How to design your life: do the reverse

“All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation, to all things.” Stephen R. Covey

So you’ve set up your company. Your baby is born.

It works. It employs people. It makes money. It gets publicity. You are proud of your product.

You feel beautifully in charge of your time, your peace of mind and your destiny….Or not.

Why do people start businesses? Three main reasons.

A sense of purpose.

A desire to make a difference.

A wish to live life on your own terms, to be free, to be the architect of your day-to-day existence.

So why have you ended up with a day-to-day existence that feels like the opposite of freedom?

When I set up my own restaurant business age 27 my co-founder and I spent hours, days, months planning it; from the minutiae of the style of wine glasses and whether the ceiling paint should be matt or gloss, to the big issues of how we would treat our staff and our sources of financing.

I spent whole rainy days sitting outside potential sites counting footfall. I filled notebooks with sketches of the perfect waiters’ station. I wrote careful, detailed employment manuals.

My mind never turned off.

The result was a successful, well-run restaurant (with a lovely gloss ceiling).

I didn’t spend a second considering what I wanted my own life to look like.

The result was the company running me rather than me running the company.

I was a headless chicken who didn’t really know her own destination.

Employing 30, 60 then 100 staff made me feel like Atlas holding up the world.

All my energy went to the company so I myself ran on empty.

Sound familiar?

What would it have been like if alongside painstakingly building my company I had purposefully built myself?

If I had laid the foundations of defining and knowing my role, of planning how I wanted the rhythm and structure of my week to be, of constructing an identity away from my “baby”, and of properly figuring out how to recover from all the unavoidable stresses of being the boss?

It would have felt powerful. It would have felt peaceful.

I would have been truly running my own company.

You can do it. You can actually be in charge.

Use your imagination, tap into yourself and figure out what is important.

Then start designing.


How to design the life you want

Stage 1

  • Firstly, do the reverse!
  • Sit down with pen and paper and design a “masterclass” on how to create what is currently going on in your life which you know needs to change. g., “How to be exhausted all the time” “How to make sure you never have time for friends and family” “How to disempower all your staff so they aren’t any good at their jobs”.
  • Do bullet points, a mind map, free-flow; whatever works for you.
  • Then teach someone your class. Tell them the top 5 tips for achieving expertise in your chosen area.

For example, here’s my class on achieving exhaustion:  1) Don’t get enough sleep 2) Take on too much work 3) Don’t delegate 3) Never say no to anything 4) Work at night 5) Party all weekend.

  • Throw in some extra suggestions to really take your student to the next level! Ham it up and have fun.

Extra tips for my class: 1) Only take proper time off when physically on the point of collapse then withdraw in an angry, resentful heap to bed. 2) Prior to doing that snap at all your employees, friends, partner, children… 3) Oh, and here’s a final gem – stubbornly hold onto the core belief that self-care is for losers and/or selfish.

  • Then spend the next few weeks noticing how good you are at your chosen subject of expertise.
  • That’s it.

Stage 2

  • When you’re ready for change revisit your masterclass and write the opposite next to each of your tips. E.g., “”Never say no” becomes ” Proactively think what is worth your time and say no to anything that isn’t”.
  • Teach yourself your own class.
  • Slowly start to shift to those ways of being .
  • If you like, and to really create a sense of responsibility and proactivity, write your own personal manifesto. Similar to a company one but instead focussing on how you want to be in the world.
  • That’s it.