Skip to content

Book Review: Designing Your Life

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
2 min read

Designing Your Life is everywhere right now. It's a course at Stanford, it's a book, it's an online course, and it's all over podcasts and blogs. So, what's the big deal?

I had a class like this in high school (early 1990s). The exercise that defined the class was to complete a workbook of detailed questions about where your life was at the moment and an essay about where you wanted your life to be in X number of years.

Sounds simple. But the freedom (given by a teacher or by ourselves) to deeply explore these questions is a rare thing.

Our teacher explained that the completed workbooks were among the most prized possessions of graduates he had talked to.

Designing Your Life takes that kind of exercise and applies "design thinking" to it. Design thinking is a process designers use to create logos, products...everything. Everything is designed. But to design it well, having a process helps.

First, you must know where you are. An honest and open examination of your current life is the foundation.

Next, you must figure out your "compass." You have to determine what your basic life and work beliefs are that will guide you in your plans for the future.

Designing your life for the future means creating multiple possible paths for your life. Imagine wildly different careers, different cities, and different types of people you may want in your life in the future. None of these variables are the one correct one path. And a designer should never go with their first idea.

Instead, just as the Apple design team creates countless test versions of a new iPhone before producing the best, your encouraged to "prototype" your life. In other words, try out several of the best paths until your life is changed a little for the better. Then, iterate.

These ideas are nothing new, but the combining of design thinking with the self-help genre is newish and refreshing.

The details about how to ideate, evaluate, and iterate are in workbook form, make getting the paper version worth the money. I also bought the Audible version to hear the professors explain the process in their own words. I'm not sure I'd pay the premium for the video-based course. Having read the reviews, the book seems to have everything.

It never hurts to know yourself better and maybe even have a options for a path forward (before someone else decides that for you). This book is one of the best small investments of time I made this year.