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The First Step to Living Life by Your Design



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Too many of us are living someone else’s life. We are living out what someone else wanted for us, or what someone else expected of us. It may not even be ‘someone,’ because it can be the culture we grew up in that defines us, the religion we’re a part of, or the family we are in. 

It doesn’t make this ‘someone’ or ‘something’ bad. It just makes us aware of how easy it is to follow the ‘norm’ or the ‘expected’ versus living out who we are really designed to be. How do we get out of this ‘rut’ of doing the ‘norm’ or what is ‘expected?’ How do we get to where we are living life by our unique design?

Before we get to that, let’s determine if we are even in a rut. It’s a bit like not seeing the forest for the trees. Ruts tend to look like roadways or paths when we are in them.

Three ways to know if you are in rut:

1. The why of your childhood dream

Are you doing what you dreamed of doing when you were a child? Do you remember your childhood dreams? What was behind them? Why those particular dreams? This exercise is not to point out that you are not doing those dreams, but to understand what was behind those dreams.

I want you to think of why you wanted  to be a firefighter, or a ballerina, or an artist. Was it about helping others, bringing joy to others, or bringing beauty to others? What was behind your dreams?

So often, it’s not about the actual job as it is to what’s behind wanting to be in that job or position. If what you are doing today does not line up with the reasons you wanted to be that firefighter, ballerina, artist, or whatever it is for you, then you may be in a rut.

“Dream big dreams! Imagine that you have no limitations and then decide what’s right before you decide what’s possible.” – Brian Tracy

2. Your Favorite Things

Can you tell me your favorite color, or artist, or architect, or flower, or …? As creative beings, we crave creativity – if we are really living. Too often, our need for creativity gets buried – and we don’t even know it. 

Naming a favorite color, artist, or having any kind of favorite in what we consider the creative world, is a good sign that there is still some creativity in our lives. However, if we can only name one favorite thing or none at all, then my guess is that creativity is not a part of our lives.

3. What moves you

And yet another question around rut-checking that centers around feeling and emotion. When was the last time you laughed, cried, or felt anger? If we’re not feeling joy nor sadness, we are likely doing life on autopilot. 

We’re likely to get up in the morning, shower, dress, go to work, and come home. We may spend some time with family, although probably not quality time. We finish the day by going to bed. We do it all over the next day, and the next, and the next. It changes up a bit on the weekend, but even the weekend doesn’t bring laughter or tears.

Perhaps you don’t go to work everyday, but you feel the same monotony and routine of your days. You haven’t felt strong emotions for a long time. If this describes you, I suggest that you may be in a rut.

“There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

4. How to Start Living Life by Your Design

Now that we know if we are in a rut, let’s look at the one thing I’ve found that helps anyone to get out of the rut and start living by their unique design.

For me, and for many others, this journey of living life by our unique design starts with introducing creativity back into our lives.

When I started moving into what creativity was for me, I was surprised by what I discovered and what it produced in me. I discovered there were many choices in my life that had been made for me and didn’t really decide for myself. I didn’t know what clothes I liked, what hairstyle I preferred, what type of art moved me, or what type of music touched my soul.

For me, this piece of my journey uncovered a number of things. The most surprising was I discovered I could draw! But for you, it doesn’t have to be what is normally considered ‘creative.’ Creativity is that which pulls you out of your rut – whatever that rut may be. 

I didn’t just start drawing one day when I decided to re-introduce creativity back into my life. It started with going shopping! While I don’t like shopping, for me, going shopping got me thinking about what I like and don’t like. What colors? What styles?

Then, I started observing artwork. I even visited art galleries. I visited street fairs where photographers, artists, and sculptures set up their creative work for all to see and buy. I started to realize the type of art I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy.

I did the same with music by listening to a variety of genres and deciding what resonated and what didn’t. I began to understand more about myself. All of this eventually led to going back to school for graphic design and becoming much more creative than I ever thought possible.

Your journey may not lead to what is normally considered creative, but just the act of moving towards what you consider creative will begin to reveal more about yourself. This is always the first step in being able to live life by your design.

What is your Creative? Begin the journey to explore your likes and dislikes. In that process, it will eventually lead to you living life by your unique design.

A caveat is that this journey never ends. That’s the beauty and the challenge of it all. The beauty of discovering more and more of what you are capable of along with the challenge of never really knowing where the journey is going to take us. 

Are you living your life by design? Share your thoughts with us below!

Carma Baughman is a tech trainer and people developer. She has enjoyed the solopreneur lifestyle for nearly 20 years. She supports others in pursuing their dreams and living life by their own unique design, helping them discover their contribution to the world.  Learn more at

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