Designing my life, part one: Building a compass


Last week, I raved about the book Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. These two Standford design professors have taken design principles and applied them to help people figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

After advocating Designing Your Life to several friends, two of them suggested that we work through the book’s exercises together. One of those friends is Kim, my long-term girlfriend. The other is Craig, a college classmate. I thought it might be fun to share some of these exercises as we complete them over the next couple of months.

Because I want to respect the intellectual property of the authors, I’m not going to describe the exercises exactly. Instead, I’ll provide a vague overview and then discuss my own answers. (And, when it makes sense, I’ll also include answers from my friends.)

With that out of the way, let’s dive in! Let’s see what happens as I begin the process of designing my life.

Start Where You Are

Start where you are quote by Arthur AsheThe first step to designing your life, say the authors, is to start where you are. I like that advice! In fact, that’s also my advice to folks who are trying to turn around their financial lives: start where you are.

In the case of life design, Burnett and Evans want readers to perform a self-assessment. This assessment involves honestly evaluating four aspects of your life — health, love, play, and work — by giving each a rating, then writing a short description of the current state of each.

Here’s how I rated these four aspects of my own life:

  • Health (37.5%, rising) — After achieving the best fitness of my life a decade ago, I allowed my health to slowly but steadily decline. I’ve arrested this fall and begun to turn things around, but there’s a lot of effort ahead of me if I want to become fit again.
  • Love (62.5%, rising) — I’m pleased with the relationship I have with Kim, but we both agree we could prioritize each other more, especially day to day. I also have work to do with my family and friends…



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