• Sarah Pullen

Book Review: Design Your Life

A well-designed life means a well-lived life.

Have you ever considered the idea that you can design you life, in the way that a designer designs a new product, technology or space? Bill Burnett and Dave Evans show us that you can do just that in their book and one of my latest reads, Design Your Life: Building a Life that Works for You.

As someone with a penchant for design and a fascination with self improvement and discovery it was a no-brainer really that I picked this book off the shelf. I can ‘design’ my own life? That's got to be worth a read.

Bennett and Evans shows us how design thinking can help us create a meaningful and fulfilling life, no matter our age, location or what we do for a living. The book provides methods and ways of thinking to enable us to see opportunities we may have not otherwise noticed. Opportunities to shape the life we most want to live.

The book comprises a number of tasks designed to help us with discovering what work and life mean to us as individuals, what we each thrive on, what energises us, and the direction(s) in which we would most like our life to go.

The idea that you can design your life, might to some seem a little bit novel, but as Burnett and Evans write: 'When you think like a designer, when you are willing to ask the questions, when you realise that life is always about designing something that has never existed before, then you life can sparkle in a way that you could never have imagined.'

Although I haven't finished the tasks, I thought I would share my response to one task I have completed: creating my compass. The task requires you to give some thought to your views on life and work; to identify your core values and to establish whether these values are reflected in your working life. This helps you to establish your compass: your path toward a well-designed life.

I've structured my response around a number of questions that Bennett and Evans provide as pointers, or food for thought, when providing your answer.


Why work? Working provides purpose in life. It is something that gives each day meaning, purpose and structure. It should be aligned with our passions, beliefs and personal goals.

What's work for? How does it relate to the individual, others, society? Work should look to serve a greater good, to give back to society and to serve others in some way. It may be done alone or as part of a team, but it will always have a greater role or connection with others. I believe that work should not feel like a chore, it should be interesting, comprise some challenges, but be fun. Good work has meaning and provides something for others.

What does money have to do with it? Money is a byproduct of work and, whilst important, should not be the ultimate aim. The aim should be to serve society in some way, no matter how small, alongside doing something that feeds our soul and enables personal growth.

What do experiences, growth and fulfilment have to do with it? Work should be fulfilling and be something to be proud of; something you're excited to share with other people. It should feed our passions, provide financial security, utilise our talents and be shaped by our core values. If it doesn't, then perhaps it is time to rethink the work we are doing?


Why are we here? What is the meaning and purpose of life? I believe that life is about contributing to society, about helping others, and about living with meaning and purpose. We each bring something unique and special to society. Each of us plays a different role within society, contributing in our own way to helping each other and the planet. We are here to support, share, love, create, and entertain. Every one of us forms part of a bigger picture.

We take care of ourselves to be healthy and happy, in turn placing ourselves in a better position to help take care of our families, our community and the wider environment. Without realising it, each one of our small decisions has a knock on effect, creating a ripple across society.

We are all equal but each have different life experiences that come to shape who we are. Our circumstances and upbringing can have long term impacts on our view of others and life.

What is good / evil? Good is love, generosity, compassion. Evil is selfish, greedy and angry.

Is their higher power? I think so, yes, but not necessarily in the form of a God. I believe that the universe, an all encompassing energy, connects us all. We are all divine and the potential for happiness is within us all. I believe we have the power to attract our own destiny through positive thinking. Positive energy attracts positive experiences. I also believe that we appreciate happiness more by experiencing sorrow, but we have the power to view every experience as we choose. Sometimes this is hard, but it's still within our control.

I believe that happiness isn't material. Perhaps if we all realised this, there would be less greed and suffering in the world! Life is a gift and we are all special. Life and work can come together in harmony, although this isn't always easy to achieve. Realising what matters most to each of us as individuals can point us in the right direction. Following your heart.

'A well designed life is a life that is generative - it is constantly creative, productive, changing, evolving, and there is always the possibility of surprise. You get out of it more than you put it.'

The tasks throughout the book require a great deal of reflection and some take a while to complete (such as prototyping) but if they sets you on a path that’s more in line with your values and dreams, then it has to be worth the effort. The full list of tasks the book suggests are as follows:

  • Assess where you are

  • Create your compass (lifeview, workview)

  • Track your energy and engagement (this one is great)

  • Reframe problems and mindmapping

  • Odyssey plans (three different life scenarios)

  • Prototyping

  • Making a choice! (and letting the others go :))

Burnett and Evans help open your eyes to potential opportunities you may not have seen or thought about before, both personal and professional. Through reading the book and working through the tasks, I found my view of what a career should be started to change as I began to realise that there are numerous paths we could each take in life, and it’s our choice which path we choose to go down.

Sarah x


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