To Design Your Life, You Need A Blueprint

Jenni Ho-Huan
7 min readMar 7, 2022
2 plates of Chinese flour snacks on ceramic plates and 2 cups of tea

The phrase ‘Hygiene Factors’ would probably trigger visuals of sanitizers and masks, when in fact psychologist Frederick Herzberg was thinking of motivational factors that contribute to work satisfaction.

In our big wide world of humans-trying-to-make things-work, theories are constantly being churned out in every field with fascinating core ideas and labels to them.

One of these ideas that have gained some traction, originating from Engineering, is Design Thinking. Ivy League university Stanford has a Design Program whose director has co-authored a popular book (and now entire mini-industry) called Designing Your Life — how to build a well-lived, joyful life.

Now, who would not want a well-lived and joyful life?

The book has many wonderful gems that are helpful, not in the least because it feels so easy to apply, with its clear 5-step process: Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test… until you realize that it assumes many things, including certain rational capacities, not being in poverty, and life opportunities.

In other words, it’s the province of those who can afford to design (like those who can afford an ID for their new home, versus those who have to slap together clapboards or be grateful to have a roof that doesn’t leak).

So it can feed our atomistic, narcissistic tendencies nicely, unless we are intentional about our Why in the design process and remember that we are part of systems and contribute to networks, for better or worse.

More on this later.

My young children (like children the world over) get asked about their future aspirations. Often, the question is framed this way: what do you want to do when you grow up?

This cute children’s video from the wonderful Richard Scarry’s Busy People shows us how the answer begins with looking at models — did we have someone we aspired to be like?

So perhaps, the better question to get our kids thinking would be: what do you want to be when you grow up? I add a small adjective to this and ask: what kind of person do you want to be when you grow up?

After all, it is the person that makes the impact, not the role. A creepy doctor isn’t serving…

Jenni Ho-Huan

feline lover sniffing for Beauty Truth and Love