Living Your Life by Design, Not by Default

I don’t know about you, but I have had many times when I’ve thought to myself “How did I end up here?” Not here as in where I physically was, though on occasion I have thought that too, but more of a figurative “here” as in what happened to my life and where did I go wrong? THAT is when you realize that maybe you’ve been on auto-pilot. It’s time to sit back and figure out if you are living your life by design or living life by default.

There are very subtle differences between the two.

What does it meant to live life by Default?

A life by default is what you get when you don’t take an active role in making life decisions. Sometimes we purposefully decide not to decide, other times we don’t take the time to think about it or get tired of fighting against people who think they know better for us. Living by default is saying ok to the way things turn out in life by not to make choices, just letting things happen.

Life by default is that time in school when you showed up to take a test without doing any studying- sure, you may have showed up to class and half listened to the lectures, but you put no real effort in. Maybe you got a good grade on the test, maybe you didn’t, but you weren’t really invested either way.

Life by default is also taking that first job offer straight out of high school, whatever it was, and still working there 10 year later with few raises or no promotions because it’s easy and what you’ve always done. Maybe it’s at a fast food place or as a receptionist for your dad’s friend that owns a business. It’s not a job that excites you or interest you but it’s a job and it takes no real effort.

Life by default can also meaning saying “I don’t know” whenever you’re asked what you want to eat or what movie you want to see or what you want to do for the weekend. “I don’t know” is an easy cop out. Maybe you don’t want the other person to know what you really think or feel or maybe you’re too lazy or busy to take a minute to think about an answer. Either way, someone else can decide and you’ll just deal with it.

Life by default requires no action, no preparation, no effort. It is just showing up and “going with the flow”. Whatever happens, happens.

“Just Going With the Flow”

Ok, I admit, I’ve said AND felt that above statement many, many times in my life. “I’m just going with the flow” or I’ll “just roll with it”. While it is true that there are situations in life that we can’t control, that we have to find a way to accept and move on, your whole life shouldn’t be based on that philosophy.

When you go with the flow you don’t know where you will end up. Have you ever watched a plastic water bottle floating in a pond? It has no momentum, nothing to steer or guide it and it always ends up wherever the wind or current takes it- typically in a pile with all the other trash in the pond.

A duck, on the other hand, has the ability to kick and move in any direction it chooses to. They may or may not get where they want with ease, but they have a much better chance of getting somewhere when they choose not to just drift!

Those ducks have plans- they are going places and they are not going to let something as silly as a current or wind keep them from their goals. Now they may have to paddle extra hard at times to steer themselves, something others won’t see just by looking at the surface. 

That is what I mean by going with the flow. STOP and think! Then design your life to reflect YOU.

Don’t just settle or live with what life has dealt you if that isn’t something YOU want or something YOU would choose if you just took five minutes to ask yourself “Do I even want this?”

There is a time and place to go with the flow, like an unexpected loss of a job, death of a loved one, really anytime circumstances are beyond your control. There are WAY more times in life that you can and should make your own decision.

Design You Life to Reflect YOU!

Life by default is like sticking with the settings on a new phone or computer just because they happen to be there. Default settings are boring and barely scratch the surface of possibilities. It’s YOUR life! Take charge of it and make it your own! DESIGN it the way YOU want!

One of the first things I do when I get a new phone is pick a new backround and screensaver, usually a picture of my family or a motivational quote. I change my ringtone, notifications, and add fun new apps. Then I order a phone case that displays my current mood- fun, cutsey, bold, functional…

Life is like that too. We’re not one size fits all, we have different likes, dislikes, goals, dreams, talents, and fears. All these options on what we can be- if we’d just take the time to figure ourselves out and design a plan for our life.

I recently had a co-worker ask me a question about why I wasn’t making a change in my life, something that he knew kinda bothered me and that I wasn’t happy with. That change required major life changes. “Maybe when the kids are both out of the house in 5 years, then I’ll see what happens.”

I’ll never forget his response, “Why wait 5 years to do something to make you happy? That’s five years wasted.”

If you know what you want, know what will make you happy, why would you wait? Make your life yours by designing your life the way you want it to be, as much as you possibly take.

It’s your life. YOU pick your priorities. YOU pick your goals. YOU pick your action steps. YOU decide what is worth and not worth spending your time and energy on.

How to Live Your Life by Design

STEP 1: Figure out what YOU want.

This is always the hardest step for me. I’m a people pleaser. But really, it’ MY life and I’M the one who has to live with it (sure, my spouse and kids have to deal with some of the consequences of my choices). I’m the only one copletely responsible for me.

Everything you need to know about yourself is hiding somewhere inside you- you just have to discover it. Try NOT saying “I don’t know”. If you don’t know, stop and figure it out!

Take some time & ask yourself:

What do I want? What do I like or don’t like about my life?

What are my priorities? My goals? My dreams?

How do I spend my days now and what do I want my day to look like?

STEP 2: Design it! Plan it!

Write down your dreams, your goals. WRITE THEM DOWN. Place them where you can see them EVERY DAMN DAY. Create a vision board. Design your life like you would anything you construct- a house, a garden, a science project. Create a blue print to what you want most in your life.

If you’re looking for some tips on how to meet your goals, check out this post: How to Set Goals and How to Achieve Them- Tips for Success

STEP 3: Work on making your design your reality.

Living your life by design doesn’t just happen, it takes effort, focus, preperation and work. That’s how you get what you want in life. It’s not just going to drift your direction one day unless you’re one of the lucky few.

So figure it out, plan for it and then get to work doing it!

We all have the same 24 hours in each day. Think of your idol, your hero, whoever it is who is where you want to be in life. How did they get where they are? How much effort have they had to put in? What do they spend their free time doing?

I cna guarentee you that famous athletes don’t earn multi-million dollar contracts drifting through life. They all had goals, woke up early, went to bed late and put in all the effort required to create the life they designed.

What is comes down to…

In the end, what it all boils down to is if you are living your life intentionally, pointing yourself in the direction you want your life to go, finding fulfillment in knowing you are doing everything you can to reach your dreams and accomplish your goals, no matter what happens. Or are you just drifting wherever the wind happens to blow you, sometimes content with where you end up and other times seriously questioning “How did I get here?”.

No judegment. The choice is yours really. Living a life by design takes vision and hard work but has endless possibilities. Living a life by default has it’s persk too, like the ease of not having to put in much effort and taking little responsibility for where you end up because you’re just rolling with whatever life offers.

Let me know below what you think! Do you have an example living life by default? How do you plan to live your life by design? Any big goals or dreams you’re working towards?

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