“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” - George Eliot
What does it mean to design your life? At VINAYA, we like to use the term 'Life Design' to describe the act of observing our days as if they are layers making up the architecture of our existence.
As human beings, we have a finite amount of attention. Making time to create balance can be a struggle, especially in our modern hyper-connected reality where time has become our greatest luxury. Still, as we move through each day, we possess the potential to value, prioritise, organise and enjoy moments, people and activities as we choose. When we act mindfully, we make small choices about how this might impact the running themes in our lives.
This notion of 'life design' may seem like a daunting and unattainable task. However, we as human beings can change our own lives more than we might realise. It begins with prioritisation - but how do we even begin at that, you might ask? How will we know what in the end we are choosing to focus on what we value most, what really is most important? The answer lies in autonomy.
In numerous studies exploring the regret people experience at the end of their lives, the most common regret was:
“I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
What a powerful thought - that as humans who realise their time on this earth is limited, we most commonly reflect on the regret of those dreams we once had that went unfulfilled. These studies show that most people admitted they had not honoured even a half of their personal dreams, and therefore felt they had never lived up to their true potential.
So how can start to listen to ourselves more, to prioritise what is truly important to us? Perhaps we should begin by reflecting on how we actually spend our time everyday, versus how we might think or wish we spend our time.
As creators of a wearable technology tool to help us prioritise what matters most and drown out excessive digital noise, we often talk about what this means in the digital vs. physical realm. We reflect on the time which we spend 'connecting' from behind screens versus truly connecting in real life. We try to be mindful of how our technology and smartphones and social media accounts have infiltrated our habits and lives, and what impact this has on our productivity and happiness. But while technology plays an important role in how we view the world today, life design goes much further than this.
But before we can start designing the structure of our lives, we must decide on the 'design' themes that most interest us, the areas where our dreams and hidden passions lie:
What excites you?
Why are you here?
What do you want to achieve in this world?
What do you love to do most?
Where would you most like to do it?
Who would you most like to do it with?
What sort of impact on others do you hope to make doing what you do?
What do you think you can do better than anyone else?
These are all questions a lifestyle designer might ask themselves before embarking on their journey of exploration and adventure. Grab a piece of paper and pen, start to scribble it out an, after asking the above questions , think about each of the design frameworks:
Your Values: What are the guiding principles of your life? What are your principles or standards of behaviour; your judgment of what is important in life. In the 'framework' of your building or your life, your values are the parameters by which everything else is supported.
Your Priorities: What actions and activities do you prioritise? Your health and wellness? Time with family? Time for silence? Time for dance or time for music? Time for partying or time for painting? When you become conscious of the things that you personally gain energy from, and begin to understand the important activities that nourish you, magic life changes happen.
Your Process: Now that you know what you prioritise, how will you organise yourself around this? Having systems to automate the tasks that you do not derive joy from. When we understand what the best processes to propel the actions we get the most from, we can minimise the time spent on tasks that do not create life-changing results. It can be helpful to write down one key action for each day that you derive joy from and three key results of priorities for the day. It could be as simple as automatic your grocery shopping to delivery, making time for a bike ride every Sunday or finishing that report you've been procrastinating on.
Your People: Who are the characters of your storybook– those who add value and depth and who challenge you? Who are the people that leave you happiest and who you strive to be your best self around? When you become aware of the people who you feel more inspired and passionate with, you can begin to realise how they add magic to your life.
Your Passion: Sometimes, it is easier to find our passion when it’s taken away from us. An exercise in finding what we are passionate is to ask yourself, "if not me, then who?” What can you do better than anyone else? What project, passion or career path are you willing to fight for?
The act of asking ourselves these questions and reflecting on the layers of our framework can give us guidance in designing a life with depth. Consciously building time for the activities, people, purposes and relationships that nurture the progression of our best selves can drive us to give our best self to the world.
This post was written by Sara Panton, who is part of the VINAYA team. She has a background in neuroscience and global health, and is an entrepreneur at the intersection of beauty and technology. Follow her on Twitter here.