Designing Your Life: Week 2
Problem finding + problem solving = a well-designed life, say the authors in Chapter 1. That’s why this chapter is all about defining where we are currently in life, so that we can then better pinpoint the problems that we have and want to solve.
This is important, because we can often spend a lot of time working on the wrong problem. How often do we fall in love with our first idea and refuse to let it go. Our problem then becomes how to succeed in that idea, without actually considering whether it is the right path for us.
One category of problems in this area is singled out by the authors: Gravity problems. In the same way that you can’t do anything about gravity, there are some problems that are just facts of life and all you can do is to accept this and move on. For example, the time to become a doctor (long), the average income of poets (low), or how easy is it to get a job as a five-year unemployed jobseeker (more difficult). The only response, they say, is acceptance: move on and instead work on those problems where you have a chance of succeeding.
We started off thinking about defining our lives as they currently are, in four main categories:
Health – mind, body and spirit
Work – this includes not just the main activity that you are paid for, but also includes volunteering, and other activities, such as work around the house or childcare
Play – things that you do for the sheer joy of it. Although it may include organised activities or competition, here we’re talking about things that you primarily enjoy doing, rather than to advance or to achieve.
Love – this is love in its broadest sense – connection in all its forms. Family, friends, community, or more abstract such as to nature, great art or music.
How satisfied do you feel with your life in each of these categories? Give yourself a score out of 10 for each. Do you feel that you currently have a balance between the different areas, and are there any choices that you can make to increase this? Has this exercise highlighted any areas of lack in your life at the moment; any problems that you want to solve? And lastly, are there any unsolvable problems there that you need to move past?
It’s also important to come up with what the authors call a workview and a lifeview. These are your fundamental philosophies about work and life. Why do we work? How do we seek to define our life?
Here are some of the questions to think about this:
Why do we work?
What’s work for?
What does work mean?
How does it relate to others, the individual and to society?
What defines good or worthwhile work?
What does money have to do with it?
What do experience, growth, fulfilment have to do with it?
What gives life meaning?
What makes your life worthwhile or valuable?
How does your life relate to others in your family, community or the world?
What do money, fame and personal accomplishment have to do with a satisfying life?
How important are experience, growth or fulfilment in your life?
What is good or what is evil?
The last part of the exercise is to consider where your views on work and life complement the other, and where do they clash? Does one drive the other? And if so, how?
Although we generally have a workview and a lifeview tucked away in our minds, it’s rare that we take the time to articulate them and write them down. By being clear about what our philosophy is on both, in short, what our values are, we are in a much better position to assess our future choices and to decide whether they are right for us.