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How to come up with options when you're stuck



Chapter 4 of Designing Your Life is about becoming better at generating options, and starts with a couple of dysfunctional beliefs:

  • Dysfunctional belief: I’m stuck

  • Reframe – I’m never stuck because I can always generate a lot of ideas


  • Dysfunctional belief: I have to find the one right idea

  • Reframe: I need a lot of ideas so that I can explore any number of possibilities for my future


We choose better when we have lots of good ideas to select from, say the authors, and it’s equally important not to choose your first solution to any problem. These are usually fairly average and not very creative, but because our brains are lazy and like to get rid of problems as quickly as possible they do our best to try and make us fall in love with them.

So this chapter is about showing to ourselves that we are actually capable of generating lots of ideas, using the technique of mind-mapping.


This is how it works:

  1. Pick a word or idea

  2. Put that in the middle of your page, and then write down five or six things that come to mind, linked to the first idea

  3. Then ignore the word in the centre, and repeat the process for each of those words

  4. Repeat this until you’ve covered the page.


We did this with a word from the previous week’s journaling that was one of the things that gave us the most energy. How far could we get away from our initial word with our mind map?

In our next exercise, we then as the authors put it, “mashed it up”. We picked three of the words from our outer ring, and tried to come up with as many job descriptions as we could using them – things that would be fun, interesting to do and be helpful to someone else. For example, design, sustainability and travel. How about:

  • Someone who designs more sustainable ways of travelling

  • Someone who designs suitcases made of natural products

  • A lecturer who works across universities, teaching about design and sustainability

  • Someone who helps hotels to operate in a more sustainable way


We discussed the jobs that we’d come up with. And it’s important to note that these jobs are not necessarily realistic (although the ones above all feel fairly realistic), and it’s unlikely that well generate our dream job by this process – it’s more an exercise in seeing that we can be creative and develop options for ourselves.


It was interesting to note how we felt discussing them. Some of the options felt quite exciting and energising, and others we felt much more negatively towards. Again, we got clues about the kind of job that would suit us.




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