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Life is what you make it. While practising gratitude has power because so much of our life lies outside of our control, a huge part of our reality can also be successfully influenced, designed, and shaped to our liking. How, you ask? With informed decisions, actions, and their consequences. Whether it be a career change, choosing an academic major or a life partner, having children, starting a business, or learning a new skill – the paths we take ultimately lead to our truth.

In one of his famous blog posts, Seth Godin gathered five key questions that can help us with a wide variety of ponderings and choices. Since almost everything in life can be treated as a project, the wisdom of this set of questions is equally applicable to writing a book and cooking dinner. Whatever you are currently contemplating, working on, or struggling with, ask yourself…

What’s the hard part?

Is it taking the first step and braving the wilderness (metaphorically or otherwise)? Coming up with an idea, or executing it? Is it motivating yourself to set out on a journey, or keep going? Everything we do comes with the hardest part; a bridge over a scary abyss to cross, a steep and snowy mountain to climb, or a dark and stormy sea to sail to get to the easier side. It takes courage – that’s the hard part.

What is your bridge, your mountain, or your sea? What is the biggest challenge and obstacle on your way? Define its edges and contents to conquer your fear and proceed. Nobody can tell you whether to take a leap of faith or not. Make a plan and think it through. The hardest part of your work is usually what will have the biggest, or even transformative impact on the outcome you seek. The obstacle is the way.

How are you spending your time?

Time is of the essence. We have a finite number of days and hours in our lifetime and, since there is no way to predict how long we’ll be able to enjoy our journey, being mindful of how we spend our most valuable asset is critical to our success and happiness.

Is your calendar filled with essential to-dos that can take your game to another level? Does it contain enough space for tackling the hard part of your undertaking? Is sufficient time for rest and self-care included? Can you devote an hour a day to improving your health and wellbeing? Are all the meetings throughout the week scheduled with people who bring value into your life? Your calendar is your life. Plan it wisely.

What do you need to know?

Knowledge is power (provided that we actively use it). In order to do our work effectively, we need to know how and we need relevant skills. Our education stretches far beyond the classroom at school. If you are truly invested in making your dreams come true, you need to learn, change, shift, and adjust your perspective regularly. Know who you are at your core. Everything else can be debatable.

What your work can greatly benefit from is your devotion, your abilities, and your self-awareness. When you check all three, you have the guts to begin, the expertise to continue, and the heart to never give up. Nobody’s perfect. Knowing your limits and shortcomings well will enable you to plan how much time and effort you need to invest in self-improvement. Knowing your talents and strengths will point you in the right direction.

What is the scary part?

5 questions to design your life

Is it the uncertainty of stepping into the unknown? Fear of failure? Making the wrong decision? Loneliness? Whatever you are scared of, venture there. Fear is a compass that points you towards your North Star – the thing you care about the most. If you have the courage to follow your fear, you may end up living your dream life. But if you never try, you’ll never know.

Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. Think which decisions and what outcome of your actions makes you feel expansive or contracted inside. You’ll find that most of the time, whatever gives you that expansive feeling leads through fear – rename it to tame it. Hello Bob, how are we doing today? Befriend your apprehension, it will never be entirely gone from whatever you do anyway. Seek discomfort.

Is it worth it?

Plan for success and it will be. However, analyze your answers to the questions above to get a clear picture of what you really want. Define your emotions tied to this project, reflect on the road ahead, and evaluate potential losses. What are you willing to sacrifice along the way?

Prepare for a long, winding, and perhaps treacherous path. Nothing worth having comes easily. What will it take for you to get where you want to be? Will the outcome of your undertaking benefit and serve you and others? Will it add value to their lives? Does the end justify the means? At the finish line of your journey you should arrive as the best possible version of yourself, hopefully having changed the world for the better, even if ever so slightly.

The Road Goes Ever On

The above questions provide much-needed guidance on the way to greatness. It’s important that we ask and answer them in complete honesty. Only through questioning can we learn, define, and have the capacity to choose what feels most authentic to us. It takes courage and persistence to ask and keep asking, but you must if you want to be the captain of your ship. Live an inquisitive life and you’ll never get complacent, bored, or dissatisfied. Follow your curiosity – it unlocks your power to control and design your reality.

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