Designing Your Life: Five Steps to a Happier Life

Even when you resolve to create your life to be the greatest it can be, time will pass you by.

Your adorable little face is all enthusiastic about the prospects for the year ahead until you wake up one day and it’s January.

This is the year you’ll conquer all of the obstacles in your way and learn the art of living a fulfilling life.

You catch the first leaf dropping from the tree all of a sudden. Autumn is finally here. What happened to the year? What about those alternatives?

The truth is that change does not happen by itself.

If you aren’t living the life you desire, you won’t move any closer to it unless you take action.

Without action, you’re just relying on luck, and that likely won’t get you far. The day you decide to take ownership of your own life is going to be your luckiest day. Here are 5 steps to design your life and live it well.

Related: How to Overcome Your Fear of Speaking in Public (A Step-by-Step Guide)

1. Be Honest With Yourself

Being honest with yourself may appear to be a simple act, but it is rarely as simple as we would like it to be.

Consider the following scenario:

“Are you sure you don’t want another piece of cake?”

When R Kelly sings, I believe he explains it best:

No, my mind is telling me.

My body, on the other hand…

Yes, my body is telling me.

Even though the question begs for a simple yes/no response, most of the time you will struggle to give yourself one without first engaging in a mental conflict.

Some battles will leave you befuddled and in pain, draining all of your energy and lasting years. Some of these will provide enjoyment for your loved ones.

Expect to be conflicted in any case.

Which path will improve your life and allow you to build your life in the best possible way?

Because to Covid, I’ve seen a lot of folks this year shift from saying “I’m not pleased with work” to “At least I have a job.”

That’s true, yet none of those phrases smacks of a well-lived life.

If you aren’t being honest with yourself, how will you know what you actually want?

It’s when you tell yourself that everything is alright, yet the next week you wake up with the same nagging feeling you had the week before.

Consider the following inquiries: What needs to change in your life? What is required?

Be honest with yourself when you answer. If you’re going to design your life correctly, it has to start with a base of honesty and openness.

2. Prioritize

Now, when you’re honest with yourself you might come up with lots of things that you want to take action on.

These might vary in size and effort:

  • Buying a new mattress so you can improve the quality of your sleep
  • Selling your house and moving to the countryside to be closer to nature

Whatever happens, make a note of everything that will help you get closer to your ideal existence.
Keep in mind that it’s tough to think clearly when you’re continuously distracted by social media alerts and regular life, so set out some time to think about your priorities in a peaceful spot.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a shortlist, take a break. That can be as extravagant as some alone trip or turning off your phone for a few weekends every now and again.

When it comes to focusing and emptying your thoughts, meditation can be really beneficial. Find more time to be alone with your thoughts, whatever you do.

With time, you will gain greater clarity. You’ll notice that the same things appear repeatedly. These are the ones that are significant.

Nobody expects you to enter your action items into an Excel spreadsheet, take on the role of project manager, and handle many workstreams at the same time to ensure that everything is completed before the end of the fiscal year.

Attempting to do too much at once will be exhausting.

You can’t go from your existing life to selling your house and studying for a degree in Physics while also going to the gym on a regular basis.

Determine what matters most to you. What will be the most significant difference?

3. Set a Deadline

When it comes to designing your life, setting a deadline is all about holding yourself accountable. You’ve made the decision to relocate to Orlando in order to be “at one” with Mickey Mouse.

You made that decision when you were ten years old, and you’re now 45 years old.

This is what happens when you don’t set a deadline for yourself.

Meanwhile, you feel guilty every time you consider how you haven’t taken action.

To avoid this, set a deadline that is proportional to the action item’s mental/emotional/physical exertion.

For example, you’ve already resolved to cut down on the amount of junk food you consume.

This is something you can begin right away and work on for a few weeks until it becomes second nature.

For instance, suppose you’ve decided to end a tumultuous relationship. It’s not reasonable to expect this to happen next week because you’ll need to figure out where you’ll live, who you’ll rely on for assistance, and so on. This could take three or four months to complete.

At the same time, don’t be too hard on yourself if you set a deadline and don’t meet it. Give yourself a brief reprieve and get back on track.

Related: How to Define and Live By Your Personal Values for a Happy Life

4. Don’t Pressure Yourself

You should rejoice when you decide to create your life and take action on something challenging. Even if you fail, you should be proud of yourself for trying. 

The outside world already places a great deal of pressure on us to be more, accomplish more, and have more. Adding internal pressure to external pressure will have the opposite effect.

Instead, focus on being kind to yourself and loving yourself unconditionally. Don’t add to the number of battles you have to fight.

5. Embrace Life

It’s necessary to wish to improve, but not at the expense of despise for your current situation.

The philosopher Alan Watts proposed a concept known as “the backward law”[1]. The idea is that striving to achieve more is a negative thing in and of itself since it perpetuates the belief that what you have now isn’t enough.

To put it another way, pursuing something simply serves to confirm that you lack it in the first place, which makes you unhappy.

There is, however, a happy medium. Go after what you desire, but not at the expense of your current self-esteem.

Instead of seeming like a way out of your current situation, your future should feel thrilling.

Every now and then, embrace the life you have, and stay excited about what’s to come. You’re more likely to act on something if you feel excited by it, rather than if you’re fearful of what will happen if you didn’t do it.

The Bottom Line

I’ve described five steps to assist you in designing your life and bringing you closer to a life well-lived. Keep in mind that perfection will not be attained during this process; instead, strive to live the greatest life you can.

Determine your priorities and what will help you live a better life in the long run. This is a journey, so take it slowly, savor the moment, and keep moving forward with each decision you make.


  1. Anthony Tshering, LCPC: Alan Watt’s Backwards Law And 3 Ways It Can Help With Your Mental Health

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