There’s one thing that we can count on during the COVID-19 period, and it existed before the virus and will carry on after. It’s the limitation of our sphere of control over other people.
If you’re part of a large corporation that has announced significant staffing cuts, there’s probably not much you can do personally to secure your position.
If your neighbour decides it’s a human right not to have to wear a mask there’s not much you can do about their decision.
Focusing on those elements of life that are out of our control comes with an array of negative feelings; anxiety, depression and a sense of hopelessness.
And if you’re stuck inside at the moment, with the bad news blaring from the radio, it might be challenging to swerve your thinking away from the world woes.
But you must try, in the words of Dale Carnegie,
But how to act when you’re stuck inside because of your neighbour or furloughed, or awaiting a decision about your career?
The execution of new ideas always starts with a plan, and that is something you can do from isolation and needing no more than your full attention and a few hours of solitude.
In busy, design for good quarters, the phrase bottom-up design is used by economists and climate change champions for positive mission-based projects.
I wrote a piece about mission based thinking here.
It describes a solution-based method of design that starts with the problem. This may sound like the obvious place to start the design of a service or product, but it’s not always the case.
Think of organisations who are bound by increasing profit for their shareholder. This moves the mission away from the problem-solving element.
In the same way, when we have too many other stresses or influences in our life, we can get pushed away from our core mission. We need to go back to base.
Where design thinking often has a team of thinkers, many individuals or new businesses won’t have this resource. If fact you might have a whole army of negative energies and doom soldiers trying to convince you of your powerlessness.
Don’t listen to them yet!
I’m going to take elements of the principle of bottom-up problem solving and apply it to individuals. I’ve used the same process to myself recently.
At worst, this is a distraction from a feeling of hopelessness ; but it might just give you a new look at your life.
And once you spend the time working out what you want you might also start to see the world in another light and isn’t that what we all need to do? Re-imagine another world.
I’m going to call it Inside Out design, usually associated with interior and architectural design, but which fits our purpose.
A mission is what you’re going to do to create a better world on multiple fronts. The first question is, what makes a better world? What’s your cause?
Write down three things that mean a lot to you — one for yourself, one for another group or individual and one for the world. The missions can connect by a theme or completely unrelated.
For example, I could link my storytelling mission to all three.
My mission for myself is to increase my storytelling is to create stories.
My mission for others is for my smaller clients, and it is to introduce to them the power of their own stories to create an impact on their business.
My mission for the world is to increase empathy for the planet and others through storytelling.
What are the things that are important to you? Maybe you’ve forgotten but asking yourself this question will bring it back. Is there something that would get you out of bed in a flash if you were doing it?
It could be storytelling, business, the environment, music, gardening — it’s your mission, nothing is off limits if it’s genuine.
No-one needs to see this so feel free to get as fluffy, ridiculous or as impossible as you like. It can be a sentence or a paragraph.
Another reminder that no-one is watching you do this so be as generous and honest with yourself as you do this. Grab a cup of tea; sit on the sofa and think of all of the genuine compliments you’ve had, whether they were this week or a lifetime ago.
Think of the times when you know you’ve made a difference to your own or someone else’s life. That’s skill right there.
What are you good at? Maybe, right now it’s not even linked do your mission, that comes later. I’m going at coming up with ideas, good at whiling away days with people that aren’t real, I’m good at baking, taking notes and grinning.
But I have a few more skills, I could go on, but you get the idea. You’re probably feeling pretty good now. I told you you’d like this. You have a mission and a bunch of skills and the enthusiasm to follow through.
What learning items are on your bucket list? Now perhaps you’ve got some time to put them into place. If you’ve come up with a new purpose, what are the skills that will help you deliver that mission?
Whatever you want to learn is out there on the internet right now. Even physical activities such as dance and exercise have found a home online.
Who are the players in your new life? They could fall into multiple categories, but it’s good to outline the following:
Viewers/Customers — are you going into business? Or join a new community? Who will your new customers be? Are you taking a step back from the industry to focus on improving the planet? Who is going to benefit from your missions? Maybe it’s your neighbour, or perhaps it’s a group.
Affiliates/Collaborators — the old cliché a problem shared is a problem halved is true. Maybe you’re not confident in sharing your big ideas with others, or you’ve never had an articulated mission before. Try it, find the right people and you’ll enjoy it. You will find collaborators who are interested in the same thing. You’ll find people who love your energy who are not into your mission but know someone else who is.
Asking questions and sharing your energy always opens doors. What’s the worse that can happen? Someone might make fun of you, but you’re stronger than that. Let them laugh; you’re too busy doing something interesting.
Mentors — if you’re busy redesigning your life you might not have the budget for a paid mentorship programme but never mind the internet is full of the right kind of information to guide you in a direction that you need. Choose someone who has already made the journey you’re going to undertake, even if it’s in a different arena.
Check out my article here on how to find a Shadow Mentor. They are the best option at the beginning of a new journey, and there is no shortage of them.
Now you know what your missions are and who you’re going to play with it’s time to define some outputs. If you had a real mentor, what would they ask you to provide each time you had a session.
It could just be an introduction in Linked In; it could be a connection per week; in my case, it could be a story per week. Maybe you’re designing cartoons or starting a florist website. Whatever your mission and remember it can be your mission to yourself, what are the outputs?
What does living your mission look like in tangible outputs?
Now, knowing all of these fantastic things about yourself and what you want out of life, it is time to put an action plan in place.
At it’s most simple, it is a list of steps that need to be taken to get you towards your goal. The smaller these are, the more specific, the easier they will be to action.
You can start at either end of your journey; where you are now or the other end, where you need to get to and list out all of the items you need to get there.
I completed an action plan for my screenplay recently. You can read about that here.
Now, are you feeling more motivated than you were when you started? I hope so. Fear and anxiety can be tempered by having a clear plan to follow.
To recap, you can redesign your life inside out by following these steps:
1. Define your missions
2. List your current skills.
3. Identify the skills you lack for the future.
4. Find your players
5. Calculate your outputs
6. Create your action plan
And you’re ready to go. This might not solve all of your problems, but it will add an element of control to your life. We’re conditioned to see ourselves as stuck within a world of someone else’s making, but this is up to you
Thanks for reading.