Choosing to design your life means you are opting to look at your life not just as a goal but as an adventure, as a process rather than a destination. The designed life is one that allows you to choose among many possibilities, to consider multiple pathways and weigh what energizes you and brings you joy. It is one that will enable you to fulfill your dreams and then begin reaching for new ones.
Designing your life begins by examining your current situation to determine if you are truly happy. If you answer no in any of the significant areas of life satisfaction, then it is time to start designing something new, something that will bring you joy and help you become the greatest version of yourself you can possibly be.
There is nothing more disappointing in life than to find success at something only to discover that it does not really bring you happiness. To work hard, sometimes for years, to reach a goal that does not make you feel accomplished or joyful is a waste of your precious time on earth and of your motivation and drive to succeed.
Choosing to design a new life, a better life that reflects your interests, passions, joys, and needs, is the most important thing you can do for yourself. Design principles can teach you how to focus, when to alter your efforts, and that it is also okay to want something new. The first step to designing your life, though, is to realize that you must take control of your life rather than your life having control over you.
What It Means To Take Control Of Your Life
Taking control of your life, actually designing the life that you want to live, is very different than just living your life. When you live your life, you often let others’ priorities and the obstacles you face dictate how you spend your time. Instead of letting life happen to you, instead of life being something to which you react, you can instead take control and start living the life that makes you happiest.
To take control of your life means several things. First, it means you accept responsibility for what happens in your life. You recognize that your choices led you to where you are, your actions (or inaction) have led to your present circumstances, and you are willing to accept the responsibility for all your decisions moving forward.
Secondly, taking control means you are ready to design a life that will bring you true fulfillment, allowing you to be the most excellent person you can be. Instead of settling for something less, designing your life will enable you to be the most exceptional person possible and choose a path that allows you to follow your dreams.
Third, taking control means recognizing and overcoming your fears, which can hold you back and prevent you from accomplishing everything you set out to attain. When you design a life for yourself, you have something to work toward that is meaningful and important. This provides motivation for overcoming the fears that have been thwarting your progress and helps you face your worries head on.
The first step in the process of taking control of your life is to gain clarity about what it is you really want, who you think the greatest version of yourself really is. Check in with yourself and spend some time in reflective thought about your dreams, ambitions, current frustrations, and fears.
Try your best to block out the business of daily living and just focus on being who you really are. As you are reflecting, it is worth it to write down your thoughts and questions. The rest of our guide provides you with activities and specific steps you can take to guide this process, as well.
Being Proactive Will Change Your Life
Being proactive in your life places you firmly in control of your own destiny. Being proactive is the opposite of being reactive, when you let life unfurl before you and spend all your time acting in response to whatever is thrown your way. When you learn to re-frame your mindset towards being more proactive, you will realize many benefits in your life.
When you live your life reacting to events, people, and circumstances, it can lead to a feeling that life is just happening to you, rather than you actually being in control of your future. Learning how to be proactive allows you to take action to put you on the path of where you want to be, to take control of all life’s circumstances, and to regain power over your future.
When you are ready to take control of your life and learn to be proactive, you will experience so many personal and professional benefits. Here are a few of the most profound benefits of living a proactive life.
Change No Longer Seems So Frightening
When you live a reactionary life, you fear change and the unexpected. When you are just reacting to your life constantly, failure can seem very intimidating, even to the point that you no longer are able to make decisions.
Learning to have a proactive mindset means you have a plan for the future and are prepared to cope with the setbacks and changes that will come your way. You can use your energy to focus on making progress toward attaining your goals instead of dealing with events and circumstances that force you to be reactionary.
Your Decisions are Better Informed
When you wait for life to hand you problems, then react to them, you are forced to make quick decisions and with few options. Making better choices means thinking ahead and planning for possible contingencies. Being proactive gives you better information, provides you with more to consider, and ensures you have the resources you need to put your plan into action. When you are reactive, you spend too much time being unorganized and unprepared for what life has in store, which means you are not making the best possible decisions about how to design the life you really want.
You Handle Problems More Effectively
Living a proactive life means you think through potential unforeseen problems and have a plan for how to handle those. It also means you are able to adapt to these issues and setbacks more effectively, accepting them as part of the process rather than insurmountable challenges.
Designing your own life and living proactively helps you accepts that life is a journey, and each experience is a learning process that will help you grow.
Designing the greatest version of yourself and your life is the ultimate proactive step, because you are taking control over your future. You are accepting the choices you have in life, and you are making the best decision you can make for yourself at this moment in time.
It is not always easy, though, so being prepared by understanding the challenges that could lie ahead will help you be more successful in your efforts.
Challenges Women Face
Women face many challenges when it comes to designing the life they want to live. If you want to become the greatest you that you can possibly be, you should be aware of the potential obstacles you may face, so that you can be better prepared to meet and overcome them. Here are the most common challenges facing women who are seeking to design their greatest lives.
As Teddy Roosevelt famously noted, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When you stop focusing on you on your own life and its many blessings and gifts, and instead examine what others have or are able to accomplish, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
Comparing yourself to others is easier than ever before, with social media always telling you what others are doing, how happy they are, or what they have accomplished.
When you start comparing yourself to others, you will likely see someone who has exactly what you want or is doing what you would like to do, which can lead to resentment.
When you compare yourself to others, it reinforces a false narrative that success is somehow scarce or that you should be afraid that you too will not achieve those goals. Comparing yourself to others creates nothing but negative emotions.
Women especially, often find themselves comparing their success as a professional, a mother, a partner, or even as a friend to how well other women are successfully navigating those many roles in their lives. But this is an unhealthy activity.
The only thing you need to compare yourself to is your vision of your greatest self. That goal is what you are striving to achieve, and it does not matter what anyone else is doing, because they are not a part of your plan. Stay true to yourself and what is important to you, and you will not be led astray by comparison.
The Need for Approval
Many women feel as though they have been conditioned since early childhood to seek approval from others and to avoid rejection of social norms. Girls are taught to be “people pleasers” who just want everyone to get along, and this follows us into adulthood and colors how we think about ourselves and others.
When you seek the approval of others, you are neglecting the most critical source of approval of all, which is yourself. When you forego your own happiness for that of someone else, you are no longer doing what makes you happy. This is not helping you achieve your dreams. Letting go of the need to please others is an important step in freeing yourself from these restraints.
Being rejected by someone else just means they have a different opinion of you than you have of yourself, and that is okay. When someone judges you, you then have new information about their beliefs and values.
Remember that their thoughts and opinions have absolutely no impact on how you choose to live your life. Remember that the only approval you need in life is your own, since you are the one that must live with the consequences of your actions and decisions.
Fear of Failure
While fearing failure is not unique just to women, females often feel even more pressure to succeed in all aspects of their lives and never show weakness through failure or faltering. The fear of failure can be a powerfully hindering mindset, as it prevents you from taking risks, from feeling confident in your choices, and from asking for help from others who can help you reach your goals.
When fear strikes, the best thing you can do is to confront it head on and objectively examine what you fear. How likely is your worst-case scenario to happen, and what would it take to recover from that outcome?
What skills and knowledge do you have at your disposal to minimize that threat? How much of your fear is rational and how much is not?
Spend some time getting to know and understand that fear, and you will soon realize there is not as much to be afraid of as you once thought.
Whether it is in your personal or professional or life (or both!), most of us feel like we should have it all together, we should be able to handle everything, and we strive to be perfect versions of ourselves.
Perfectionism can be a debilitating mindset, as it places you in a frozen state, waiting until the perfect opportunity to make a move or try something new. It forces you to work hard at things that are not that important when “good enough” would suffice.
Perfection is totally unattainable, so striving to achieve anything resembling it is a fool’s errand. The sooner you realize that the sooner you will see that nearly everything you decide can be un-decided. Forward movement is nearly always preferable to the status quo, but it is hard to make progress when you need things to be perfect in order to be happy.
Dealing with Disappointment
Women experience a lot of disappointment in life, sometimes due to the harsh realities of sexism, unequal opportunities, and the role of women in today’s world. Women today still earn less than their male counterparts. Many women choose to leave the workplace after starting a family because their professional prospects are not as fulfilling as they had hoped.
Women must balance dual roles as professionals and caregivers much more so than men, even today, which can lead to disappointment on how successfully you are able to succeed in either role.
Learning to deal with this type of disappointment, as well as other less-than-ideal circumstances, is part of the design process. By designing a life that will bring you joy, you learn to recognize what gives you energy and keeps you engaged, and to focus your goals in those areas. This helps you stay focused on your dreams, even in the face of disappointment.
Being Free to Change Your Mind
As you age and as life’s circumstances change, your dreams will change, as well. What is important to you when you are young will likely not be the same goals you have in middle-age or as you near the end of your career. This can be scary for some people and embracing the unknown or new possibilities can be quite challenging for some.
Embracing the design philosophy, and utilizing these principles throughout your life, means you can change your mind freely, you can embrace multiple futures and choose which works best for you now and later on. You can change your pathway and alter your goals as your dreams and priorities shift in life.
Lack of Support
If you are a woman in a professional field with few other females, you may feel isolated in your work. Blending in and being accepted by colleagues in these fields can be difficult. Even in fields with more women, though, there can still be lack of support, as women become more competitive with one another to achieve success, sometimes at the expense of other women.
A lack of support for women in the workplace can lead to a drop in ambition and an overall dissatisfaction with career choices over time. When you lack mentors and role models who have experienced similar things as you, it becomes difficult to persevere in some situations.
Knowing these challenges, as well as the benefits of choosing to proactively design your life has hopefully made you ready to start this important design process. Next, we discuss each of the steps, including how it will help you become the greatest version of yourself.