What Do You Want To Do With Your Wild and Wonderful Life?

“What do you want to do with your wild and wonderful life?” – Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Regardless of where you are in your journey — whether you’ve just graduated school or are seasoned in your career — I ask you, “how does this question land?”

Do you feel anxious, overwhelmed or worse … stuck? If so, why?

Perhaps it’s because this question triggers a wicked problem — one that has multiple options with no singular “right” answer. The circumstances change and the problem‘s never fully solved. There is no map for your one amazing life.

So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with what we know. We all want a life and career we love. We want meaningful work that challenges us to grow and makes us happy. As human beings, we all deserve meaningful work we enjoy.

What I’ve learned from experience is that waiting around for something to magically happen is a sure way to feel discontented, stagnant and stuck. When I didn’t take ownership and action to change my current reality, those negative emotions only grew stronger.

Luckily, the last time I felt that way, I sought help from a friend. She gave me a book that changed my outlook. Her gift opened my eyes to my misguided sense of victimhood. Now, I share it with you in the chance you need it.

Meet Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, two Stanford professors who can help you get “unstuck.”

They’ve created a step-by-step guide to help you answer the fundamental question: What are you going to do with the rest of your wild and wonderful life?

These two accomplished professors teach a course at Stanford that has transformed the lives of thousands of students. It was so popular that they turned it into a book for you. “Designing Your Life: How to build a well-lived and joyful life”, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, became a #1 New York Times best seller in October 2016.

With their book (and workbook) as your guide, they help you assess your current reality. They teach you how to capture data in a “Good Time Journal” to track your engagement and energy — the positive, the negative, and your flow states. They show you how to “catch yourself having a good time.” They help you use that information and design thinking to prototype your possibilities.

“Design is an adaptable process that allows you to change direction when you get new data.” – Designing Your Life

Throughout the design process, Bill and Dave challenge dysfunctional beliefs, such as, “I need to figure out my best possible life, make a plan, and then execute it.” They offer reframes, like this one: “There are multiple great lives within me, and I get to choose which one to build my way forward to next.”

Simply put, Bill and Dave help you:

  1. Get curious. Create three different versions of your life. From these options you assess what you’re really curious about.
  2. Talk to people. Have prototyping conversations with people who are doing the things you’re interested in.
  3. Try stuff. Find prototyping experiences to spend more time with your curiosities.

The philosophy behind their system is not to plan a life, instead you prototype it, one micro-experience at a time.

So, you‘re ready to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your wild and wonderful life?

Your next steps are simple:

  1. Read the book. Available as a hardcopy and audiobook.
  2. Follow their process. Their workbook is available on Amazon. You can also find free tools and resources here.
  3. Do it at your own pace. Bill and Dave remind us, “You’re never too early and you‘re never too late. You are right where you are.” Remember it’s your life and you get to design it.

P.S. If youre curious and want to hear more from Bill and Dave directly, check out this video. In about 15 minutes you’ll get an overview and practical next steps.

P.P.S. How do I know this approach works?

Because I’m practicing it right now. In 2018, I was stuck. Twelve years earlier, I began my career as a graphic design intern. I was quickly promoted to a graphic designer and about five years later I was promoted to a senior graphic designer. I did a short stint as a project manager and lastly I was given the opportunity to manage a team of designers.

In the early days of my career I loved the handson design and problem-solving. As my career progressed, I took on that management role and spent the next several years in a deep learning curve, which was both exciting and nerve-wracking. It was a constant challenge and thrill to understand how to build a collaborative and high-performing team. By 2018, I finally found my footing … and for some reason I felt stuck. My work felt like a grind. I was unfulfilled and didn’t know why. I’d leave the office drained and exhausted.

My friend shared this book with me. After I completed my “Good Time Journal” exercise, I realized I was spending most of my time on administrative tasks that zapped my energy. The areas that gave me energy, like coaching and strategy, were getting almost no attention. That’s why I was struggling. I thought I needed to find a new job. What I needed, was to restructure my time and focus.

These days, I’m intentionally spending less time on administrative tasks and more time on creative strategy and building my coaching and leadership skills. I look forward to myweekly connects with each team member. Right now, I have the privilege of guiding a talented team of in-house designers as we grow forward. I love my team, I enjoy what I do, and I’m excited to try stuff and prototype my way into the future, one micro-experience at a time.


By Amy Henry | Creative Services Manager at Western & Southern Financial Group
Published March 5, 2021
AIGA encourages thoughtful, responsible discourse. Please add comments judiciously, and refrain from maligning any individual, institution or body of work. Read our policy on commenting.