Welcome friends to Episode #139 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. If you’ve wondered why it feels like some people always know exactly what they want, and admire how direct or bold others are, you’ll want to be a designer. How do you take the role of a designer in your own life? How do you create a life that is uniquely your own, not because you’re trying to stand out and be different – but because you are just different. Loving your life is only one thought away and one of the first thoughts to have is that “I am a designer.” Today’s podcast is on taking the Chief Design Officer role in your life.
The Role of Designer
Designers are often thought of as these creative geniuses who seem to have avant garde or visionary thoughts and ideas. They don’t just manufacture products, they are the creators of the ideas before things come into form.
This distinction is important because companies often give the job of idea creation to a select few, so you may not be as practiced in thinking as a creator. You’re likely in a position where you edit, refine and come up with how to execute upon a decision that was already made. Yet, no matter how much power you think or don’t think you have to influence, you have a limitless capacity to create and think on your own. It will be one of the most important skills when you make the shift to thinking of making changes in your own life.
When you consider that there are so many different things a designer can do, making decisions is the most important. What makes the cut? What is the focus? The same goes for you and your life. Making decisions is your job, no one else’s. You cannot relegate this task to someone else. You have to learn how to make decisions about your own life or someone else will do it for you and you’ll live a version of yourself that was someone else’s design. I remember growing up thinking that the best thing to do was figure out what the “best of” list looks like and go do or buy everything off that list.
I loved the idea of an already curated list of investment pieces or places to go and also loved reading reviews. While it made it very likely that I would try to find the “best of” place and actually go there or have the thing, what it didn’t do for me was make it any easier to figure out what I wanted to do if there wasn’t a “best of” list. I remember even things like booking travel when I had a young child seemed like it would take hours. I just wanted some quick formula to figure out how much time I should spend with my kids versus work. I knew that there was an easier way to do this but I couldn’t figure out how to until I took on more and more of that designer role.
Designers seem to have an air of self-assurance and a knowing that “of course this is the way.” While I’m not saying you should assume everything and ignore people’s opinions completely, there are so many of the little things that you do that you may not even realize that you start to live a life that isn’t really yours. Who created these “best of” lists and is it really true? Is it the main thing you should use for your decision-making? It’s not a black or white answer but you’ll find that there is likely so many more options for happiness and enjoyment than you realize.
Take on the role of a designer in your life and you’ll see everything change quicker than you realized was possible because you stop waiting for someone else to decide for you.
This is why you think designers are decisive. They are. You are decisive.
Now that you’re decisive, how do you make decisions? What will you sharpen your decision-making around?
I teach my clients that purpose is the highest design of their life. This will be what you stand for. This is what shapes your strengths, personality and motivations. It is the intersection of all of these different aspects of your life and it is how you show up and add value to your community, relationships and the world around you.
It is how you stand out, without even trying. You are unique because everyone has a unique expression of purpose and what drives them. It makes branding easier and increases your confidence in your decision making because suddenly there is alignment.
For example, there was a time when I was getting caught up in whether or not I should run retreats as part of my business. Financially, retreats add costs and they can lower the margin of your business. But, when I thought about who I serve and why – it made so much sense. At first I tried not doing them and it just didn’t feel right. Not only that, I had people asking for them and I realized that in trying to follow a set of rules about what makes sense financially and what doesn’t, I had ignored my own authority.
The amazing thing about ignoring your authority is that it will often come back somehow in the form of a question or feeling that you cannot shake. Until you do the thing that does feel like it makes sense not just rationally but in your body and heart as well.
Many of us don’t tap into our more visceral reactions thinking that they are not to be trusted. Yet, if you’ve spent a lot of time tapping into that head and rational space, you’re likely underutilizing your body and the way it knows things before you do.
When we think about art, we often have this sense of people who don’t live in the real world. They don’t have real world concerns and bills to pay or maybe they’re starving artists. Yet, we also are completely driven in a world full of art and design. If you actually think about everything that you see around you, it started in someone’s mind.
You notice that over the course of the day, you will have so many thoughts about what you should or shouldn’t do with your day, life, time – the list goes on. It is strange that we don’t question it at all. We don’t question that out of the many thoughts we happen to focus on one that feels awful. Thoughts like, “you don’t know what you’re doing” or “people don’t want what you have to offer” or “who do you think you are – you’re not supposed to be doing this.”
You have to design your mind the same way you have to design your life. Question it all. Do not assume that you’ve already figured it all out and that this is just the way things are.
That kind of thinking is what leads to a life we don’t love. It’s what leads us to saying “it would be nice, but….” instead of “I’m doing this thing and learning so much about life in the process.”
Designing is going to be the most simple thing you can do to change the way the rules are written so that they are in your favor.
The other day I had a dream that there was a scroll where everything crossed off and only one thing remained. It was a sense of knowing that there are no rules, you get to write them. Design and make decisions over and over again. You don’t need to change your life completely, but you do want to make the decisions to finally do the things you’ve been thinking about for years. There is no more thinking that will help. There is only deciding and doing.
Finding your Design
The highest design for your life is going to be your purpose. It will solve many questions in your life, yet most people don’t know their purpose.
I want you to think about a question that you have about your life. Maybe it’s “what I should do next with my career?” Is it really that hard to answer? No, it’s not. What keeps us feeling like we’re stuck or that we don’t know the answer is because we see so many possibilities that we’re worried about picking the wrong one. We humans fear making decisions that lead to failure. That’s why we like to pick things that keep our options open. Yet, we know that only when we truly commit to something, do we achieve the depth of experience that gives us expertise or allows us to add value in an entirely different way.
It’s like we’re finally staking a claim in trying to say that maybe we actually stand for something. That might feel hard because you might alienate people or disappoint others in the process. That feeling of disappointing others is often way more important or heavy than the feeling of disappointing ourselves. More important than the fear of not doing what our inner knowing or intuition is telling us over and over. What you’re doing now is starting to flip the script. You’re starting to feel the weight of your own authority become larger and more out loud. So it’s not just in your head but it’s what you do in your life. It’s how you become someone you trust. You’re not just someone others trust because you do what they ask you to do. You’re someone you now trust and that’s how you develop a relationship with yourself.
When you think of the one thing you want to carve your space around, many of you are really good at many things. What do you want to be best-in-class in? I coach my clients to think about what they want to be best-in-class in and not just average across the board. For me, it was to solve the problems of a spiritual achiever. How do I have meaning and success? How do I bridge the gap between living a life where I have some kind of purpose and impact while also making sure I tend to my human needs like food and shelter? What are the skills a person would need to develop in order to not only enjoy their life but also give something back to the world and communities around them?
I remember that when I started focusing on those questions and those problems that needed to be solved, it was much easier to figure out what was next for me. What started out as a big question (as you’ve seen from my last podcast and the wake up calls that had me realizing that time was short and I wasn’t really doing anything meaningful at the time, even though I had a lot of “good things” going for me). I had a lot of things inside me that didn’t come out and I didn’t spend much time exploring them. I developed a process from my big question that involved everything that I could possibly do narrowed down to a few things that were simpler to define and achieve. These things made sense. It took a lot of the spin out of my head and instead focused me on specifics of what needed to be done next. The specific role, work, company and kind of relationship. The vagueness of a million possibilities reduced to one: help people achieve their needs, their spirituality, understand their purpose and get what they want in life and have fun along the way.
This life design around purpose doesn’t clear up all the problems. Let me be clear. Life hasn’t gotten easier now that I’ve designed my life. Problems still exist and I still have work to do, money to contribute and people who need me. What has changed is how I value my time and what I make problems mean. I know how to make intelligent decisions and mitigate risks in the process. There is a purpose to the pain and a lot less suffering as a result. I know what each hard conversation, failure or mistake leads to and there’s a sense of peace that this will all make sense later, even if it doesn’t now. In my experience coaching achievers through these kinds of transitions, I have learned that the process of change feels scary and hard to commit to without a vision pulling them forward. That vision is their purpose and it influences more than just their work life.
When you design your life to meet your purpose, it can look as specific as how you spend your time each day to what you do for a living. I remember having the hardest time thinking that not doing things was valuable. I had this insatiable desire to achieve and cross things off of to-do lists. Even with planning, I loved going deep and creating my excel sheets and very detailed plans. Yet, it only really paid off when I was doing work and working on things that I was interested in or felt like it meant something to me or my future. There got to be a point where I realized I could plan and create lots of things. I could reframe all I wanted, but I had no overarching frame beyond doing. It’s like you first learn to get excited about just executing. Once you know you can execute, then you start thinking about what you want to direct this energy towards. Imagine that you’re this high-powered thing that can be directed towards anywhere and do anything. Where is that going to go? Then I realized that all of that planning I was doing was covering up for a sense of uncertainty around my life and why I was doing what I was doing.
When I wasn’t designing my life to be aligned with my purpose, I just tried to fill it up. I saw empty time as not very important. I didn’t see that meditation was as critical as getting work done. I didn’t see that being with my family in times they needed me was more important than how much money I could bring home for them.
Yet, the throughline is that you matter more than you realize. You matter and that means that your needs matter. Your curiosities matter. Your questions matter. Whether or not you know what to do next is not a question of just making a decision, it’s a question of examining what’s keeping you from understanding your purpose.
Imagine spending your days filled with the things that matter. Designing your life starts with designing your days. Designing your days starts with your purpose. Starting with purpose is assuming your role as a designer.
“I am a designer.” You can say that. “It’s not for tomorrow for me to be happy and fulfilled. There are no rules. It is my job today I am decisive, I am the Chief Design Officer of my life.”
Own that and feel that in your body. Let that energy reverberate and carry you. You actually will start to see what changes in the level of joy you currently feel versus the level of joy you get to feel. The level of what you experience versus what you actually get to experience.
Achieve your biggest goals this year. Do not wait until the new year comes. Don’t wait until my program starts. Start now and reach out now. You don’t even realize that the first act of even getting on the phone, hitting a button and putting time on the schedule makes the thing you’re thinking about so real. It’s a signal in your body, mind and heart – all in congruence saying that, “I actually believe I’m important enough that my needs matter and for my goals to be brought to life.”
Spiritual Achiever™ coaching program is the place where we take your biggest goals and turn them into reality. Every single time. Your success is guaranteed. Lean into your spiritual practices, achieve more, have better relationships and connect deeply to your mind and body. Reach out at www.mayempson.com/contact. We will discuss what results you’d like to achieve and how you can get started today.