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A Step-by-Step Guide to Designing Your Life Using Proven Methods from Stanford University’s Popular “Life Design” Course

Most of us seem to have pre-set a script in our lives: finish elementary school, junior high school and high school step by step, choose a promising university and major according to the arrangement of our parents, do a job that we don’t like much after graduation, and then get married have children.

Years later, the child gradually grew up and left us.

Slowly falling asleep in the warm autumn sun… This is the ordinary life of most people.

More and more people want to get rid of this stereotyped life, they jump out and shout: “This is not the life I want”, they are eager to change, and they want to explore more possibilities in life.

Two Stanford professors, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, have found a way for us to explore life. They put forward a concept of “life design”.

What is “life design”? To put it simply, it is to use the concept of designing products to design a person’s life.

How did this concept come about? Both of these two professors graduated from Stanford University, and then joined Apple to work in Apple product and system design. They did a very good job. The iPad and iMac we use have their exquisite creative designs.

The two geniuses came into contact with many young people during their work, and they strongly felt the confusion of young people about life, so they had a flash of inspiration: Is it possible to use the concept of product design to help people design their own lives?

So the two of them jointly created the course “Life Design”, and began to teach at Stanford University, their alma mater, and immediately achieved great success. This “Life Design” course has become one of the most popular elective courses at Stanford University.

“Life Design” is not “Life Project”

First, there is a difference between design thinking and engineering thinking.

Design thinking is to start from the “why” to think about the underlying reasons of the problem, and then explore the solution.

Engineering thinking is to consider “How” for a given problem, that is, which tools and engineering methods are used to solve this problem.

Therefore, looking at the difference between the two from the perspective of “life design” and “life engineering”, it is:

Life design: “Redefine the problem, find as many options as possible, choose one to try quickly until you succeed.” The advantage of life design is to make more interesting and pain-free decisions. The exploration process itself is a happy creative process. It is easier to adapt to changes and live a unique life. Life design is more suitable for those who want to start from scratch, or who are determined to change the direction of life.

Life engineering: “Focus on the original intention, find the choice that suits you best, make a decision and make things happen.” The advantage of doing engineering is that it is more stable, there will definitely be phased gains, and it is easier to be understood, so it is more suitable for life The early stage, or the stage with clear direction.

In a nutshell, life engineering is suitable for those who are determined to do great things and are willing to continue to pay, and life design is suitable for most ordinary people.

What is “life design” thinking?

“Life design” thinking includes 5 basic mentalities: curiosity, hard work, redefinition, focus and deep cooperation.

1. Be curious

Curiosity can help people discover the novelty of things, stimulate people’s desire to explore, and make everything more interesting. Most importantly, curiosity will make you “good luck” – which is why people look around for opportunities.

2. Keep trying

When you have the courage to act, you are forging a path for yourself that keeps moving forward. Don’t just sit there and dream, act! Designers are willing to explore and experiment, they will create one prototype after another.

3. Redefining the problem

Redefinition is a way for designers to shift their thinking patterns and get out of a difficult situation. By redefining, we are able to recognize the crux of the problem.

4. Focus

Life is often complicated and confusing, and it can sometimes seem like you’re going backwards when you’re taking one step forward. You in life can make mistakes, and you can throw away your archetypes. In the process, you have to learn to “let go” – don’t dwell on your original idea and let go of that “nice but not brilliant” solution

5. In-depth cooperation

In design thinking, especially when it comes to life design, deep collaboration is very important. The best designers know that great design requires the deep collaboration of many people, a team.

The Four Steps to “Life Design”

After understanding the basic concept and thinking connotation of “life design”, the next step is to enter the practical part of “life design”, which is mainly divided into four steps:

Step One, Self-Assessment

It is an assessment of the present life. It should be noted that your interests and passions are not the starting point of “life design”. Passion is only a result, not even an important consideration.

Evaluating the present moment is about uncovering what are called “gravity issues,” objective facts that you cannot change. For example: your talent, physical appearance, family background, social environment, etc., learn to accept all these, and rethink your life based on this.

Here is a tool – “dashboard”, from the four dimensions: health, work, entertainment, and love, to rate your life status and find out the satisfactory and unsatisfactory parts. You can try to draw a table and give a score for each item. Taking Brother K himself as an example, the two items of health and entertainment are the lowest, and the two items of work and love are relatively OK. This is how you gain a basic understanding of your current state of life.

At the same time, you need to make a “good time log”, that is, to record your “flow” experiences and the things that cost you the most.

For me, reading, writing, and communicating with readers are all my flow experiences. Find a place by the window, with a beautiful view outside the window, a book, a cup of tea, I can spend a good day. However, it takes more energy to deal with trivial work, but no matter what, this is something that must be done well, because this is my job.

With the above understanding of the current state of life, you can draw a mind map with various ideas about your life.

The second step is to formulate the “Odyssey” plan

Odyssey plan, from Homer’s epic Odyssey adventure journey, the metaphor of this myth is: multiple plans increase the possibility of successful arrival. The same is true for life plans, you need to make a few more life plans.

The specific approach is to formulate three versions of the “Five-Year Plan for Life”:

First choice, what to do now. Generally speaking, it is your main business. What goals your main business will achieve in the next five years can be specific: what kind of company you are in, what position you are in, how much salary you get, etc.

The second choice, if there is a huge change at the moment, what you want to do most. That is what we usually call Plan B. When there is a change in the main business, is there a plan B that can be stepped up immediately, for example: talk show actor Hu Lan, whose main business was a technology executive in a technology company before, Plan B He is a talk show actor. When his main business was acquired due to changes in industry policies, he chose to work full-time as a talk show.

The third choice, regardless of money and image, is what I want to do most. Maybe you have achieved something in the workplace and become an executive, but the third choice is to expand the boundaries of your career and think about the things you want to do most regardless of money and social status. Taking Brother K as an example, my third choice is to become a writer, poet or rock musician.

For the small requirements of the Odyssey plan, try to use 6 words to summarize the core of each plan, and ask 3 questions for each plan. Through the “dashboard” learned above, from the four dimensions of health, work, entertainment, and love , to evaluate the three versions of your plan.

The third step is to start the “life prototyping”

If you are a technical student, you should be no stranger to prototype design. Generally, Internet products will first make an MVP version (minimum usable product) to collect user feedback. If the feedback is good, continue to iterate and improve. Go the other way.

Life prototyping is also roughly carried out in this way:

1) Life prototyping. Ask difficult questions, create authentic experiences, make assumptions, fail fast, that is, assume that the life you want is as real as possible. For example, Brother K wants to become a poet, so my basic necessities of life must be like a poet.

2) Life design interview. It is to talk to people who are living the life you want. For example, Brother K’s life design interview, you can find a few poets and rock musicians who are real in life, interview them, and ask all the questions I am curious about.

3) Prototype experience. If you don’t have a deep feeling for this kind of life, you can experience this kind of life at close range and for a short time. For example, I lived with a poet friend for two weeks, followed his diet and daily life, and experienced a real poet’s life. Life.

The fourth step is to practice and make wise choices

1) Collect and create options. After the above steps, you have already had actual experience of the lifestyle you yearn for, and you have a preliminary answer to whether this is the life you want.

2) Narrow down the scope list. Classify and merge the options of the original life design, and pick out the best options of all kinds. Taking myself as an example, I have experienced the life of poets and rock musicians, and I feel that such difficult material conditions are beyond my ability to adapt, although I like the part of creation and live performance. Well, I would choose to work for a media company or a record company instead of being a poet or a rock musician.

3) Choose wisely. This step is to filter the options to the last 5 remaining, and then repeat the above “prototype experience” step until the optimal choice at the current stage is finally obtained.

4) Let go and move on. Now that you have made your choice, you will no longer be obsessed with hard thinking, but go forward bravely and live the life you want.

We learned the concept and method of “life design”. For everyone, “life design” is a compulsory course in life, don’t be afraid of failure, just learn from it. Life is made up of countless iterations, and most of the failures are just for trial and error, so that you can find a more suitable life direction for you faster.