Designing Your Life Part 1

By: Shekeitha L. Jeffries, Assistant Director of Student Life

Three Part Series: 1 of 3

In 2017, Stanford University professor and author, Bill Burnett presented a TEDx Talk, on how he helps scholars design their lives using the technique of design thinking. Design thinking can help you design and create a lifestyle that is meaningful as well as fulfilling. As a student at JHSPH, you have the ability to design your life by maximizing all opportunities and resources that the School has to offer! To begin the design thinking process, be willing to have an open mindset, try something that has never been done before, and confront dysfunctional beliefs.

Dysfunctional beliefs can hinder you from working toward your personal and professional career goals. Here are few mentioned in the TedXtalk:

  • Dysfunctional Belief  #1: You can only be passionate about one thing. According to a Stanford study, less than 20% of people have one identifiable passion in their lives. This study found that eight out of ten people have multiple interests (passions).  In design thinking, passion is not an organizing principle for your search or your design. If you have several things that you are passionate about, you can pursue them all – by designing a plan to help you execute your ideas into motion.
  • Dysfunctional Belief  #2: You should know where you’re going by now and how to get there. You may have family and friends who have unrealistic expectations for you. According to Professor Burnett, people must be accepted for who they are, and should not be expected to have certain things by a particular age or designated time. They believe that anyone can start designing the life they want, from where they are.
  • Dysfunctional Belief  #3: Be the best version of you! This belief implies that there is one singular best. However, there are many versions of a person. For example, although you are a graduate student, you may be an executive at a large company, a parent, or a sibling. No matter which hat you wear at a given time, there’s only one you, and you are truly the best.

Are there cultural or societal ideologies that you believe are hindrances? Take a few moments to reflect upon these beliefs, write them down, and then commit to moving forward. In part two of this series, I will share five design thinking strategies from Dr. Burnett to help empower you in designing your life on your own terms.

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