Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyous Life

Burnett-Designing Your LifeDesigning your Life: How to Build a Well-lived, Joyous Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. 

New York: Knopf, 2017. 238 p.  ISBN: 978-1-101-87532-2

I am reviewing a book that the library doesn't own, because you really should buy your own copy of this one. This is a book with directions, exercises, useful "try stuff" pages that invite margin notations, doodles, objections, and questions.

"Designing your life" sounds strange at first. The book is based by two practitioners of "design theory" at Stanford who have taught one of the most popular courses there in the Design program –the home of "human-centered design." Burnett and Evans ultimately ask: what makes you happy? through the medium of design process: try, prototype, critique, try again:

  • Be curious;
  • Try stuff;
  • Reframe problems;
  • Know it's a process;
  • Ask for help

They reframe a lot of dysfunctional beliefs: you won't have one perfect life, rather:" you can have multiple plans and lives with you; we judge our life by the outcome, rather: life is a process, not an outcome. Their chapters, "How not to find a job" and "Designing your dream job" should be required reading for all college seniors –example: dysfunctional belief: I am looking for a job; reframe: I am pursuing a number of offers.

This sounds very like happy-clappy self-help, but its not: they ask some tough questions. They move in a counter-cultural direction: the things that we say that we want (a good grade) are not the things that will really make us happy. It would be really interesting to read this book along with Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow as a way to identify our own dysfunctional beliefs and cognitive fallacies.

Be curious. Go out and get a copy (or download a copy). Try stuff. Reframe your dysfunctional beliefs. Learn that happiness is a process, too. There is no right choice –there is only good choosing.