A book I recommend to many coaching clients is “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. I’ve even had a client use a several month coaching engagement specifically to focus on the exercises in the book. What makes it such a potent tool? Design thinking.
What happens if we take the same principles that are used to create the fastest road bike or most efficient electric vehicle and apply them to help us live our best life? The concept was not only intriguing, it blew me away. In today’s episode we break down one tool from Designing Your Life: gauging how full/empty we are in 4 buckets of life (health, love, work, play), determining if these buckets are in balance, and introducing the process for rebalancing.
Podcast audio is at the bottom of the page.
“Designing Your Life” thinking is about approaching life from the perspective of engineering and design, building prototypes to see what does/doesn’t work and using that information to create your next iteration.
- This is the epitome of approaching life in an intentional way – designing it so that it is exactly what you want it to be.
When thinking about the quality of your life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans suggest that you assess your life in terms of these 4 distinct yet overlapping areas: health, work, love, and play.
- Consider a dashboard with a gauge for each of these areas from empty to full (with an extra bonus option of beyond full/about to explode).
- The answer to the question of where you fall on each gauge is subjectively up to you.
- Here is a link to the Designing Your Life Dashboard Worksheet
Start with health, since it is the foundation of all of the other gauges or buckets (pick your metaphor).
- Your health narrative includes physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health.
- When making your assessment, consider your sleep, activity level, diet, laboratory markers, philosophy, etc. Is your gauge ½ full, ¾ full, nearly full?
While it is often an imbalance in the work gauge/bucket that brings people to seek the help of a physician coach, work is just another bucket in the totality of what goes into making your life.
- Your work gauge should include consideration of all paid and unpaid duties. Caring for children or a family member, housework, volunteer commitments – these all fall into the work bucket.
- Somebody who is employed most hours of the day and feels burnt out may position their work gauge beyond full. Another person in the same scenario might think the gauge should be near empty. It doesn’t matter where any one gauge falls; the importance is in taking a look at your life in total and how everything balances out.
The love gauge takes into consideration both the love you give and the love you receive.
- Love includes romantic love, also family connection, friends, community.
The final gauge is play. Play is vital because it allows you to massively recharge.
- Play is what you do simply for the joy of doing it. It is not play if done for a competition or with a specific goal in mind.
- Oftentimes, true play is a nearly empty gauge. But when work is tough and wearing, it can take a tremendous physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual toll. This is when play can help you recharge.
- The word atelic means doing someting without a specific purpose and describes play. It is the antonym of the word telic, which comes from the root word ‘telos’, meaning inherent purpose. We put a lot of value on telos (rightly so) and it can feel like a bit of a failure to do things that are fully without purpose. It’s not a failure at all. Having both, and finding balance between them is vital.
- Oliver Burkeman wrote in his book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, “When your relationship with time is almost always instrument, the present starts to lose its meaning.”
“While we should strive to live with purpose and intent, there are times when we benefit from shifting from the ‘telic’ to the ‘atelic’.”
Once you have determined where your gauges fall or the fullness of your 4 buckets, the next step is to determine whether there is an imbalance and how to correct it. Only you can answer that.
- If you look at your dashboard and find an imbalance, the next step is to ask yourself: “What is the one thing I want to do to change the balance on my dashboard? And what is the first step I need to take in order to make this rebalancing happen?”
- Only tackle one change at a time. If you try to implement too many changes all at once, in all likelihood your gauges won’t move at all.
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