There are two things that I'm sure of in life: 1) the sun will rise tomorrow, and 2) we only get one chance at this wild thing called life. Of course, we all want to live our best lives, but how do we make that happen? The answer is simple: Putting down your phone and getting really honest with yourself about what you want from this big ball of dust spinning around a nuclear explosion.
The good news is that it's never too late to start designing your life—just look at Oprah! But let's be honest: You have a lot on your plate right now: work projects and family obligations, carpooling, and cleaning toilets. Maybe you're even thinking about taking over the world someday soon (who isn't?). So how do we make all these competing priorities work together?
Recognize that you have this one wild and precious life, and you get to design it.
You have the opportunity to design your life. You're not stuck doing what other people expect of you or even what you think they expect of you. Your life is yours to live, and it's up to you how much time and energy it takes.
It's easy to let yourself be pulled in different directions by other people's expectations—to allow others' ideas about who should be doing what and where to become your own constructs—but the only way for a person with deep aspirations like yours will succeed is if they're intentional about their goals.
Being proactive means taking action toward what we want:
Setting specific goals for ourselves
Making a plan to achieve those goals
Getting feedback from trusted sources on whether our strategy is working (and tweaking when necessary).
Give yourself permission and space to be creative.
Have you ever felt like your creativity is on the fritz? Do you have an excellent idea for a project or venture that just sits in your head because you're afraid to do anything about it?
Creativity is a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly. If you never use the creative parts of your brain, then they'll atrophy over time and become less effective when called upon. You might even become more rigid, afraid to try something new lest it goes wrong. But this isn't just about being creative; flexibility is also essential for overcoming obstacles (which we'll discuss next).
If this sounds like common sense, why are so many people paralyzed by fear when trying to develop new ideas? Because their default setting is "no." They're so used to saying no that they don't even realize how often they do it until someone points out what's going on in their life.
Start with a vision or dream for your life, then outline the steps you need to take to achieve it.
This first step is crucial because it's easier to know precisely what you want or need with a clear vision for your life. You might think it's enough to say, "I want more money" or "I want a better job," but those are vague statements that don't help get you from point A (where you are now) to point B (where the life you desire is). We can plan our steps accordingly if we know where we're going and how we'll get there.
For this process to be effective, however, we need something more than just words—we need specific details about what our desired outcome looks like. For example:
What does having more money mean?
Will I be able to pay off all my debts?
Will I have enough left each month, so I don't have to worry about budgeting?
How much do I need before considering myself financially independent?
What does getting "better" at my job mean?
Will it mean earning promotions and increased responsibilities at work?
Will it involve moving into management and running my own team one day?
Do other employees view me as someone who makes their jobs easier by handling the administrative tasks they hate so much?
Will they see me as someone who always helps them out when necessary, going above and beyond, even if no one is watching or expecting anything from me in return?
What does being able to take care of myself without relying on others look like for me specifically: Is it simply being able to cook dinner every night without needing anyone else around; am I talking about having emergency savings fund large enough that if something happened today tomorrow would not be affected by not having access resources; finally how might this change over time based on factors such as career advancements which may lead towards higher incomes but increase expenses associated with living alone etcetera."
Once you have an outline for the steps, create goals.
Once you have an outline for the steps, create goals. These small, actionable steps will help you achieve your main goal. They're specific enough that they can be measured and tracked.
Goals should be measurable (i.e., "I want to lose 10 lbs"), achievable (i.e., "I want to lose two pounds this week"), realistic (i.e., not setting a goal of losing 25 lbs in three days) and written down so that they are easily visible and accessible. Once you've broken down each plan into smaller parts, set deadlines for each one—this keeps things moving forward steadily!
Make sure that these goals align with your mission statement: if something doesn't align with your mission statement or values, then don't do it just because it's a good idea—if it doesn't fit into the bigger picture of what matters most to you in life at this moment then it's probably not worth pursuing right now."
For each goal, define the mission that will help you achieve the goal.
Once you've defined your goals, it's time to explain the mission. A mission is where you want to be in the future or a piece of advice to help you achieve those goals. For example:
You might say, "I want to get my Ph.D. and become a professor at an Ivy League school." That goal could be broken down into smaller goals, such as "I want to teach English literature classes at Yale University" or "I want to teach poetry classes at Harvard University." The mission for achieving this goal would be, "I want to inspire students with my passion for teaching literature and poetry so that they go on to pursue advanced degrees themselves (or become poets)."
Create a plan for how to complete your mission.
Once you've defined your mission, the next step is to create a plan for how to achieve it. And by 'create a plan,' I mean ensuring that each step toward making your mission happen is clearly identified. When you do this, you can allocate resources—time, money, people—to each step. You might even want to list and prioritize the actions based on their importance or complexity.
For your plan to be helpful in real life, it needs milestones: specific points in time when progress should be made toward achieving goals (or at least evidence of progress). These are also good times for reviewing whether any changes need to be made or adjustments. Hence, things stay on track with what's been established as important!
A final helpful thing is identifying all potential risks associated with your project (in case any arise). This will help keep you sane if things don't work out as planned or if something unexpected occurs during execution time!
Set specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic goals with deadlines attached.
Set specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic goals with deadlines attached.
"I want to be able to play basketball again" is a vague goal that doesn't have a definitive time frame or location.
"I will start playing basketball with my friends at the gym on Tuesdays at 5 p.m., and I'll run on Mondays and Thursdays after work so that I can lose weight as well as get fit enough to play basketball again" is specific (where?) and includes both measurable progress (weight loss) as well as an end goal (play basketball).
Build accountability by sharing your plans with your support system.
Sharing your plans with a support system is a great way to stay accountable to your goals. In addition, a support system can help you stay motivated and on track and provide encouragement when you're feeling down.
Some of the ways you could share your plans include:
Sharing them with friends or family interested in working toward similar goals.
Hiring an accountability coach (for example, one who specializes in helping you create habits). This can be expensive, but it also has the potential to pay off big time if you're serious about getting results from this program!
Post your goals online so other people can see what they're doing for work/life balance and offer suggestions or encouragement along the way.
Your life is yours to design. You can create the life you want, but it takes planning and consistency.
Your life is yours to design. You can create the life you want, but it takes planning and consistency. I've been fortunate enough to have a few people who were willing to help me along my path in design—including my husband, who's never been afraid of "the scarves," and my friends at work who always listen when I need someone to talk through an idea with me.
They've given me confidence that even though we might not be able to see our future selves as clearly as we'd like, if we believe in ourselves and keep working toward our goals every day, then eventually, they will become a reality.
The key to designing your life is to make sure you plan and create the life you want. That's it! There are no hard and fast rules, just what makes sense. We've covered some basic steps here, but I'm sure you have your own methods for getting started toward living out your dreams. The point is that we all have this one wild and precious life—so why not design it?