Designing Your Life permanently changed my outlook. I studied history, which is more or less the exact opposite of the design field, so its impact may have been unusual in my case. There were several points that arrested my attention with their insight into decision-making. I found myself doing the exercises with real vigor.
The first thing that caught my attention was the finding that 80% of people don't know what their passion is. Thus, the idea that we're supposed to follow our passions leaves almost everyone feeling like a failure right out of the gate. Failure is good, though, in the design world. It provides information about what is supposed to be only one iteration among many. That's why one of the exercises is to imagine three completely distinct versions of your own life over the next five years. When I did this exercise, I discovered to my surprise that one iteration felt both slightly distasteful to me, yet simultaneously more in line with my core values, than another.
The book distinguishes between two types of problems: gravity problems and anchor problems. Gravity problems include the fact that it's hard to get rich as a poet. Anchor problems happen when we attach ourselves to only one acceptable solution, a solution that is not possible in the current situation. This was such a transformative concept to me. I was also struck by the distinction between failures that are screw-ups versus problems of weakness. Was it a simple mistake or did it come from a character flaw? That is going to blast a lot of excuses out of my head, let me tell you.
The indecisive among us should pay close attention to the material on decisions. This is because "if you have too many options, you actually have none at all." Analysis paralysis means none of the options are being chosen, and thus none of them are becoming a reality in your life. As a very decisive person, this makes perfect sense to me. If every choice seems equally attractive, then it truly doesn't matter what you pick, and hesitating is just drawing out the frustration of not being able to decide.
Another concept was the distinction between finite and infinite games. A finite game has an ending, like planning a wedding or losing weight. An infinite game goes on forever, like developing your personal ethical code or doing laundry. This is a really helpful idea. It can help us resign ourselves to the perpetual choreness of life, while also indicating that certain projects can be gotten out of the way more quickly if we focus more.
One chapter is entitled "Failure Immunity." This scans with the concept of "obstacle immunity" from Spartan Up!. Apparently this is a thing. We're just going to have to start toughening up and changing our outlook on problems.
My only issue with the book was that it started out by offering to answer questions such as how to find a job you like and how to balance career with family... but then said it couldn't answer the question, "How can I be thin, sexy, and fabulously rich?" Well, gee, why ever not??
Favorite quote: "Designing something changes the future that is possible."
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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