An important step to designing your life is acknowledging and understanding the choices you have in your life, being willing to make the most of those choices, and leveraging the choices you have to select the best path forward for yourself.
Life is not something that just happens to you, and you always have choices. The key to designing the life you really want is knowing exactly what your options are and using all the information at your disposal to make the best selection for you.
Your life is defined by the choices you make. While not everything that happens in your life is up to you, how you respond to life’s circumstances and opportunities is always a matter of choice. Even when you choose not to act or react in your life, you are still making a decision, so there is nothing that is beyond your control.
Becoming Aware of Your Choices
There are certain things in life you cannot control. For example, you have no control over the circumstances of your birth or family, your genetic makeup, or the opportunities you were given as a child. However, your choices can override these circumstances.
Your choices determine how you treat others, how hard you work, and the activities in which you engage at even an early age. This helps form you into the person you become later in life. As you get older, you have free will to choose who to love, what do choose as a career, and ultimately, what you will strive to achieve in life.
Acknowledging that all of these are choices in life, and not things that happen without your consent, is a big step toward designing your life. Choosing to accept responsibility for these choices, and not to blame life or others for the circumstances in which you find yourself, helps you not only move forward from your past but also accept the tremendous power you have to select your future.
You already have all the ability within you to choose the life you want and to design the experiences that will lead you to your goal.
Using Self-Knowledge to Make Better Choices
Developing knowledge about yourself, including your fears and insecurities as well as your strengths and gifts, is essential to designing your life and attaining your goals. Until you truly know yourself, which means getting clear about your beliefs and values, you will always be vulnerable to crafting your life to please others or assessing your accomplishments against what others have achieved.
When you become aware of yourself and your inner longings and desires, you can use that information to better inform the design process for your life. Without knowing your true passions, interests, and strengths, though, you are left making decisions based on poor information.
Without self-knowledge, you are more likely to pursue work or other goals that are unsuited to your talents and passions. Instead of choosing what makes you happy, you may opt to go along with the crowd or take the advice of others when you lack sufficient insight into yourself. This type of decision-making can lead you to invest more of yourself and your money in pursuits that don’t make you happy, too.
Designing Your Life is About Choice
Understanding that life is about choices and you are in charge of those options gives you the power to design the best life for you. Even opting not to choose is a choice, and only you will have to live with the consequences of those choices.
Regardless of your initial circumstances or what you were born with, your life is defined by the choices you make with how to deal with those events and what dreams you strive to attain.
Designing Your Life: What is the Difference Between Journey Goals and Habit Goals?
But what if doing the same thing each day won’t lead to your goal?
What if there are multiple steps? Multiple milestones. This is a Journey Goal.
Before we launch into journey goals, it’s important to figure out what your goals are.
The Problem of Too Many Ideas
Many entrepreneurs have the same problem that I have, where I come up with too many ideas. Everyday, I have at least 10 ideas for a new business or a new product or a new service. This on top of my service business and role of mother. If you read James Althucher’s Choose Yourself, he says to write down 10 ideas a day. So I was doing this. This is not a bad habit but it can lead to mental overwhelm if it is not managed.
A Better Way to Capture your Big Lofty Ideas
Ideas are awesome but if you are not capturing these ideas in a system then you may as well just throw them away. Buy a simple spiral notebook, start an Evernote notebook or write them in my new book, Design Your Lifestyle Roadmap . Consider this your modern day dream catcher.
But don’t stop with just the idea. Write about why this is a good idea and who would benefit. You may find repetition in your idea notebook. The same idea pops up in your mind repeatedly. This is a good thing. As my Missouri heritage says, “The cream rises to the top”
Big Lofty Ideas
One morning on my sunrise walk, trudging along feeling overwhelmed. Just overwhelmed, with all that I had to do. Walking along, looking at the sidewalk and deep in thought. A little voice in my mind said, “Look up….hurry look up.” So I looked up into the sky and saw a huge hot air balloon rising up over the lake I was walking around. I watched it quietly and gently rise higher into the sky. I started to walk again and suddenly another balloon glided into my view. It was just as colorful and graceful as the first one that graced my eyes. Stopping and admiring the sight of two balloons in the air. I began walking again and a third balloon rose from the horizon, this time I was not surprised. While admiring the three beautiful balloons against the pink sky. I heard the little voice again say, “All your ideas are beautiful, Kimberly but you can only launch one at a time.”
So I went back to the idea notebook and I looked at all those ideas I had dumped in there. I landed on writing this book as a starting point for women entrepreneurs who like me may struggle with figuring out what to do next on their entrepreneurial journey.
Designing Your Life as a Journey
Think of it this way: If you plan to take a road trip and want to get a car first, getting a car that can operate well in different terrains will allow you to take a number of different routes to your destination. Even though the destination doesn’t change, you might not want to take the interstate the whole time.
This line of reasoning is particularly important for young people. You are already expected to know what you want to do for a living when you are in high school, but many people change majors at least once while in college.
This is often seen as a problem because what you do for a living is seen as the goal, when the goal should really be living comfortably and being happy – a goal that is not limited by your profession. If you have a plan that is dedicated to eventually achieving financial independence, changing your major or your career path can be seen more as taking a new route rather than not knowing what the plan is.
Your Big Someday Goal Should Be A Little Vague
When considering your most important goals, it is important to make them somewhat vague. The grand-scheme of what we want for our lives isn’t likely to change too much over time, but how we expect to achieve it can change drastically. Of course, that’s okay, but it’s best to make plans that can fit different trajectories or roads to getting there.
Leave Room In Your Design to Change Roads
Of course, what career path you take isn’t the only way that your path toward your goals can change. Many people plan their lives as though they were the only person involved, which is never the case. You should be the focus of your life plan, but when designing your life, never forget that there are other people who can help you in any number of ways.
Include Family & Friends while Designing Your Life
Family may be able to offer financial support. Friends or romantic relationships may be able to offer emotional support. Teachers, bosses, mentors, and other figures can offer advice, access to new resources, or change the path that you take to reach your goals. Be careful about neglecting your loved ones while designing your life. It may seem like it allows you to have a clearer plan with fewer variables. After all, it’s easier to plan what you will do than it is to know what people you will run into or how they will impact your life. However, not allowing these sorts of influences into your life will mean passing up on opportunities and resources that can take you to your goal, even if it means taking an eraser to part of your life’s design plans.
Don’t Carve Your Map in Stone
As in the previous section, the best thing to do is to never have your design plan set in stone. The important thing is keeping the main goal in sight and having a plan that will let you take the best route to that goal, even though you may not know the best roads to take when you sit down to make your plan. You may also find interesting places to stop along the way.
Focus on Your Big Someday Goal but Be Willing to Change Your Path to Getting There
Designing an effective life plan means that you need to keep your goals in mind. The more you focus on your life goals, the more you can tweak your plans to achieve them. It can be tempting to watch the variables to the point that you have no design at all, but this too is risky. Be prepared to go back to the drawing board but be sure that there is always something on that board.
Designing Your Life means Setting Priorities in Life
Designing your life means setting priorities in life. This allows you to focus on what is important to you, to determine what is urgent and needs your attention, and to cut through the clutter that is keeping you from achieving your goals. Figuring out your priorities means you identify what is truly important for you and, therefore, dedicate your time to those tasks, experiences, and people that fulfill your values and beliefs.
Let me give you an example, when I started my own business I wanted to make my family a bigger priority. One of my priorities was having dinner at home with my family every night. This may seem like a small thing to you but to me it was important. You see previously I had been working in downtown Orlando at a college, often I’d have to stay for the evening classes and it was difficult to get home for dinner with my family. I was setting priorities in life that benefited me and my family.
Designing Your Life Means Setting Priorities in Life
Today’s society pulls you in many different directions. It demands you pay attention to a lot of things, and it tries to convince you that all of these things are urgent and necessary. This places you in a perpetual cycle of reacting to things rather than proactively planning how you spend your time. There is tremendous pressure today to put others’ priorities before your own and learning to place your own needs above others is an essential life skill.
This type of focus on other peoples’ demands and needs can quickly lead to disillusionment and dissatisfaction in life. Your priorities get lost in the shuffle, and you are left wondering where in your life there is room for you.
When you learn to shift your life’s priorities back to what is important to you, you are exercising personal choice and living your life in harmony with your own values and goals. So, where do you start when placing priority on yourself?
Step 1. Get Clear About What’s Important to You
Recently, I have started prioritizing my day on Evernote. Below I have used the templates feature to create a simple priority matrix to follow each day.
Here’s what that looks like.
Each day I figure out my #1 thing. Currently, I am working on a new book so this is my #1 Thing. I spend at least 1 hour on this each day. Next I look at my client work that must be done. These are my money making activities. For you it may be other aspects of your job that you list here. After that I plug in those errands that need to be ran. These usually involve driving somewhere. My habit goals are the tasks I give myself each day and this area is a place to remind myself.
My book is called the Design Your Lifestyle Roadmap and I hope to have it done before the end of 2019. I have been playing with how to add this priority matrix into the book. You can download a 2 page weekly spread of how I am thinking of adding it into the book. I’d love your feedback as well. I will put instructions of how to reach me in your download.
Take some time that is just for you and use it to clear your mind and figure out what’s important to you. What do you need to be happy and healthy? What is of utmost importance to you aka your #1 thing? How do you want to live that feels like you are a priority? What habit goals do you want to incorporate into your life.
In the process of designing your life, write it all down, focusing on what is most important to you and what you think will make you most proud years down the road. Don’t concentrate on feasibility or resources or anything else. Just focus on what’s important to you right now. Whittle this list down to your top three to five most important goals. That’s where you need to be spending more time.
Step 2. Inventory Your Time
For one week, write down all your activities. Everything you do in a day, document it. At the end of each day, make a note next to everything you did that is aligned with something you identified as important to you. Everything you make notes on is when you are placing yourself as a priority. Everything else needs attention.
Step 3. Get Rid of the Clutter
Not everything is urgent or necessary in your life. Look at your activities and determine where you are spending time that isn’t necessarily focused on your needs. Where can you delegate, where can you eliminate, and where can you get better organized to cut down on how long it takes you to do mundane or regular tasks? These are spaces for more room in your life, places where priorities have room to grow and breathe.
Add in more of the important things you identified in your reflection.
What do you want, and how can you start working to achieve that today?
Where does that fit into your schedule? If it doesn’t align with your priorities in your priority matrix then draw a line through it or delete it.
Make a date with yourself for designing your life and your priorities and keep the commitment to this time. Start small and work with your schedule over a week or two to see where new priorities are working and where you still need to de-clutter.
Step 4. Remember it’s a Journey
How can you begin setting setting priorities in life?
Prioritizing yourself comes with emotions with which you may need to deal. Guilt and anxiety are two common reactions when prioritizing yourself. Change is gradual, and it will take time to find ways to make this new way of thinking work.
Give yourself a break and stick with it. Check in with yourself regularly to see how things are going, to see if you feel like there’s more room in your life for your priorities.
Be kinder and gentler with yourself, most of all, because you are worth it.