Some years back I found myself in a situation I never imagined would happen to me. I felt completely stuck!
Stuck in a career path I did no longer relate to, stuck in a city I no longer saw my future in and stuck in believes that no longer served me.
But what had gone “wrong”? Why did I had the feeling that this life I had constructed so carefully did no longer belong to me?
I had everything I wanted, everything I had worked for so hard. My career had evolved exactly as I planned and hoped for and my life abroad was exactly the life I had dreamt of.
Looking back I now understand what had happened.
I had turned into a Life Planner.
I tried to plan my future as accurate as possible based on external role models, on “should do” believes and based on what made sense.
While being busy planning as good as possible I totally missed out re-connecting with myself along this path and cross-checking if everything I was planning was still aligned with all that truly mattered to me, my values, my life essentials and my aspirations.
Becoming a Life Designer
Admitting I had navigated myself into a dead end street and letting go of many things, places and believes was the first important step to get un-stuck.
Little by little I started to re-connect with the person that I had grown into over the last years. I started to re-connect with the activities and the places and the causes that made me feel alive, authentic and in “flow”.
I turned into a student, once again. I turned into a “gringa” in a foreign country, once again. And I turned into an entrepreneur, for the first time in my life. But most importantly I turned into someone who started to “test” his way forward rather than “plan” his way forward.
In short, I turned into a Life Designer.
But what does this mean. Designing your life instead of planning it?
You first have to start with where you are right now, start empathising with the person you are and with all that truly matters to you at this moment in your life. You have to create a realistic picture of your life, not the “should versions” of it.
This requires opening up your mind and letting go of outdated mind models, being honest with yourself and others, being vulnerable, being aware of what truly matters and it requires knowing when to compromise or to postpone and when to pursue your dreams relentlessly.
Defining your challenge is the second step of the life designing process. Too often we just re-locate issues from one life area to another hoping to find the easy way out.
A “workaholic pattern” might be the unfulfilling relationship you are too afraid to break off. The desperate search for a good “work-life balance” might actually be the job you no longer feel connected to. Looking underneath what you might think is your problem is often revealing a completely new challenge. Not an easy task.
But always keep this in mind: The challenge you define is the point of reference for your next steps ahead and for the ideas you develop. So it better be the right one.
The following steps, ideating and prototyping are the easy part of the process. Become playful again, try out stuff, ask for directions and experience whatever you think might work for you in the future in small, easy to conduct prototypes. A volunteer engagement, an empathic conversation, an internship, job shadowing or “test living” a city or occupation during your vacations. Prototyping is experiencing right now and as realistic as possible the future that you want to create.
The last step is testing your way forward. You became aware of what is happening in your life, you became aware of what is missing in your life, you built and experienced your prototypes and after making your choice you are now ready to move ahead. One step at a time and most importantly always conscious to remain connected to yourself.
Living your life with the mindset of a designer does not mean that you will never feel stuck or lost again. There will always be times ahead where we you might doubt your path, doubt your professional and personal choices and doubt your life design. This is part of the process.
But, being a life designer means that you pay closer attention when things start to go off track and react to it faster and with more empathy, self-compassion and self-awareness.
So, are you still planning or already designing?
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