DYL: A good book and more

Designing Your Life Designing Your Life is a movement that transformed my life. I learned of it just as my hard-fought campaign for a full-time job was giving way to a tentative return, with feelings of defeat and trepidation, to freelancing.  

I ordered the book Designing Your Life: How to build a well-lived, joyful lifewith hopes it would help me do the following:

  • Embrace my life and career as they were
  • Recover my confidence and increase my joy
  • Maybe help me make money

It succeeded on my first two points way beyond my wildest imagining and it certainly hasn’t kept me from earning more. 

The book was written by long-time Stanford profs Bill Evans and Dave Burnett, who have counseled countless students and designed a popular class on the topic. In it, the authors show readers how to apply to their lives the same design process that is taught in classes at Stanford. Published in 2016, the book was followed in 2018 by The Designing Your Life Workbook: A Framework for Building a Life You Can Thrive In.I receive email updates and I sometimes visit the website, designingyour.life, for more details on activities of the movement. 

I’ve always been interested in design, so the book resonated with me. I liked the way the initial assessment was based on a Health/Work/Play/Love Dashboard and the compass addressed workview-lifeview integration. At the end of Chapter Two, the authors state, “I won’t always know where I’m going – but I can always know whether I’m going in the right direction.”

I had fun doing mind mapping (starting around page 70) and through substitute teaching I’ve learned that this sort of bubbly graphic approach to understanding is in vogue these days. I also liked the Odyssey plans in Chapter Five where, again using graphics, I could project different life scenarios, including work, personal life and more. These plans are the capstone of the authors’ DYL class.

Not only do I enjoy the Designing Your Life process, which is ongoing, but I also learned some important lessons, which include the following.

You don’t have to identify your greatest passion before embarking on a well-lived, joyful life.In the introduction, the authors state, “Many people operate under the dysfunctional belief that they just need to find out what they are passionate about. … We hate this idea for one very good reason: most people don’t know their passion.”

Recruiters don’t need older applicants. I was already in my 60s when I started my campaign for a PFT position. My previous work as a reservist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency often felt like full-time work, and I thought I should replace that with something similar. But, in Chapter Seven, titled “How Not To Get A Job,” Burnett and Evans talk about “cool companies.” A cool company is “a hot, growing, successful company that everyone wants to work for.” They hire only the most outstanding candidates and turn down many with extraordinary qualifications.  Applying this principle to my job-searching experience, I reasoned that any good job that pays well above a living wage would attract multiple qualified candidates. If I would ever get into the final five candidates, as happened a few times, at least three of the others would be younger than I was. There would be no incentive to hire an older candidate (duh!). As I heard someone say later, recruiters don’t want to risk hiring someone who is going to age out of the work force. While this wasn’t a welcome insight, it was good to embrace this truth. 

Of course, I should be working gigs.I don’t recall exactly where I had this epiphany, but it probably had something to do with the folly of seeking full-time work at my age (see above). At any rate, by the time I had finished the exercises and book, I felt good about returning to freelancing. Like researching, writing and editing, freelancing is something I’ve done all of my life, I’m good at it and I love it!

After committing to this process, it would be hard not to be joyful.The authors caution against second-guessing life choices. At the end of Chapter Nine, they state, “Designers don’t apologize. They … don’t waste their futures by hoping for a better past. Life designers see the adventure in whatever life they are currently building and living into. This is how you choose happiness.” 

By helping me develop a clear vision of what I want to do and helping me realize the joy in that, the book transformed my life. It also made me a great disciple. I gave the book to my son and recommended it to students in classes where I substitute and occasionally to perfect strangers. Recently, the certification programs on the website have caught my eye and I sometimes think I would like to attend a women’s workshop and then to serve as a mentor in workshops for seniors.

Maybe I’ll do a mind map and Odyssey plan to see how those notions fit into the current design for my life.