I first learned about Designing Your Life while attending a non-profit leadership training seminar. A faculty member from Stanford’s Design School conducted the half-day workshop; we were introduced to design thinking and then prototyped an alarm clock applying DYL principles. I was intrigued by the concept, especially since my job and career were in transition (and turmoil) at the time.
I love to buy books, especially when I have a problem. So, I bought the book…and it sat on my bookshelf for five years! While many people can read the book and successfully apply DYL principles, I didn’t have the time or energy to do the work on my own. When I saw DYL migrate to an online format due to Covid, I jumped at the opportunity. I enrolled in the January 2021 course, which was a great time to start planning for my post-Covid life.
I’m a few months out from this experience, but three key benefits have stayed with me:
The Impact of a Life Design Community
From the very first session, it was clear that this was a unique community. There were 53 women in my cohort, so we frequently broke into small groups for discussion. My first breakout session was with a younger woman raised and working in South America and a woman my age in Canada. Through guided discussion questions, each of us actively listened and provided careful feedback. Even though we were total strangers from different backgrounds, we easily found common ground and bonded. I was also much more open to feedback from them; they were able to share observations with me that I probably would have resented from my closest friends.
The support continues to this day. When the workshop wrapped up in March, a group of us continued to meet monthly to share updates, successes, and challenges. We hold each other accountable and support each other in a very constructive way.
Understanding “My Story”
Early in the workshop, participants reflect upon “my story” – the narratives and beliefs that define our life choices. This exercise includes an examination of dysfunctional beliefs – the thoughts in our own minds that hold us back from achieving our goals, and I had many! This is a powerful exercise, and it laid the foundation for the program.
Framing and Reframing the Problem
Understanding “my story” helped me with the next key step: framing and reframing the problem to get ideas. Through large and small group discussions, I worked to reframe my problems (both real and perceived) from “I can’t do this because….” to “What if I tried it this way”? The small group discussions and ideation session pushed my thinking even more. This exercise was very important when it came to developing my odyssey plans – three viable alternative futures.
New Tools for Life
The DYL workshop gave me peace of mind about my career path and helped me identify how to set goals in other areas of my life, and take tangible steps to meet those goals. DYL is both a toolkit and a process; one that will provide guidance for a myriad of personal and professional challenges. I value the new relationships and the new skill set, and I am so glad that I took the one-month digital journey!