Designing Your Life Part 3

By Shekeitha L. Jeffries, Assistant Director of Student Life

“Designers don’t think their way forward. Designers build their way forward.”  – Design Your Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

This is the final segment of this series. In the previous post, we discussed five design thinking ideas on how to increase self-efficacy from the TEDx Talk, Designing Your Life. Today, we will dive deeper into design thinking idea #3 and you will learn how to create an odyssey plan. By designing an odyssey plan, you map out three different versions for your life, for the next five years.  

Outlined below is the rubric that Bill Burnett recommends to design your odyssey plan:

  • Alternative Plan #1: Your first odyssey plan is your life as it is now. What are you currently doing?  What can you do to improve your life over the next five years?
  • Alternative Plan #2: This plan is your back up plan to your first plan. What if you the thing you’re currently doing suddenly ends? What happens if you experience a financial hardship and you’re no longer able to attend school? What will you do if your job is suddenly eliminated? What side hustle do you have, to make this plan work?
  • Alternative Plan #3: Your final plan is your wild card – it’s a plan that allows you to step out of your comfort zone and do something completely different.  What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money? What you do if you didn’t care what people thought? What would you do if you knew no one would laugh at you?

To get started with your odyssey plan, click here for the worksheet and follow these directions below (Burnett and Evans, 2016, p. 105):  

  1. Create three alternative five year-plans, using the worksheet provided.
  2. Give each alternative plan a descriptive six-word title and write down three questions that arise out of each version of you.
  3. Complete each gauge on the dashboard – ranking each alternative for resources likeability, confidence, and coherence.
  4. Present your plan to another person, a group, or your Life Design Team.  Note how each alternative energizes you.

Move forward in the design thinking process, by prototyping each of your alternative plans and make adjustments as needed. Choose the alternative plan that works best for you and according to Bill Burnett, you will design a well lived and joyful life!

Designing Your Life Part 2

By Shekeitha L. Jeffries, Assistant Director of Student Life

In the previous post, we discussed dysfunctional beliefs that may hinder personal growth.  Below are five design thinking ideas from the TEDx Talk on Designing Your Life, that will help increase your self-efficacy as you move forward in the design thinking process.

  • IDEA #1: CONNECTING THE DOTS – To live a life that is meaningful and purposeful, you must know who you are, what you believe and what you do in the world.  To begin connecting the dots, examine your life-view and your work-view.  Your life-view is your understanding of the world and the ultimate reason why you’re here. Your work-view, goes beyond what you want out of work – it’s your definition, of what good work should entail. If you’re able to make a connection between these two views and create a coherent story, you may begin to experience a more meaningful life.
  • IDEA #2: GRAVITY & ACCEPT Gravity problems are circumstances we experience yet cannot change.  To live a meaningful life, we must accept this reality, have an open mindset and be willing to focus on problems that we can actually solve.  
  • IDEA #3: HOW MANY LIVES ARE YOU?  –  In his design thinking courses, Professor Burnett does a thought experiment with his students, and asks them imagine to themselves living in multiple, parallel universes.  At the end of the experiment, his students realize that they have more than one life– or interests that they want to explore. In order for us to discover our many lives, we must create an odyssey plan to explore alternative lives. 
  • IDEA #4: PROTOTYPING – In the design thinking process, you will generate ideas to help you move forward. However, to be successful, you must build a protype of your ideal life. Protyping allows you to test out your ideas, when you aren’t sure about what you really want. You can protype your ideal life, by talking to someone who is doing what you want to do or by actually doing what you want to do.
  • IDEA #5: CHOOSING WELL –  Determining which option to choose can be difficult because of fear of making the wrong decision or FOMO. According to Professor Burnett, if you make decisions reversible, your chances of being happy goes down about 60%-70%.  The process of choosing well requires that you: gather and create options to explore; narrow down your options to lists that you can work with; make a choice; then let go and then move on – it’s that simple!  Stand by your choice and make your decision irreversible. 

Take a few minutes to reflect upon the principle that you want to implement today.  How will this principle help improve your life? We will conclude the design thinking series, by creating an odyssey plan: a five-year plan that will explore alternative paths you can realistically pursue to design the life you want.

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.