How To Make Yourself Happy — 5 Steps To Live The Life You Want

This model is borrowed from Design-thinking.

Design Thinking is a process used to solve complex problems with the needs of a customer at heart.

But you can also apply it to yourself. To make yourself happy.

People often work on the wrong problems. They have a wonderful solution to something that wasn’t going to work anyway. When their plans meet reality they get knocked over. People get stuck and they don’t have the tools to get unstuck.

We have a lot of beliefs which psychologist label “dysfunctional beliefs”. Things believed to be true that aren’t actually true, beliefs that hold you back.

3 dysfunctional beliefs:

1. You need to identify 1 passion

It’s wonderful if you found out at 7 that you wanted to work in a circus. But in reality, no more than 20% of people have figured out one single identifiable passion in their life. 8 out of 10 people say: I have lots of things I’m interested in.

So this is not an organising principle for your search or design.

2. You should know where you’re going by now.

“If you don’t know, you’re late.”

Now, what are you late for exactly???

In our society, there are certain expectations. For me, at 30 you should have been married, have children, and own a house. You know the drill.

You but, “should” nothing…

You are whoever you are, start where you at. You’re not late for anything.

3. Be the best possible version of yourself.

“Are you settling for anything that’s less than the best?”

This belief implies that a person has only 1 best version and that it’s a linear thing. But life is anything but linear. It comes from the business world, where “good is the enemy of better and better the enemy of best.” And you always want to do your best in business.

But if there isn’t one singular best. Then the reframe is that the “unattainable best” is the enemy of all the available “betters”. Because there are many many versions of you, all of which would result in a well-designed life.

Now let’s discuss 5 ideas borrowed from design thinking. Ideas to help you reframe these beliefs and actually work on your personal happiness.

How To Make Yourself Happy – 5 Ideas Borrowed From Design Thinking

1. Connect the dots

Most people are looking for meaning in life. To do something that gives fulfilment.

There are 3 elements to shape this:

  1. Who you are
  2. What you believe
  3. What you do

If you can connect these 3 and make it a coherent story you will experience life as meaningful. Simple as that.

To connect them do 2 things.

  1. Write down what it is you work for. Why are you working? What is the purpose? Then,
  2. Write down the meaning of life. What’s the big picture? Why are you here?

If you can connect these 2 together you’ll experience life in a meaningful way.

2. Gravity problems

We all got “a friend” who is stuck. They don’t like their boss, they don’t like their partner, or they don’t like their job. There is something they don’t like.

But nothing is happening.

You can’t solve a problem you’re not willing to have….

If you have a gravity problem, and you’re not willing to work on it, then it’s just a circumstance in your life.

The only thing we know what to do with these problems is to accept them. The only way to work on a solution is to accept that you have a problem. It’s a gravity problem, I can’t change it.

Now you can do 2 things. Accept that this is a circumstance that you can reframe and work in. Or do something else.

A thought experiment:

Let’s say that the multiverse is real. That we live a lot of lives next to each other. So in one, you could be a painter. In the other a singer or a dancer. Or whatever you want to be. If you think of these answers, How many lives would you want?

The problem however is, that you don’t have so many different lives. You only have one. But it’s not what you don’t choose in life, but what you do choose that makes you happy.

Now, let’s reframe this concept and realise that there are more lives inside of us. More than just one.

Let’s get to work and figure out all those lives.

3. Create three 5-year plans for your possible lives.

If you brainstorm 3 different possibilities you get a much wider range of ideas. They lead to better solutions to the problems you’re trying to solve.

So go ahead and create 3 lives.

  1. Do the thing you’re doing right now. Do it for 5 years and it’s gonna come out just great. So take your current life and make it better. And also put in the bucket list stuff. You want to climb Mount Everest with Wim Hof in your shorts, see the 7 wonders of the world etc.
  2. What would you do if the thing that you do goes away? What if AI and robots take over your current job? Do you have a side hustle or something? Create a plan for this situation.
  3. What’s your wildcard plan? What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money? You didn’t have “fuck-you money” but you’d have enough. And what would you do if you would know that no one would laugh? So what would you do if you had enough money and you didn’t care what people thought? Anything from “I’m going to study ancient artefacts” to I wanna become a bartender in Ibiza.

If you do this, what happens is that you realise that you can actually imagine 3 different lives. And that all are pretty interesting.

You probably won’t end up studying ancient artefacts. But the things you come up with are things that were left behind somehow. In the busyness of life, people forget about these things.

Now what happens, is that you bring those “forgotten things” back. You install them in plan 1 — your current life — thus making it better. Sometimes you might pivot and follow a whole different path. In both cases, life is getting better.

This is a great exercise to ideate all the possible ways to have a wonderful life.

Now you could stop here and execute these ideas, or you test them first.

People who jump right in and quit their job to do something else don’t always find that it works. It’s more likely to end badly. You kinda have to dip your toes into this new life first. Set the bar low, have some success and then do it again.

4. Prototyping

Ask yourself:

  • What would it be like if I tried this?
  • Is this even the thing I want or just something I remember I wanted when I was 18?

This is a way to expose the assumptions. Involve others in your life and sneak up on the future, because you don’t know if this is exactly what you want.

There are 2 prototyping models you can use for this.

1. Prototype conversation

“The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed” -Bill Gibson

In other words, there is probably someone out there that is already living the life you’ve imagined. Someone studying ancient artefacts or bartending in Ibiza. You could just get out there and meet him or her. Have a conversation.

Many people out there are living in your future, today! And if you talk to them, they can tell you their story. Everybody will tell you their story if you buy them a cup of coffee.

If you hear something in their story that sparks something in you. If you hear a story that is kinda like your story, then something happens. It’s called narrative resonance. When this happens you can identify it as a potential way of moving forward.

2. Prototype experience

This one is very short. If you don’t know for sure, just do it. If you’re 35 and don’t know if you want to go back to school, just sit in a class, walk into a lecture.

5. Choosing well

You want to make a good decision.

Many people make choices they’re not happy with. It’s hard. Especially since we have so many things to choose from these days.

So use a process for decision making.

Gather and create options, narrow them down to a working list, choose, and let go.

1. Gather and create options

You want to get good at gathering ideas. But you also want to leave room for the lucky ideas. Focus on what you are doing, but leave your view open for those lucky ideas that come by once in a while. It’s in this wide view where interesting ideas come up. Things you were not expecting.

2. Narrow down

If you have too many choices you‘ll experience choice overload. This means that you end up with no choices at all.

Research has proven that people buy more often when they’re presented with fewer choices. When you have too many choices, you have no choices.

So what do you do if you have too many choices? Cross them off until you end up with 5 to 7 options to pick from.

But what if I cross off the wrong ones?????

3. Choose

Well, you won’t. Because it’s the Pizza or Chinese food thing. You can’t know for sure until you made the decision.

If you start cutting options and cross the wrong one, you’ll instantly get this feeling in your stomach. You’ll know. It’s like that moment when you leave the office for lunch. Someone says: Let’s get Chinese food. Then that little voice inside you says: No, I want Pizza.

You can’t choose well if you only rely on your rational mind. There is this gut feeling you’ll have, that you can’t explain. It will help you decide.

4. Let go.

Wanting what you get, not getting what you want. — Dan Gilbert

If you make your changes reversible your happiness goes down. So pick, and then let go of the rest.

Even if it doesn’t go well, by now you’re really good at generating new options. You could always start the process over again and come up with new ideas. You now know how to ideate and prototype it in the world.

Collect — Reduce — Decide — Move on

That’s how you make yourself happy.

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