Designing Your Life

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Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans is a self-help guide for people seeking to improve their lives and careers by thinking like designers. The book aims to spread the lessons taught in the authors’ “Designing Your Life” course at Stanford University, which helps students design their postgraduate lives.

Designers see the world differently than most people. Where others will avoid or fear problems, designers seek them out. Where others will perceive failure and give up on a task, designers will prototype solutions and test them until they find the best possible course of action. By applying a designer’s unique way of approaching problems to aspects of their lives, people can attain more lasting happiness and fulfillment.

The most important part of thinking like a designer is to learn how to reframe questions. Too often, non-designers consider a question and conclude that it has no possible answer. They get stuck and are unable to move forward. Designers, however, will take a seemingly impossible question and find a new way to look at it that opens it to multiple possible answers or solutions. From there, designers will begin building prototypes to test their theories about what might work. They will learn from their mistakes along the way. By using this method in one’s own life, a person can avoid getting stuck on a wrong answer or making a choice that is not fully considered and tested for success.

The main key takeaways for this book are:

  1. The heart of a designer’s work is the ability to reframe questions.
  2. Designers train to have an open-minded approach to problems.
  3. Life designing does not have any definite end or a fixed plan. It is an ongoing process.
  4. To approach life like a designer, an individual must adopt five mindsets.
  5. Designers do not waste time simply thinking about the future. They continually build and rebuild their future over time.
  6. People do not need to know their passion to design a life they love.
  7. To calibrate a life design, a person must develop an internal compass that accounts for a “Workview” and a “Lifeview.”
  8. Too many people take the faulty approach of searching for their dream job online.
  9. Designers become effectively immune to failure by learning how to reframe their problems.

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