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The Secret to Life is Designing it!

Expectations. Beliefs. Prejudices. Assumptions. We all know these and have experienced them in some form regarding our lives and our future. “You’ve studied tourism? You will be a travel agent, right?”; “Now that you have graduated, you will spend the rest of your life working in a hotel”. These are just two examples of expectations and dysfunctional beliefs that students and graduates encounter regularly. Furthermore, we like to think that being successful is equal to being happy. However, true happiness is living the life we want to live. So, we need to ask ourselves: Do I have a job I really love? Or am I simply working in this field because I studied something based on my interests from high school? Will this industry make me successful and enable me to live a fulfilled life I have dreamed of?

This is where we need to implement design thinking. Two professors of the well-known Stanford University, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, introduced a seminar about “Design Thinking”, which helped a lot of students and graduates to design a fulfilling life. They point out that it is never too late to make changes, although we like to think that. Design thinking is a concept that is applicable whenever emotions are involved and, to find solutions, we must accept that life cannot be perfectly planned. Life is a mixture of adventures, experiences, and failures. Without failures and making mistakes, we will not grow, learn, and develop in order to live a life with purpose, fulfilment, and happiness.


The five core aspects of life design are propensity to act, curiosity, mindfulness, reframing and cooperation. A propensity to act helps us to try out new things and ultimately make changes in life. These changes do not have to be huge. Small changes will get us closer to a life we want to live. Curiosity leads to innovation and thus, to find opportunity everywhere. Mindfulness includes making mistakes as well as accepting these as part of the process to live a well-designed life. Reframing is needed to reframe dysfunctional beliefs we have in our lives and to find a solution for the real problems we encounter. The fifth core aspect of life design is cooperation. We need to remember to cooperate with each other. We are not alone. Teamwork makes the dream work and benefits everyone to design their lives according to their dreams and aspirations.


Before applying these, we have to understand what makes us happy, and how fulfilled we are in different areas of life including health, job, play and our personal connections to other people. What can we improve and most importantly, what do we want to improve? Where can we find problems we would like to work make a change with? Only if we do this can we start creating a better life, which ultimately means that we constantly create a better version of ourselves.


Within the last years, personal development has become a very important interest for me and a lot of my close friends. I constantly asked myself: “How can I be successful while doing what I love the most? What can I do to find the right pathway for my future? Is there an ideal pathway at all?” After hours spent in bookstores and online, I stumbled upon Burnett and Evan’s book “Designing your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” and I simply love the idea that the concept is applicable to all stages in life. It is written for everyone and encourages each of us to design a life based on our interests, needs, aspirations and dreams. Some may find a secret passion; others might find their dream job or their calling. Therefore, I would like to share the following quote with you:


“A well-designed life is a life that is generative – it is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and there is always the possibility of surprise.” (Burnett & Evans, 2016)


Life design is a never-ending process of development and learning. We change. We experience something new. We have ups. We have downs. We feel lost. We fail. We succeed. Nonetheless, in my opinion, the whole process is worth it and will help us to live a well-lived, passionate, fulfilled, and happy life in the end.


Jana-Sophie Leiss | LinkedIn

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