This year, I was very struck by the book ‘Designing Your Life’ by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, which arose from the Engineering Labs of Stanford University, USA.

The authors advocate that we never finish designing our lives. They assert that life is a joyous and never-ending design project of building our way forward. What I like about their approach is that they keep humanity at the centre of design. They take a holistic view (health, family, hobbies, play, love and work) when designing their way forward.

Here are a few key steps that they suggest we take when ‘designing’ our lives:

  1. Be curious (embrace curiosity)
  2. Try stuff (create a bias towards action)
  3. Reframe problems (use reframing)
  4. Know it is a process (create awareness)
  5. Ask for help (lean towards radical collaboration)

In 2016, I embraced curiosity and I got to meet consultants, lawyers, musicians, artists, jugglers, retailers, librarians, trainers, baristas, accountants, chefs, Trump supporters, Trump haters, Japanese tourists, masseuses, make-up artist, A-listers, psychotherapists, janitors and taxi drivers.

I observed people who loved their jobs and treated them with reverence, like the older lady in Butler’s Chocolate Café in Dublin airport who served and arranged her chocolates like precious diamonds. I met many who were looking for ‘encore’ careers and who were retraining and looking at departing from Medicine and Law to do other meaningful work. I met others who felt caught in a rat race in the City and who wanted something more. Most of the people I spoke to were driven to work and give the best start to their families. Most of all, I enjoyed hearing how people ended up in their careers and all the synchronicities that happened along the way.

In 2016, I tried new stuff. I completed 12 courses in Psychotherapy, developed new skills to complement my existing skills and learned a new language of human needs. I became more aware of the functions of the human brain and how our emotions can serve us or enslave us. I was able to apply these principles in my Executive Coaching creating greater results for my clients. This awareness helped my clients to manage their own responses and create better working relationships with their colleagues and employees. This led to better results in performance and profits. Overall, I embraced the idea of creating a ‘stretch’ within me, by saying ‘yes’ to new challenges. From action comes clarity.

In 2017, I need to reframe problems more and develop immunity to failure. In 2016, certain projects had no longevity. Some efforts to explore new avenues were in vain. In 2017, I need to develop stronger ‘bouncebackability’ and move on faster. I need to ask myself constantly, ‘where is the learning?’ Above all, this year I want to embrace radical collaboration, reach out, and ask for help.

I have learnt this year that I thrive on collaboration, on a sense of belonging and a shared purpose. That is a great place for me to start the New Year.

If you are interested in building a life that works for you or want to explore Executive Coaching within your company then consider getting in touch with me. My clients have ended 2016 on a high of exciting new job offers, promotions, career changes and improved leadership and work practices.

No matter what stage you are at – whether you are a graduate, in mid-career, in leadership, or pre/ post-retirement – it is never too late to create a better life that works for you.

Dearbhla Kelly, The Career Coach


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