Type to search

Borrowing from the Design World to Design a Life You Love


I spent the better part of my life in the design field designing buildings and urban spaces, reading blueprints, and reviewing floor plans. While that was something I thoroughly enjoyed doing, I’ve since moved on to management consulting, training and coaching, and you might think the world of design is all behind me. But guess what? Now I get to help people design their lives.

Design a life?

I don’t blame you if it sounds a little farfetched. You’re probably wondering how does one go from designing buildings to designing lives? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Today, I’m sharing a few lessons from the design world that you can borrow to design the life of your dreams.

But first, when I talk about ‘design’, what do I mean?

To design something is to “decide how it will be made, including how it will work and what it will look like” (McMillan Dictionary). The Oxford Dictionary says it is “to plan how something will work, look or be used”.

So, whether you’re designing a house or a life, there are some decisions that need to be made as a first step, and that’s exactly where we will start.


Start with a Vision

Suppose you’ve inherited a piece of land and you finally decided this is the year you’ll build your dream house, where would you start? You’d visit an architect, right? In that very first meeting, the architect will ask about your vision. How many bedrooms do you have in mind? Do you want a single-family home or apartments? An eat-in kitchen? A pool? What’s your vision for your dream home?

When it comes to your life, what’s your vision? Where do you see yourself a year from now? Five years? Ten years? What do you want to have accomplished? What type of quality of life do you want? If you haven’t thought about these questions recently, now would be a good time to do so. Pause for a moment and take some time to jot down the answers to those questions.


Make a Plan

With a clear vision, the architect can start preparing the plans for your dream house. The plans are very important because they will be used to bring your vision to life.

But imagine trying to build a house without a plan. A wall here, a wall there and who knows what you’ll end up with. You might have a building, but I’ll bet it won’t look anything like the dream house you had in mind.

Same with life. When we keep moving forward without a plan, we end up somewhere we never intended. A misstep here, a misstep there and we’re so off-course we don’t know where to turn.

A loosely held plan (because who could ever really plan every single step?) is often better than no plan at all.

So, for the vision you described above, what steps do you need to take to achieve it? Do you need to go back to school? Do you need to cut down on your spending? Do you need to change jobs? What plans will you make to help you move toward the next step?


Get to building

Speaking of next steps, now that your plans have been drawn up, it’s time to start building. Seeing your vision come to life as your dream house takes shape is exciting and rewarding all at the same time.

That’s how it is in life as well. It’s fun to dream and plan, but the real reward is in putting those dreams and plans into action and watching your dream life come true.


Rinse and repeat

When you keep these three points in mind, vision, plan and action, you’ll be well on your way to having the life you’ve dreamt of.

I don’t expect there’ll ever be a point where you’ll say you’ve finally arrived, so I encourage you to keep going through these three steps as you grow and your priorities change.

And of course, we all know there’s no cookie-cutter approach to life. What works for one person, may not work for another. I’ve taken the liberty of adopting some processes from the design world and applied them to life in general, but I’m mindful that life doesn’t always work that way. My hope is that these tips would have inspired you enough to try something you might not have thought of before and that your inspired action will help you design a life you love.



Marva Titley-Smith, Certified Life Coach

Marva is a work and life coach with a passion for helping women thrive in all areas of life. She’s the BVI’s first local female architect and former Chief Planner. In 2012, after 26 years in the Public Service, she successfully transitioned careers and founded the management consultancy firm MatrixSpark specializing in strategic management training and coaching. She continues to welcome reinvention and is always on the lookout for what God is doing next.

You can find her writing about work-life balance and intentional living on her website www.MarvaSmith.com.