adapt this tool to designing your life.

After all, as Burnett exclaims, your life is “the most interesting design problem!”

Burnett goes on to describe design thinking – “how designers think” – which can be basically broken down into a set of mindsets. These include:

  • Re-framing
  • Curiosity
  • Mindfulness of the process
  • Radical collaboration
  • Bias toward action.

He then explains the dysfunctional beliefs that hold people back when they want to achieve something – whether that be in their personal or professional life.

Anyhoo … you can watch Burnett’s talk below – actually, I’d highly recommend that you do.

After watching the talk – and excited about the prospect of designing my dream life – I bought the Designing Your Life book:

Designing Your Life – Build the Perfect Career, Step by Step

By Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

The book is essentially an expanded version of the TEDx Talk, breaking down each step in the life/career design process in detail.

Burnett and Evans fill the book with practical examples of others on the life/career design journey. They also provide handy activities at the end of each chapter that helps cement what’s just been said and to get life/career design underway.

You know, to actually start putting the principles discussed in the book into practice. After all, it’s a step-by-step guide and you’re not going to change anything or design the life/career you’ve always dreamt about without some ACTION.

It’s basically about taking stock of where you’re currently at – and how satisfied you are with various elements of your life – and then working through the steps to make things better.

And let’s face it: the new year is the perfect time to do this!

So, what are some of my key takeaways from reading the book?

First things first

First up: the book isn’t just for those who aren’t satisfied with their job/career. It’s for anyone who wants to improve in whatever area of life that needs improving – personal, professional, or otherwise.

But before you can make changes – or set goals or resolutions – you need to know where you’re at – to “start where you are”.

“Before you can figure out which direction to head in, you need to know where you are and what design problems you are trying to solve.”

Check-in with yourself and honestly – you have to be honest – ask yourself how things are for you in the key areas of life:

  • Health
  • Work
  • Play
  • Love.

“The idea is to pick what to design first and be curious about how you might design this particular area of your life.”

No really, who are you?

In designing your dream life, you need to understand your values – who you are; what do you believe; what’s important to you; why are you here; what gives you meaning and purpose … etc., etc.

And then you need to see if this matches what you are doing (are you living/working with integrity?).  

Burnett and Evans refer to this as “finding your compass” and you find this – your true north – by understanding your “life view” and your “work view”.

What’s important in life? Why do you work?

Why do I work? For the money, duh! *Kidding* It needs to go deeper than that. Well, ideally. *Damn you, cost of living!*

Your flow moment

Almost like Oprah’s “uh-huh!” moment, what brings you into a state of flow?

What’s that thing that makes you feel like you’re … ON FIRE, BABY!

Burnett and Evans say that part of designing your dream life is taking a look at your daily activities to discover what makes you the most engaged, energised, and happy – what brings you into a state of flow (that “I’m on fire, baby!” feeling)?  

For me, flow happened during my design subject at uni last year. While I love writing, I discovered I REALLY love graphic design! Designing layouts – choosing the fonts, colours, and images – absolutely doesn’t feel like work rather it makes me energised, determined, and engaged … it gets my creative juices FLOW-ing!

Multiple dream lives

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have many interests and multiple things that bring you into that state of flow.

This can be a little overwhelming at times.

Dream life 1: I love running, so imagine running in the marathon in the Olympics. *Highly unlikely* …

Dream life 2: I love ballet, so imagine being a professional ballerina. *That ship sailed a LONG time ago*…

Dream life 3: I love belting out 90s tunes in the car or at karaoke, so imagine being a pop star. *Never going to happen* …

Dream life 4: I love journalism – I want to be an investigative journalist …

Dream life 5: I love magazines – my dream life would be working at Vogue …

Dream life 6: Law is interesting – maybe I could become a lawyer …

You get the idea …

The point is: most of us have more than one interest – more than one thing that makes us tick and brings us into a state of flow.  

Burnett and Evans suggest mapping out what your life would look like if you followed any of your (realistic) interests to see where those maps would lead.

It’s all about having alternative plans and learning about the different versions of you!

By doing this you might discover that … taking the occasional adult ballet class is fun but a ballet career is TOO LATE and NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. #keepthingsrealistic *sigh*

The above are just some of the takeaways I got from reading Designing Your Life – Build the Perfect Career, Step by Step.

There are many other important steps covered – steps recommended by Burnett and Evans to take on your life design journey.

Ultimately, it’s about creating a life that you don’t want to escape from.

Island holidays and sipping on cocktails are fun, but it’s more about being happy, fulfilled and content with the ‘every day’, whether that means changing things up (personally/professionally) or reframing your mindset about where you’re currently at.

To be happy, content, fulfilled, and in flow – what’s a better resolution to strive for in 2023 than that!

x G.

TEDx Talks: 5 steps to designing the life you want | Bill Burnett | TEDxStanford (YouTube).

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