Life: Your Greatest Design Challenge

Determining what defines a happy life is more difficult today than it was for previous generations. Designer Ayse Birsel demonstrates how a shift in perspective can help bridge this newfound difficulty.

Ayse Birsel: Today I think there are no roadmaps as to how to have a good life. The old rules have disappeared and I was thinking about this the other day that, you know, when I grew up, there was kind of like a roadmap, a simple roadmap that if you went to school perhaps if you did your masters and you got a good job, you got married, you had kids, you know, you did your work. And that was the definition of a good life. And today I think that things have changed so fast that we don’t have that roadmap anymore.

One of the things that I ask people to do is deconstruct their life so that they can see what their life’s made up of. So deconstructing your life holistically, I suggest that you could do it against emotion, intellect, physical, and spirit of your life. And once you look at those four quadrants, it gives you really a sense of your life’s big picture, like 360 degrees. And then you could see: Oh I have a lot of this here and I don’t have a lot of this here. There is some repetitions and you start to see patterns. And once you start to see that, the next step is about developing a point of view. So if you feel that oh, you know, the emotional quadrant for example is not as fulfilling or rich as I want it to be, what I suggest is to maybe think of a metaphor, which is one of the creative tools. And metaphors are great for helping us imagine things using something that’s familiar to us. So maybe if you feel that you don’t have a lot of love in your life, maybe think of a metaphor that’s full of love. And then using that as a hook, imagine how you can bring more love into that.

So one thing that comes to my mind is, for example, a dinner party might be a great environment for love and kind of friendship. And then you could think about well, what’s in a dinner party? Like who’s bringing the food and how do we share it and people bring gifts and so could we use some of that to think well more sharing and more giving could be a way to bring more love into my life. And the metaphor kind of helps you through that process of thinking about love in a different way, which really what I love about design is it gives you tools and the process to think about the things you know differently. Life, like a design project, is full of constraints and challenges and we can’t have everything we want. And often what we want and what we need are opposing. So design process and tools are actually a great way to think about design and to think about the life we want with creativity and optimism.

Determining what defines a happy life is more difficult today than it was for previous generations. In this video, designer Ayse Birsel demonstrates how a shift in perspective can help bridge this newfound difficulty. Once you deconstruct your life, she explains, you'll be able to determine values, opinion, strategies, and vision for everything else moving forward.


For more, check out Birsel's new book, titled Design the Life You Love: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future.

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