Designing Your Life: Odyssey Planning 101

Jann FreedLeading, Living Leave a Comment

For the past few weeks, my posts have reflected what I learned from reading Designing Your Life:  How To Build A Well-Lived Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.  They advocate doing a quick assessment based on the dashboard metaphor in order to build a compass to guide your way.

Since they consider the future to be an odyssey–a journey full of hopes, dreams, and uncertainties–they advise us to design our future.  They believe in creating three different plans for the next five years of your life because two years is too short and seven years is too long.  Based on their extensive experience with thousands of people of all ages, they instruct people to come up with three different alternatives for the future–not just variations on a theme.

  1.  Life One–That Thing You Do.  This is your current life or an idea that you have been contemplating for quite some time.
  2. Life Two–That Thing You’d Do If Thing One Were Suddenly Gone.  Life happens.  What would you do?  How would you support yourself and your family?
  3. Life Three–The Thing You’d Do or the Life You’d Live If Money or Image Were No Object.  What would you do if you thought you could support yourself doing it?

Burnett and Evans created worksheets to walk people through this exercise. They say to come up with a title for each option in the form of a six-word headline describing the essence of the option.  They suggest coming up with 2-3 questions for each option since “designers” ask questions to test assumptions. This is followed by another dashboard where you assess:

  • Resources:  Where are you on time, money, skills, contacts for each option?
  • Likability:  How much do you “like” each option?
  • Confidence:  How confident do you feel about each option?
  • Coherence:  Does the plan make sense?  How consistent is each option with your Workview and your Lifeview?

Burnett and Evans feel strongly about sharing your plans with trusted friends, family, or other confidants.  They believe articulating your plans with others helps you decide which alternative resonates, energizes, and feels best.

What I value about designing your life is how it is proactive, thoughtful, and creative.  It encourages us to think beyond where we are, to envision the future, and to make something happen.  It is an intentional approach rather than unintentional and reactive.

Life is an adventure and it does unfold.  While we can’t plan everything, we can dream and be inspired by our dreams.  As Ray Rood, the founder of Genysys and one of my mentors says:

“The future belongs to those who dare to envision the future, treat it as fact, and take responsibility to translate that vision into reality.”

What do you envision for your future?

How are you trying to make it happen?