If you are a person who knows you want to change something about your life or behavior, but you can’t figure out how to design the life you want, this post is for you. Disclaimer: I am not a “designer.” However, my name is Karin and I am a behavior change expert. I have a Ph.D. and spent four years studying things like mindset, human behavior, habit formation, and the real science behind self-help.
Today I’m going to use that knowledge to walk you through a four-step design process that will teach you exactly how to design a life where you feel happier, healthier, and more fulfilled. The four steps that we go over in this Design Your Life process are the same steps that we use with our clients when we’re designing their lives.
Step 1: Ideation
Often when we design our lives, we want to change our lives in some way, and we think we have to make a decision immediately about what that’s going to look like. We sit down with a piece of paper in front of us and we try to write out our whole plan immediately. But that doesn’t give us any space for creativity, thinking, or brainstorming.
So I want you to back up a second and I want you to actually just let your brain go crazy. What are different habits you might wanna try out? Different goals you might want to set? Things that have worked or not worked before? Things you’ve seen on Pinterest or Instagram or wherever that might help you out? I want you to write them all on a piece of paper or a whiteboard. So pull out that piece of paper, do this exercise, then I want to see at least 2-3 of your ideas in the comment section. I’ll wait. Ready, set, go.
Okay, I’ve written my ideas on my whiteboard and I’ll walk you through them just to give you a glimpse of what my brain is doing. A couple of things that I’ve seen recently that I might want to try:
- Cold showers–not sure about the science behind those, but I may wanna test it out
- Running a half marathon next year
- Some sort of goal relating to eating 100 plants so that I eat more vegetables
- 5:00 AM wake-ups
- Doing daily chores instead of the big Sunday reset that I typically do
- Giving up dairy–I’m a little bit lactose intolerant and I think I may feel better without it
- Setting another power-lifting goal
- Going to the gym early in the morning
Step 2: Prototyping
The next thing that you’re gonna do is you’re gonna look at this giant list of goals that you’ve set for yourself, and you’re gonna pick one or two that you want to try first. I wanna really emphasize that: try first. It doesn’t mean that you can’t change your life in all of these different ways. It means asking yourself: what feels the most exciting to me right now? What feels the most accessible to me right now? What’s something that I could play around with? That’s gonna be stage number two you’re gonna decide what to prototype.
Prototyping is basically taking a small version of something and testing it out for a little while before you commit to the full thing. This is a great thing to do before you actually commit to a goal, especially if you have issues with follow-through.
I, personally, am an essentialist. I prefer to only be focused on one, maybe two, things at a time. So I’m gonna pick one thing to try. The first thing I’m going to try to redesign my life is doing daily chores instead of a big Sunday reset. Right now I spend 3-4 hours cleaning every Sunday, but I really want to try out doing 20-30 minutes of cleaning every day to see if that helps. So, that is what I’m choosing to prototype.
Step 3: Testing
In the prototyping step, I chose to focus on daily chores instead of a Sunday reset. So now I’m going to define exactly what that looks like, how long I’m going to test it, and what signifies success:
Look of test
- I’ve decided that daily chores mean that I’ll spend 30 minutes each morning (this is typically when I feel the best and have the most ability to control my behavior) doing a whole-house reset.
- I’ll also make a list of all the chores that I normally do on Sunday and will complete one every day.
Length of test
- I’m going to test this process for a period of one month, January 2023.
- After that, I’ll re-evaluate.
- I will consider this test a success if I complete my reset and tasks on 21 or more days out of the 31 days in January.
Here’s the thing though, most people do not do this step. I want you to think about the last time you chose a new habit or you set a new goal for yourself. You probably told yourself you would do it indefinitely. You probably said, “I’m gonna start getting up early…” But what’s the end date?
This is why people jump from goal to goal to goal and never feel like they’re designing their life in a streamlined way.
They don’t give themselves a defined space in which to test specific behaviors or approaches to see what works for them.
If you remember anything from this video, I want that to be the thing you remember.
Step 4: Feedback
At the end of the testing period, you are going to evaluate. So at the end of January, I’ll sit down and ask myself, did this work for me? Did I stick with it? Is there anything I want to change or adjust about my approach? How long do I want my next testing phase to last?
If you approach your life this way, you can be constantly testing new things for short periods of time and keeping what works. This will give you a great sense of fun, excitement, and novelty, which is something that we desperately need as adults, amiright? It will also give you a concrete way to follow a step-by-step process and design the life you want, piece by piece.
If you are looking for a next step, check out my blog where I talk all about How to Set Goals You’ll Actually Stick With, that will help narrow down the list that you have from the ideation step. Then you can figure out which goal to start with.
Also, make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel where I talk about goal setting, designing the life you want, and the real science behind change. I would love to have you along for the ride. See you later!