If You Don’t Design Your Life – Someone Else Will

17 December 2023
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Ever felt like you’re watching the story of your life unfold with no control?

I have, for many years. It’s a disorienting feeling, comparable to being swept away in a river with no say toward the current.

Not designing your way of life is an oversight that leads to profound dissatisfaction, unfulfilled dreams, and a persistent sense of unmet potential.

Picture this: a life where you’re on autopilot, each day blending into the next with no sense of purpose.

The combination of societal expectations, the influence of others, and the relentless pace of modern living has you on the brink of burnout.

In this narrative, the protagonist – YOU – has no authority and no standards for the life you are living.

At its core, the good life is about taking a deliberate and conscious approach to creating the kind of lifestyle you want to live.

It’s you making choices that align with your values, passions, and aspirations

If you don’t design your life, someone else will do it for you and eventually everything will fall apart.

Factors Influencing the Design of Your Life

Social Media

In this hyper-connected world, where everyone wants your attention, social media plays a big role in shaping your perceptions and aspirations.

The curated images and stories you encounter on platforms like Instagram and Facebook create a distorted sense of reality.

When you compare your life to the highlight reels of others, it guides your choices and priorities.

It’s important to realize and acknowledge the immense significance of curating your social media feed.

Your life is being shaped, whether or not you like it, by the people you choose to follow and the content you choose to consume.

Social Norms and Expectations

Society imposes norms and expectations that influence the path of your life.

These norms influence everything, from your career choices, relationships, and lifestyle decisions.

When you obey to social expectations, you are more often than not led down a path that doesn’t align with your authentic self.

We live in an overworked, burned out, consumerism-driven society.

If you don’t take action, social norms and expectations will design your life for you.

Instead, think of social norms and expectations as a menu that someone else has curated. You don’t have to buy everything on the menu.

The empowering aspect of being a human being in this age is that you have the freedom to create your own menu.

Family and Cultural Background

The values instilled by your family and cultural background not only contribute, but sometimes take over the design of your life.

These influences shape your beliefs about success, relationships, and personal fulfillment, affecting every choice you make if you let them.

Keep in mind that the world is changing so fast that what worked for your parents may not work for you.

So how do we know which family and cultural values to adopt and which to abandon?

The way I think about this is pragmatic. If it makes a difference in my day-to-day life by improving my mental, physical health, or my relationships, I will embrace it.

Education and Career Paths

Being an educator for the last five years has taught me that the education system is a cog in the machine of life.

When you make educational and career choices, you’re making big life decisions that are often influenced by what society wants, family pressures, or what others want for you.

You pay little attention to your own desires, instead focusing on what others want.

The career choices you make shape your life’s trajectory and affect your overall well-being.

If money wasn’t an issue, what would you do?

Are you putting your talents and skills to use on the current path you are on?

Working and sleeping and are the two activities that will consume most of your life, so it’s crucial that you get them right.

If you work with something you hate, it’s gonna drain your energy and that will affect your sleep negatively.

When a person is sleep deprived, they make a lot of bad choices.


Display of consumer goods and services shapes your perceptions of what is desirable and successful.

The messages told through media influence your lifestyle choices, consumer behavior, and even your self-esteem and health.

Feelings of anxiety or sadness? Take a pill.
Do you have aches and pains? Take a pill.
Having a hard time focusing? Take ADHD medication.

I disconnected myself from everything related to media and advertising 18 years ago. I even threw out my TV.

Every device I own has an ad blocker installed.

I realised my inputs create my outputs.
That my life was being destroyed by quick fixes.

Garbage in, garbage out.

Apply this principle to everything: the things you watch, hear, eat, drink, read, and who you talk to and listen to.

If you want a life that few people experience – a calm mind, healthy body and fulfilling relationships – you must say no to anything or anyone that does not support that life.

At first, it will feel uncomfortable because you have become accustomed to being a consumer rather than the creator and designer of your own life.

Peer Pressure and Social Circle

Have you ever heard the saying, “Show me the five people you hang out with and I will show you who you are?”

Your immediate social circles, friends, and colleagues influence the decisions you make.

Peer pressure, with awareness or without your awareness, affects your choices regarding relationships, career paths, and lifestyle.

Cultural Trends and Fads

Cultural trends and fads, whether in fashion, entertainment, or lifestyle choices, impact the way you design your life.

The best approach to handling this problem varies depending on individual circumstances. There’s no universal solution.

The way I transitioned from obeying cultural trends and feeds was to become a minimalist.

Cultural trends are a way for you to fit in or seek validation.

It’s a destructive feedback loop.

Do you ever get the feeling that you are constantly buying unnecessary things just to make an impression on people who don’t care about you?

Most people don’t care where you live or how you live or what you are wearing.

If you follow cultural trends and choose to be a mindless consumer, you are destroying your economy and limiting our choices.

It’s a soul sucking pursuit that will not transform you into a better human being in any form.

I want to clarify that I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t purchase a nice dress.

What I am suggesting is that you invest in a timeless minimalist wardrobe and then get the hell out of the mindless cultural trends.

Personal Values and Beliefs

Your personal values and beliefs shape your internal compass. It serves as a critical source for designing your life. It helps you align your choices with these core principles and ensures authenticity and a sense of purpose.

The lack of personal values and beliefs is the primary factor behind the poor mental health that is so prevalent in our society today.

Most people I coach cannot tell you their values, even at gunpoint.

They confuse goals and needs with values.

So, if you are unsure about your values, I cannot emphasize this enough.

Life Experiences and Trauma

Past experiences and traumas, big or small, impact your choices and behaviors.

Unresolved issues guide your decisions, affecting your ability to design your life with intention.

So, if you want to design a life worth living, set aside some time to review your life experiences and traumas.

Self-Reflection and Mindfulness Practices

Look around you. You’ll see that our society is all about fast, fun and easy.

It’s wrecking our mental health because the best things in life are difficult, take time and often not pleasant.

Learning new things is hard. Often frustrating at first, as the process can feel like an eternity.

Look at your TikTok feed. Are you educating yourself or allowing distractions to limit your undivided attention to a few seconds?

If you are not educating yourself, you are designing a tired and sluggish person and bringing that energy into your relationships.

Practical Steps to Design Your Life

Reflect on Your Values and priorities

Identify what matters to you in different aspects of life and write them down to guide your decisions.

Set Meaningful Lifestyle Goals

Ensure your goals align with your values for effective prioritization, and regularly review and adjust them.

Cultivate Self-Awareness

Understand your strengths, weaknesses, passions, and interests through reflection and seek feedback from a trusted friend.

Make Intentional Choices

Consider the impact of your decisions on your values and well-being, saying ‘no’ to things that don’t align.

Seek Support and Guidance

Surround yourself with a supportive network, share your goals, and explore resources for personal development.

Remember, if you don’t design your life, someone else will do it for you.

Start today, take control, and shape a future that aligns with your desires and priorities.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are aware of it, your life is being designed at any point in time.

You get to decide how to live your life.

Taking charge and shaping your present and future is not just doable, but the only way to succeed.

The more you focus on living intentionally, the more intentional you become in your thoughts, choices, and habits.

A well-designed life keeps getting better the more you work on it.

The best place to start is with you, and today is the perfect time to begin.

Recommended Books

“Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life,” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Practical advice on how to explore distinct possibilities, prototype ideas, and make intentional choices.

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life” by Mark Manson

Mark challenges conventional wisdom and offers a refreshing perspective on finding happiness and fulfillment.

“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown

Greg explores the concept of essentialism, focusing on the things that truly matter and eliminating the non-essential.

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