Bookshelf Monthly: Designing Your Life

A book on how to change your life for the better – at 20, 30, 40, 50, any age really – using the principles of design thinking. This book *is* your friend.

When I first stumbled across DESIGNING YOUR LIFE in 2017 researching books to help making 2018 the best year ever, I first thought it to be yet another buzz-worded self-help corner oeuvre. Forgive me: I’m critical like that. (Annoying, I know!)

Design thinking is a “trending topic”, so to speak, and self-help books tend to pick up on trends pretty quickly. However – and thankfully – one word let me pause and have a closer look.
What was this word? Bestseller? Happiness? Nope. It was Stanford.

Book Review: Designing Your Life
By Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

…Stanford is known as THE start-up forge, THE think force behind Silicon Valley, THE place for innovative thinking. As a computer science enthusiast, I knew that one of this university’s most popular courses was the course on design thinking. The very term design thinking was populisarised with the help of Stanford researchers. It sure would be a mistake to miss this kind of read, right?

Damn right!
But what is design thinking?

If you’re not familiar with the term, design thinking describes a solution-focused, playful and creative approach to problem-solving. Because design thinking is also user-centric, it’s widely seen as a great tool for driving social innovation and developing modern, user-centred products and services with a meaning.
Be still, my ethical heart!

Now, DESIGNING YOUR LIFE is a book that can help guide you on your path to designing, prototyping and building the life or the career you want. Does it sound a bit playful? Yes. No pain, no gain comes later. You need to enjoy the process of envisioning, drafting, trying and implementing a life you will love. Think as a designer, the authors suggest.

The book itself is built as a workbook: with a bit of exercise, even “homework” that can span weeks, you’re enticed to actually stick to what you’re learning; with the book giving you all the motivation to actually show up.

You learn to develop a bunch of ideas, to test the best of them and to discard those that don’t work – a very practical approach to negative thinking that sometimes can erode the finest of our intentions.
Reframe ideas that get you stuck and move on.

It’s the practical touch that I loved the most about the book.
Sometimes thoughts and ideas concerning my life or career plans appear too big, too inconcise, too “anything goes”, mostly because I’m a walking idea explosion! Having this “craft” mindset in place, having to tackle ideas as if they were apps, software or website designs (which I can totally relate to as a former conceptioner and UX designer!) helps soothe fears that lurk in the subconscious and release the playfulness we sometimes miss in our day-to-day routine.

Let me also briefly mention what the book isn’t: it has nothing to do with the sleazy “dream and attact” philosophy of some of the popular self-help books. Not this book! DESIGNING YOUR LIFE gives you the method, the tools, and the joyful sensation of moving forward as well as plenty of opportunities to play and learn.

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans have spent over 15 years developing their Design Thinking process, and have taught thousands of students. This experience shows in the structure, the content and the very style (and vibe!) of the book: rooted in Stanford’s “human-centred design” culture, the design methodology really never leaves you standing in the rain, up to the very last chapter, you keep learning, reframing and wondering. So beautiful.

Another beautiful thing about the book is the inclusive approach.
Whether you’re just starting out at twenty, rethinking your life and career choices at thirty, fourty or fifty, even if you’re planning your retirement at sixty or seventy, it’s a process that will enlighten you and help you feel less anxious, more creative, more energised and more confident. It’s truly never too late!

The most valuable about DESIGNING YOUR LIFE is the fact that it’s a workbook. A paper-clad friend who opens your eyes and helps you see possibilities you have ignored and discarded before.
Don’t be mistaken: elegant solutions don’t come easy. But you don’t need to cry yourself to sleep in order to develop them, either.

And one of my favourite parts must be the one with the team, with the community. It’s something I see everyday as I try to lead an even healthier, an even more sustainable life: you are nothing without the support of others. We aren’t functional if we’re alienated. Humans are wired to collaborate, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Could we move beyond designing beautiful lives for ourselves to designing beautiful lives for our communities, near and far? Can we design, prototype and build a beautiful world applying the Design Thinking method?

I very much hope so and will recommend this book to anyone who liked my idea of nurturing the eco-fair self and the portrayal of working contemporary utopian ideas.
What will you do with the rest of your life?

Go and build a new and joyful life, sustainably:

Affiliate disclaimer:
Woohoo! BEAUTYCALYPSE has grown so much, and now she’s having her first paid job: amazon affiliates for the book reviews, starting today. Genius, for as a reader you can now support BEAUTYCALYPSE by simply buying cool books you like. Amazon then rewards the blog with a small fee, the blog remains independent from sponsorships while earning her own pocket money for all the stuff cool blogs need these days – domain and development costs. And maybe she’ll even buy me a new camera one day 😉


Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at (Avatar illustration by A. Goncharenko)