Start Designing Your Life

November 21, 2012 — 5 Comments

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Throughout Change by Design, I tried to show that the designer’s skills can be applied to a wide range of problems—and also that these skills are accessible to a far greater range of people than may be commonly supposed. These two threads come together when we apply them to one of the most challenging problems of them all: designing a life. There is a big difference, though, between planning a life, drifting through life, and designing a life.

We all know of people who go through life with every step preplanned. They knew which university they would attend, which internship would lead to a successful career, and at what age they will retire. Unfortunately, this never works out as planned. And anyway, if you know the winner before the start, where’s the fun in the game?

Like any good design team, we can have a sense of purpose without deluding ourselves that we can predict every outcome in advance, for this is the space of creativity. We can blur the distinction between the final product and the creative process that got us there. We can learn how to take joy in the things we create. We can work within the constraints of our own natures—and still be agile, build capabilities, iterate. We can conduct experiments, make discoveries, change our perspectives.

Think of today as a prototype. What would you change?

Image by Peter Macdonald / IDEO

(posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

Tim Brown

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5 comments on “Start Designing Your Life

  1. Great post! When I mentor students about designing their lives I remind them that a 747 flying from Auckland to San Francisco is off course 97% of the time. There are constant shift in trade-winds, altitude and air currents. The key is to tolerate the uncertainty and keep course correcting. I’d love to go back through ‘Change by Design’ and apply it at an individual level. – What a great idea.

  2. A near constant source of puzzlement/curiosity to me is how people will pigeon-hole their creative talents. They may be an artisan in engineering or graphic design, yet clueless – in constant struggle in relationships or other areas. To me creativity is akin to a muscle group, it grows through regular stretching and exercise.
    If we can apply design thinking to designing a life, then by extension we should apply it to our practices as parents in drawing out the natural (read untapped) potential in our kids.

    Great post, many thanks.

  3. I feel like it is only recently – perhaps in the past ten or twenty years – that this idea of consciously designing one’s own life even became a notion people actively considered. It is such a profoundly great habit; checking and re-checking, questioning yourself and your motives. What is driven by habit, or fear, or inertia? I don’t imagine my parents having too many of these conversations, though perhaps they did subconsciously, or in whispers, but certainly never out loud, never unashamedly. It is refreshing to imagine that this process does not signal dissatisfaction but just the reverse; engagement, optimism, and drive to ever improve.

  4. Your right about having a crystal ball. If we knew the ending it would just be boring. There is a book called “The 4 Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferris where he talks about setting 3 and 6 month goals because things change if you go farther out then that. He does how ever talk about designing your life around your interests. Excellent book. Great article. Thanks for your work. Here is another article I think may relate http://howtobecreativeinthinking.com/how-to-be-creative-in-thinking/

  5. Hi Tim,

    I am building a development marketplace with special features, and while integrating with paypal – to manage payment- , I create a user which I always used to buy services and pay, the idea is I chose Tom Brown as the name of the user, then today I notice your name in the LinkedIn which make me surprised, so I just want to say hi,

    Thank you,
    Ahmed.

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