Rather than spending New Year’s Eve on resolutions, what if you decided you were going to spend January designing your life? Prof. Dave Evans and Prof. Bill Burnett of Stanford write in their book, “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life,” “Your life is not a thing, it’s an experience; the fun comes from designing and enjoying the experience.”
I have spent more than 30 years helping clients try to escape from unfulfilling work, often for them to find that their job change was not satisfying either. I have worked with others who, by being forced out of a job, found something that re-energized them. Some clients have left jobs they loved for money or moved from established communities for opportunity, only to be disappointed. And others have had a far more successful outcome.
Designing your life brings “coherence between who you are, what you believe, and what you are doing,” write Evans and Burnett. One of our clients managed to do this through hands on service work (not board work) that helped her look at her occupation differently. The outside work helped her view her inside work through eyes of service, rather than simply as a highly stressful job.
Understand where you are. You may legitimately feel stuck because of things over which you have no control. But there are other opportunities where you may have created artificial barriers. One of our clients was desperate to escape the Minnesota winters but was in no position to retire. Instead, they were able to change how they worked by forwarding their phones to a winter location and returned here occasionally for face-to-face meetings. While it cost them more to fly back and forth, they were able to work longer because they no longer needed to escape their life.
Most of us look at our future as one long path, but our lives don’t really work that way. I have been married 33 years, but we have had many marriages during this time — building our careers, raising young kids, teenagers through the college years and now an empty nest. If you think of your life in shorter increments, it can be easier to make adjustments.
The authors encourage a variety of ways to help design your life, including brainstorming, prototyping (trying something before committing to it), and contemplating three alternative plans — what you currently do, what you would do if this were gone and what you would do if image or money were no object.
If you spend more time on your life design, you may not need resolutions.
Spend your life wisely.
Ross Levin is the founding principal of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina.