CAREERS TOOLKIT: How to Design Your Future

Successful behaviour change usually happens in incremental steps. The small decisions and consistent actions we commit to accumulate to create new patterns.

Are you the type of person that has always known what you’ve wanted to ‘do’ with your life? Or have you gone with the flow and simply taken the available option-opportunity-convention of the time? Whichever camp that you fall into, you’ll have more than likely sampled both circumstances at sometime or another.

Moments of clarity and steadfast conviction can also lead to paths of un-expectant change, self-doubt or discovering a new sense of purpose. Whether it’s a change in career or just starting out, when you’re at an existential crossroads, the ‘doing’ becomes quite important. In other words: the how.

‘How’ means making contentious choices and taking responsibility for exactly what we ‘do’ to create the life we wish to shape for ourselves. Successful behaviour change usually happens in incremental steps. The small decisions and consistent actions we commit to, accumulate to create a shift or a new pattern. When we partake in this process – whether conscious of it or not – we are changing our present and designing our future.

As we fast forward into an increasingly virtual, technology driven age, the relevance of design as a process and practise is growing. The invisible infrastructure of design has been unveiled. Design creates systems, design influences human interaction, helping define how we perceive the world around us. Design in short solves problems. The science behind design is what will prevail in the years to come. Part of the fascination with the discipline is the intersection between the ‘magic’ of creativity and the facilitation of innovation working in accordance with the meticulousness and precision of engineering. Design encompasses the grand vision along with the minutiae. And what is life all about if not both the macro and micro?

Design encompasses the grand vision along with the minutiae. What is life all about if not both the macro and micro?

So how can we incorporate design thinking methodology into our everyday life decision making? A useful starting point is to appreciate the delicate balance of the design eco-system – the macro and micro – and align our thinking; creating a framework that takes these elements into account.

What does the blueprint of your future look like?

The conundrum of our time is that there are a multitude of opportunities for personal advancement via technology. These opportunities, however, are accompanied by distractions and falsehoods that can veer us off the path of realisation in our day-to-day. By using a conscious and deliberate strategic system we can create a toolkit to evaluate / change behaviour and remind ourselves when needed of what inspired us in the first place.

1. Scope: Ask the big questions

The scoping process has to start with big questions and critical thinking. What is your purpose? You know, that fire in the belly that keeps you motivated and isn’t dampened by the sound of the alarm clock on a dark Monday morning. Purpose is what helps us to develop meaning in our lives, thus avoiding the dreaded feeling stuck in the proverbial rat race.

Scoping out your purpose will allow you to define your values – differentiating what really matters to you from what doesn’t.

And whilst we’re on the proverbial – life is short. What impact do you hope to create in life? What narrative are you constructing for yourself? What will be your legacy?

Scoping out your purpose will allow you to define your values, differentiating what really matters to you from what doesn’t.

2. Creativity & ideation: The easy bit

You asked the big questions now it’s time for thinking big: the art of creative visualisation. The blessing and curse of most creative individuals is that they are generally good at more than one thing, which is a useful skillset for the 21st century economy. However, it can cause challenges when focusing one’s energy.

Combining your core purpose, values and skills is one thing, but how will that manifest into productivity? Be playful, be adventurous and be courageous. This is your life you are designing after all, the architectural blueprint of your potential pathway.

3. Collaboration: Find your people

One of life’s oxymorons is that independence cannot be achieved alone. Collaboration is necessary in order to realise one’s goals. Only with the help of others are we truly able to grow, gain new insights and solve big problems.

An alliance of like-minded people, with common goals and values is essential to your support system. On the flip side, an agitator/ devil’s advocate can also help challenge comfortable notions, and push us to be our best.

4. Empathy & problem solving: Two heads can be better than one

Traditionally, the design thinking part of the problem solving process coincides with the deconstruction of ‘user issues’ with a view to gaining an in-depth understanding. When creating your own blueprint, you may or may not be aware of the potential or inherent issues. An outside perspective can bring clarity and insight to prevailing issue. Just like a significant other, there has to be the right chemistry in a good mentor / mentee relationship. If you don’t already have mentor, then this maybe an opportunity to find one.

When considering your challenges and how to solve them, what is it do you need to understand about the macro (the complex eco systems of business, industry, law or civic society etc) that will enable you to realise your own?

5. Iteration and beta: Practise makes (kinda) perfect

The prototyping process is where you’ll need to translate your big ideas into impactful actions and tangible achievements. So how do we convert the grand vision into the small steps that create the infrastructure to realise your plan?  Is it a matter of mono-tasking, immersing yourself into a single task or subject rather than juggling ten tasks at once? Or is it making a commitment to advancing your knowledge in new fields – like learning a new language?

Whatever the outcome, iterations will surely come with practise. The constant upgrade of the beta: adding, taking away, reconfiguring and ultimately improving with experience.

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