Design Your Life: Stop Living on Autopilot
Think about where you’d like to take your family for a vacation. The Bahamas? Europe? Asia? Take your pick.
How’re you going to get to the Bahamas? Probably by air, right? Ok. So, let’s say you’ve chosen Airline A, because they had the best prices and you booked a couple of months in advance.
Now, where are you going to stay when you’re vacationing? You’ve probably looked at a few hotels, compared their rates. What about destinations? Surely you’ve made a list of things to do and places to see while you’re in the Bahamas.
Now I’d like you to consider a second scenario. You’re at the airport with your wife and kids, and you have no idea where you’re going. You don’t know where you’re going to stay, or how you’re going to get to a place to stay. Does that sound like fun? Probably not.
And yet, this is probably EXACTLY how you’re living your life right now. If you went through several stages of meticulous planning for a week-long vacation, why wouldn’t you do it for your life?
Living on Autopilot
You’ve seen several feats of architecture during your lifetime. You’ve even seen several great works of art. Do you think those great buildings just HAPPENED to come together? Did a bunch of workers sit around one day stacking bricks on top of another, and eventually a magnificent structure was formed?
Sounds ludicrous, right? That’s because it is ludicrous.
We’re trapped in soul-crushing jobs, doing what we don’t like for less money than we’re worth. Why?
Because we never stop to think.
We’re frustrated by our families, spouses and friends. We wake up each morning disgruntled, and go to bed exhausted.
Something needs to change.
Designing Your Life
If you’re stuck, unsatisfied and unfulfilled right now, you need to design your life.
Now before your inner voice “I go with the flow, man/dude/bro!” hijacks your train of thought, think of all of the things you want to achieve in your life. You might want a certain amount of money, a particular car or a certain kind of lifestyle. Whatever it is, keep it in mind as you read on.
If you could step outside yourself and look at your life on a timeline that stretches all the way into the past and the future, what would you want to see on it?
Now take a piece of paper and a pen, and write it down. In excruciating detail. If you’re writing about a car, mention the color and make. If you’re writing about money, mention an amount. Don’t worry if it sounds ridiculous to you right now. Just write it down.
Now every single day you wake up, look at that list. Look at it all the way through before you begin your day.
The things that are important to you
Now, try to think about your priorities. These are more abstract, lifestyle concepts that you would like to have. What is important to you?
Maybe it’s having enough free time in the day to pick up the nice new camera you bought and learn manual.
Maybe it’s spending more time with your family/
Maybe it’s eating healthier.
Once you’ve listed out your priorities, try to rank them from most to least important. These are your outlines, the broad strokes within which you’ll fill the colors of your life. by understanding what is important, you will naturally weed out things that aren’t.
Once you’ve laid out your goals and priorities on paper, you will have a clearer picture of what you want your life to look like. You will have a tangible series of goals and a set of guidelines to help you achieve those goals.
Your dream is to be a photographer? Maybe you shouldn’t spend 60 hours a week balancing accounts.
You want to be healthy and pain-free? Maybe you should stop eating sugary bagels and coffee for breakfast.
Once you’ve understood the idea behind designing your life, it’s time to take some action. What are you doing right now that is incompatible with your life goals?
Are you stuck in a toxic relationship?
Are you in the wrong line of work?
Is there a set of skills you need to learn?
Do you need to be more assertive about what you want?
Start. Right now. Take one small step today that will get you closer to where you want to be.
Already, you should have a lot of insights into what you’re doing wrong. So much of our suffering and anguish comes from feeling that we have no control over our lives. By designing your life, you are taking the wheel. You’re no longer hurtling towards an uncertain future, hoping and praying that something will happen.
There’s always going to be uncertainty. There’s always going to be things that go wrong. But by taking control of your own life, you will be able to make decisions that will benefit you in the long run. You’ll know what you’re working towards. You’ll know when you’ve achieved one of your goals, because you’ve got it all written down.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? – Mary Oliver, The Summer Day