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How to Design Your Life for Happiness

Do you sometimes feel like life is a smorgasbord of distractions, chattering monkey mind and societal expectations designed to keep you on the straight and narrow? Instead, you discover you are on the road to a future with little promise and no tomorrow and wonder what happened. 

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Many people float through life like a pinball machine. They are bouncing off obstacles, opportunities and barriers at random with no apparent purpose or intent and waiting to exit stage left.

One of life’s biggest challenges is finding purpose, creating an intention and then connecting it to the power of focused attention and acting. Most of us get distracted and wander from shiny toy to shiny toy. Distraction to the next popular attraction. At the whim of others. Wanting to please well-intentioned mothers.

Taking the time to reflect on the question, “What should I do with my life?” and finding a sliver of an answer that whispers to you is hard work. It’s time to stop hiding under the doona, wandering through life with no purpose and just showing up without any focus.

So how do you design a life? 

There is no clear answer, but there are some things you can do to start and supercharge the process. 

School doesn’t teach you how to design “your life”, and often neither do parents. They just want you to be safe and secure. But what that means is that they will try and fit you into their box or pre-determined ideas with protective foam, soft edges and safety handles. They have the best intentions. They want to make sure you don’t get hurt. The reality is that their life expectations for you are not your ideal life, and likely you will not be happy. Just safe. Being true to yourself is a challenge.  

“When I grow up, I want to be me.” 

The challenge is that traveling a road less traveled will have its bumps, darkness and storms. We thrive or drown from pain. Or get lost in pleasure. But the truth is that we don’t learn or grow from pleasure. 

So when tough times show up (and they will), you need to see it as an opportunity. It’s time to grow, learn and have an adventure. Life is too short to live like a round peg in a square hole. Trying to fit into other people’s and society’s expectations. It is time to choose joyful mastery and passionate purpose over a life of conforming misery. 

Start with intentional life design rather than being a compliant pleasing follower

So start designing “your” life. It’s time to choose your unique path and be free to dream. 

So what do you do, and where do you start? 

Step 1: Answer the question. “What makes me happy?” 

“There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way” Buddha.

You can’t manufacture happiness by working hard at it. You already know what makes you happy, but you have maybe never taken the time to write it down or taken the time to ask the question. But be aware it will have multiple answers.

Also, I don’t mean superficial passing happiness. It sits deeper than that and is woven into your being. It can be as simple as:

  • Listening to music
  • Cycling
  • Gardening
  • Working outdoors
  • Creating: Music, art, writing 
  • Making something with your hands 
  • Learning. You could add what type of learning you love
  • Reading
  • Photography
  • Creating and observing art
  • Helping other people
  • Being around other people

So why choose a 9-5 job that makes you miserable? If you do, you have chosen misery. 

One of the best things I ever did was on a weekend bootcamp where the goal was to reflect and become more self-aware. The Life Mapping exercise on a big piece of butcher paper was revealing and confronting. Think and reflect on what you did as a child and teenager when you were free to dream before you were programmed to fit in. Be careful as this may hurt. It requires you to stop, be quiet and “think”. 

Notes & Additional Resources: 

About sex

In his book “Don’t Trust Your Gut: Using Data to Get What You Really Want in Life”, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz summarizes what a 3 million data point research project and happiness tracking “app” titled “Mappiness” reveals about what makes humans happy. And it is not that complicated. The data-driven answer to life is as follows: 

“Be with your love, on an 80-degree and sunny day, overlooking a beautiful body of water, having sex.” 

So a quick note about sex. The data found that during sex, less than 30% of participants in the survey were thinking about something else. A study by Killingsworth asked the following question: 

“Are you thinking about something other than what you’re currently doing?” (they also asked whether the other thought was pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant). The study found that 46.9 per cent of the time, a person is thinking about something other than what they are currently doing. The researchers also found that when a person is thinking about something else, they are significantly less happy.*

So amongst many other good things, sex is good at quieting the mind! 

About work and jobs: 

In his book “Freakonomics” Steven Levitt reveals that people who used a coin flip to decide whether to leave or stay in their job “that sucks” they discovered that the people who left were much happier months later. 

Step 2: What am I good at? 

Sometimes you don’t know what you are good at until you do it. Or it could be sitting down and writing down what you think you are good at. It could be asking your friends and family what they have observed in you. 

  • I am good with my hands. Fixing things and making stuff
  • I can create music
  • I’m good with computers
  • I am good at cooking. 
  • Selling
  • Project management
  • Attention to detail
  • Listening and communication 

Notes and additional resources: There are some good tools and resources to help you get in touch with yourself on this. One of these is “The Clifton Strength’s Test” by Gallup. You can get your top 5 or pay to receive the complete set of 34. 

Step 3: What does the world need?

I was conversing with a fellow entrepreneur who has successfully started four companies and exited two. I asked him, “Where do your business ideas come from?” His answer revealed a mindset that is a very effective “ideas machine” but with a purpose. 

As he walks around and goes to cafes, attends meetings and talks to people, he looks for the problems. Then he asks himself, “How can I solve that problem?” It is a mindset of conscious awareness with a purpose. Today he has a list of 200 problems and also has some answers! 

The world needs answers to problems posed as questions. It needs beauty to bring joy to people’s lives. It needs pain to be eased. It needs laughter to stop sorrow from overwhelming souls.

Step 4: What will the world pay you for? 

“When you have a dream, it often doesn’t come to you screaming in your face. Sometimes a dream almost whispers. The hardest thing to listen to is your instincts, your human personal intuition. It whispers; it never shouts. It is very hard to hear”. – Stephen Spielberg

Steps 1-3 are designed to help you hear the whisper. To peel back the noise of life and find your truth and life purpose. 

You just need to discover the one intention to focus your attention and act every day. There may be a few intentions sitting on the shelves labeled:

  • Too hard 
  • Too busy
  • Afraid to fail 

That is just procrastination. So choose the one whispering intention that feels right. Don’t overthink it. 

That intention then needs focused attention. Focused attention is writing down the goal, acting and stepping into the gap. The unknown. Choose the what and don’t worry about the how. The universe will reveal the “hows” (daily actions). 

So what is the one intention that you would like to do? Write down a few and choose “one” that feels right. Listen to your intuition.

So, “What does the world need?” 

Typically that will come from your own experiences and interests and then asking the right questions. 

A simple, practical approach?

Look for problems to solve. The bigger, the better.

  • The Uber founders experienced the challenge of trying to get a Taxi on a wet, cold night in Paris. That was the problem. Then they came up with a global solution.
  • Airbnb founders couldn’t find accommodation during a busy weekend in San Francisco, where the hotels were full and expensive. Another problem. After trial and error, they came up with an answer. The bigger the problem you solve for a big audience, the bigger the difference you will make. 

Step 5: Discover the sweet spot in the middle

Here we take what makes you happy, add into the mix your innate abilities, and add what the world will pay you for. This intersection is where you discover your intention. But it is just a starting point to get you actively thinking. The intersection will be in the middle of the matrix and the unknown possibilities. 

There are three areas that we have listed as the first three steps.

Step 1: Answer the question, what makes me happy? (Love doing)

Step 2: What am I innately good at? (Strengths)

Step 3: What will the world pay me for? (Career and Business) 


Write down three ideas that you think the world would pay you for

Write down three of your best ideas and choose the best one. The one that feels right. Maybe the one you road tested at the job you worked at as an intern? Intuition is not perfect, but you will be surprised at its magic. 

Once you have chosen your intention out of the different possibilities, I recommend writing a one-page intention plan with three sections.

One Page “Intention” Plan

  1. Describe your product or service that serves the world. The better you serve the world and solve a problem, the more you will be rewarded. The bigger the problem and the bigger the audience, the better the results. 
  2. Distill that into one sentence so that if someone asks what you do when you get into an elevator, you can tell them before you reach the floor where they are getting off.
  3. Write down all the reasons “why” you are uniquely qualified to do this intention. This will help confirm that what you are doing is right and it is time to act.

Some Notes:

  • Ikigai is the Japanese method of discovering if your career will fulfill you. – Forbes
  • Look at your experiences – List a variety of options. Just write them down without overthinking. 
  • To help here, write a list of what experiences you have had in life.
  • As you travel through life’s adventure, you have spent time working, playing, pursuing passions, and working on specific projects. 
  • The intersection can also be woven into other areas of your life. 
    • Exercise – Eg: Does going to the gym, running, swimming, or dancing make me happy?
    • Hobbies – Eg: Do you get lost in the process and creativity of cooking? 
    • Friends and relationships – Only be in relationships that genuinely make you happy and leave the rest behind.

Step 6: Supercharge your motivation to get started

To help get your mojo and motivation going, try this 2 step exercise. 

  1. The different major goal categories in life are worth pondering. 
  2. Ask the question – Why am I doing this? The more reasons you can list, the more your motivation will be supercharged.

Nine Whys

There are many reasons “why” I am doing this one thing. It seems that the more “whys” you have written down, the stronger your motivation. There are many motivations for “why” you do something that gives you joy. These are both internal and external. The internal is more powerful and sustainable. 

These are my reflections on 9 “why’s” that have motivated me over the years.

1. Satisfy my “Curiosity” (Internal)

This “why” sat at the top when I joined Facebook and Twitter. I was impressed by the tech and also noticed people’s behaviour. Obsession and addiction. It also happened to me. I was looking into the future, and it would be a game changer. I was curious about where the future was going. 

2. It Gives me a feeling of Fulfillment

The sense of fulfillment I had, added to my motivation like fuel to a fire. As I wrote and created and shared I was growing. The website traffic grew. 

3. Provides a sense of “Accomplishment”

Accomplishment sounds like a destination, but it should be a series of ongoing accomplishments that keep you hungry. Finishing a project. A piece of art. Launching and growing a successful business.

4. Receive “Positive Feedback” 

The comments on Twitter and my blog were intoxicating at the time. Not so much now as it is more an internal motivation drive.

5. Given “Affirmation”

I will be acknowledged and affirmed that I am on the right track by other people close to me and in my circle. 

Having my partner and friends affirm that I was doing well added to the “drive drug”. As we got picked up in a limousine in Italy, my partner (Toni) said, “There is something going on here.” And I replied, “Yes, I know!” (she didn’t hand out affirmations often or lightly). 

6. Just for the “Joy of learning”

I write to learn. I “do” to learn. 

There is nothing like rolling the sleeves up, getting in the trenches and doing the work. As I wrote, I became a better writer and accomplished speaker. 

7. Feel like I am making a “Difference”

As I enter the 13th year of the blog, I am taking the vision, my insights, and what I learned along the way and sharing other people’s stories. Who has started a “Side Hustle” newsletter to help people discover a life of freedom. 

8. Relationship building and nurturing

Building global partnerships and relationships that make a difference in people’s lives.

9. Feed my drive and need to “Create” something of beauty

This is a biggie. Start and keep creating 

Seven Major Goal Categories 

  1. Career/Business – I want a job/business that makes me happy. 
  2. Health – I go to the gym three times a week, and I eat healthy food. I moderate my drinking. 
  3. Relationships – Friends, family and partner. I learn to listen and communicate.
  4. Financial – Buy a sports car, start saving, and invest in real estate. 
  5. Spiritual – Meditate and become aware. Stop and be. Watch with detachment without mind chatter.
  6. Educational – Read, watch and learn.
  7. Fun goals – Travel, entertainment (going to 12 concerts a year)

Note: Don’t overcomplicate this. Write one for each area first.

The result?

Supercharged motivation. 

If you stack the “Why I am doing this” on top of your “Life Goals”, then the motivation and the mojo become a major force that will change your life. 

The energy starts to rise. 

One way to design your life is to start a side hustle 

Over 12 years ago, I started a side hustle that revealed I could design a life rather than letting life design me. Now I want to share what I have learned along the way.

SideHustleStrategies.co. is an evolution of Jeffbullas.com that I have always dreamed about. It is devoted to helping you grow personally and professionally (if you choose). Side Hustle Strategies exists to help you flourish.

Since I launched Jeffbullas.com, it has been read by over 40 million people. That website and blog was originally a passion project that started as a side hustle. As I grew my blog, I discovered the financial freedom it gave me and how I designed and lived my life. 

After experiencing that freedom, I wanted to help others get control of their life. That is where the inspiration started for creating SideHustleStrategies.co.

Designing your life means asking some tough questions, becoming aware and taking action. So take the time to answer them honestly. Listen to your intuition and start becoming aware by stopping and being silent every day. 

Then take some action without overcomplicating things.

Join Side Hustle Strategies today.

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