Designing Your Life Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Designing Your Life will show you how to break the shackles of your mundane 9-5 job by sharing exercises and tips that will direct you towards your true calling that fills you with passion, purpose, and fulfillment.

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Designing Your Life Summary

Are you happy with your profession? A couple of years ago I was sitting in my office and realized that I definitely wasn’t. Thus began a long path to my encore career of writing. Thankfully, with the help of good friends and mentors, the transition has been shorter than I thought it would be.

But I’m not alone in having a degree in a field I’d rather not work in. The results of one poll indicated that about 67% of US workers aren’t satisfied with their jobs. We want fulfilling work, but the prospect of leaving what we know for something new is scary. Especially when our livelihood is on the line!

What you need to overcome this problem is to learn how to think like a designer of a fancy car. What does it take to use these skills to build your life to be what you want? That’s what Bill Burnett will show you how to do in Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.

Here are the 3 most exciting lessons I’ve learned about living a better life:

  1. To design a path to fulfillment, reflect on the four fundamentals of life and see where you want to go and what you want to avoid.
  2. Record what activities and other uses of your time fill you with energy or put you into a flow state to get clarity of purpose.
  3. Explore and plan out the opportunities and different paths that are before you so that you have multiple options.

Are you as inspired as I am to discover how to make your dreams really happen? Let’s go!

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Lesson 1: You can easily see where you want to go and where you don’t by pondering where you’re at in the four fundamentals of life.

Have you ever tried to use Google Maps to get to a place you’ve never been to? I don’t use data very often, so it occasionally has a hard time finding my current location, let alone where I want to go. Interestingly enough, this is a good analogy for what you need to know to begin designing your life. 

To get an accurate picture of where you’re at in life right now, you need to ask yourself the right questions. Start by looking at how you’re doing in each of the four key areas:

  • Health
  • Work
  • Play
  • Love

What you want to do is balance all of these pillars of life, but what that looks like is your choice. Younger people often look more to play, while those that are beginning to get older might focus on relationships or health

By asking yourself how you’re doing in all of these areas, you can easily see what you’re neglecting. It’s important that you then set some goals to help you keep that part of your life healthy. Your relationships might need some attention, for example, if you’ve spent too much time focusing on your career.

Lesson 2: To get clarity of purpose, identify what you do that fills you with energy and puts you into a state of flow.

Sometimes, the only thing holding us back from pursuing a more purposeful life is not knowing what fills us with energy. 

To figure that out, just pay attention to what you do and how it makes you feel, then record it in a Good Time Journal. Use it to write down experiences, positive and negative, and how they make you feel.

Documenting what makes you sad is important but what’s vital is that you capture what you do that makes you feel focused, engaged, and in a state of flow. Make sure to be detailed about what you were doing when you felt these feelings, too!

Flow is particularly important. This is when you are so entranced with what you’re doing that you lose track of time. For me, it happened once while playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but I won’t make a career out of that. I do pay attention, however, when it happens while doing certain writing tasks.

It’s really empowering to discover that certain work activities can actually increase your energy rather than draining it. Make sure to capture these in your Good Time Journal so you can see where you should go next with your life plan!

Lesson 3: It’s good to have multiple options before you, which you can get by exploring where the different paths before you will lead.

So we’ve talked about some pretty awesome ways to get started finding out what life design will make you happiest. But what about the actual design process? One of my favorites from the book is to let yourself have many options and plan for all of them.

Nothing says that you can only have one true path to happiness. There are loads of different ways you can go to find fulfillment. Why not explore as many as you can? It can’t hurt to have options!

I remember clearly what happened not long after I had the mortifying realization that I had chosen the wrong career. I began planning and preparing. Countless hours on Google Docs and spreadsheets outlining my next moves became the norm for me. 

Although I had what I thought was a good plan, my transition hasn’t gone how I anticipated. I got sidetracked by opportunities that were better for me. Some paths took longer than expected, but that was good. I’m in the best place now because of it.

I wish I would have been more like one young man who got three internships at the same time. Instead of deciding on one, he planned to do all three, one right after the other. 

Once he started, however, he began having Skype conversations with friends giving them advice about their careers from his experiences. He enjoyed this so much, however, that he ended up changing course to become a career counselor!

Designing Your Life Review

Designing Your Life was oddly, and amazingly, specific to my personal situation right now. I have a degree in Civil Engineering and am working on my “encore career” of writing and trying to balance the same aspects of life that it mentions. This is exactly what I needed to hear to motivate me to keep moving forward, and I’m confident that it can do the same to help you get into a career you love!

Who would I recommend the Designing Your Life summary to?

The 21-year-old college student who is unsure of whether they can change their mind after deciding on their major, the 37-year-old with a lot of experience in their field that wants to leave it but is scared, and anyone that feels like they’re drifting through life and could use more purpose.

Last Updated on September 7, 2022

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.