The experience design space has taught me that each and every person is a designer in some way or another. The Oxford dictionary describes design as the “purpose or planning that exists behind an action, fact, or object.” You may have the misconception that designers only make tangible things that are put onto hangers or mantle pieces. However, the reality is that any framework, ecosystem, system or experience that you create is a carefully crafted piece of design work. The goals that you set out to achieve in your life are, in reality, design drafts that you work off of to achieve your defined success.
Design is the purpose or planning that exists behind an action, fact or object
Lately I have been reading a lot on personal growth frameworks. I’ve been practicing some of the techniques that I read about and the more I learn, the more I realise that I am actually the designer of my life (cliched, but 100% true). I’ve outlined a few of the techniques I currently use for personal development. Each person’s framework differs, which means that there is no right way to design a personal growth framework. I would suggest that you investigate, try out and design a framework that works for you. Here are some of the techniques I use in my framework:
I used to have a real problem with visualising goals that I wanted to achieve. I found it silly and a bit over the top. I was worried that if I visualised something very specific that never materialised, I would be completely let down and disappointed. There were two pieces of information that my personal leadership coach gave me that made me think differently about the power of visualisation:
1. The subconscious brain cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. A number of brain scan studies show that the regions that light up during real and imagined experiences (excluding the signals from the eyes) are the same. The subconscious mind plays a huge role in the way we think and act. If we can program our subconscious to believe that we have successfully achieved our goals, it in turn becomes easier to do so in reality. Seeing visualisation as a tool that improves my mindset has changed the way I think about the power of my imagination. I have made a habit of taking a 15 minute time out everyday to visualise what I want in different aspects of my life. It has helped me focus on achieving personal goals and generally lifts my spirits.
The subconscious brain cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined
2. ‘The journey is the destination’ — Ultimately everything we do leading up to a goal that we want to achieve, helps us learn and grow. The outcome of our actions may change due to circumstance and may not look exactly like our initial visualisation. That is fine. Your visualisations motivate you to grow in various aspects of your life. Regardless of the outcome, what you acquire while attempting to reach your goal can never be taken away from you. There is a deep-rooted reason you chose to go after a specific goal. It is a representation of the aspect of life you want to improve. For me, growing in my chosen sphere means more than the actual outcome. Visualisation simply keeps me motivated and on the right track.
Affirmations are similar to visualisations, however stated concepts (as opposed to visuals) are used to program your subconscious mind into believing certain things. The problem is, as human beings we tend to focus on negative affirmations we have heard or think about ourselves. We also reinforce negative affirmations throughout our lives- regardless of whether they are true or not. In order to reprogram our subconscious and believe things other than negative mind talk, we need to repeat positive affirmations over and over again. My game plan for this one was to write down each of my negative affirmations and then follow them up with an opposing positive affirmation. I take turns repeating the positive affirmations throughout the day. I also have my affirmations framed in my room. To be honest, I find the technique extremely hard in practice. I can’t help feeling silly repeating a positive statement to myself over and over again. But I do believe in the power of words — and I would rather repeat positive thoughts than negative ones, so I will continue to give this a try.
Throughout our day, we take part in activities that either boost our energy or drain it. In short, our realized strengths (things that we realize we are good at) and unrealized strengths (things that we are good at that we don’t realize) boost our energy. There are also certain activities that one can partake in that boost energy levels regardless of strength, such as exercise and meditation. Learnt behavior (things that we have learnt to be good at) and realized weaknesses (things that we realize are weaknesses) drain our energy. Ultimately, we don’t always get to decide what activities we partake in. Every goal that we set out to achieve will have tasks that boost our energy and ones that drain it. Ultimately you just need to know what boosts you and what drains you and plan accordingly. If you are required to spend the morning with a particularly draining client, make sure that you plan to do something that revitalizes you in the afternoon (such as meditating in a quiet spot for 20 minutes).
Throughout our day, we take part in activities that either boost our energy or drain it.
Carol Dweck, a Stanford Psychologist, has done extensive research into the power of our beliefs. She ultimately believes that there are 2 mindsets that we have with regards to our personality. If we have a “fixed mindset” we assume that our character, intelligence, and creative abilities are static givens which we can’t change in a meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A growth mindset on the other hand thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.
A growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.
Up until a year ago, I would say I had a fixed mindset. The thought of failure was crippling and I put limitations on my abilities before I had even attempted things. Then I experienced moving continents, coming back to SA and dealing with a job I felt under qualified for. At times I felt overwhelmed, but looking back, these experiences have ultimately changed how I think about the challenges I am faced with. Being put into tough situations that I could not necessarily get out of, has taught me that I can pull finger. Perceived failures became lessons that have made me a stronger person. This doesn’t mean that I believe I can be a champion in all aspects of life. It means that when things get tough, I grow and come out the other side a better version of myself.
Ultimately I wanted to share this, as I truly believe each one of us has the strength and insight to design and live our best life, on our own terms. Remember, you are the designer!