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A Story of Life and Work Design Transformation

Updated: Jul 2, 2022

Stories of transformation inspire me. Luckily, I see many such stories in my day-to-day work. Today I would like to share with you Aniela’s story.

First, to acknowledge her transformation in a short timeframe. Second, to give you another perspective on how you can design your life and work. So many people struggle with living a healthier life, recharging, or getting more fulfilment. The only way they see to make such a change is to take a long time off or change jobs. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I worked with Aniela for eight weeks in the Designing Your Life Experience. We nearly finished before we started because of last-minute changes in the group setting. Regardless, Aniela decided to move on an individual journey. She enjoyed the idea of using Design Thinking for life design, considering her background in technology.

Aniela is very successful by everyone’s standards. She holds a senior role in a global organization, and her career has advanced quickly. Yet, now she felt stuck. She was looking for a way to make a more significant impact and even considered looking for jobs with a bigger impact.

During our first session, she realized she felt stuck because she was trying to do it alone. Looking at life from a business mindset, she thought she should already know her destination. She saw that she did have help, and instead of one destination, there were many options and directions. The most crucial step is the next step. But one of the most incredible breakthroughs in our first session was when she realized that when you are not present, you remain confused, can’t see your options, and can’t decide your next step.

From that moment on, Aniela was present, focused, and with the next step in mind. She needed that; otherwise, she knew others would make decisions for her. So, in between sessions, she took small actions to share her story with others and ask for directions from more experienced people. In life design, this is what we call prototyping.

Later on, we explored the coherence between her Life and Work philosophies. This step seemed difficult so she hesitated a bit, but she found it straightforward when doing it. It was then that she understood why she was so successful in her career: she had a strong alignment between who she is, what she believes, and what she does. This alignment was in place even today. So, she wasn’t off track at all; on the contrary: she enjoyed her life, her job, and her organization.

While the focus is on the job, we can never design our work without looking at our lives in perspective. So, when we looked at Aniela’s life balance, she saw how critical fun, social, and health activities are for her fulfilment. She needed more connection with herself and with other people. Without a strong foundation, we can’t take bigger steps in our work.

With many moving elements in her organization, she didn’t acknowledge how much of an impact it had on her that many of her role models were no longer close. Transitioning to working from home, access to people also became less straightforward. She decided to look for role models in the broader organization and establish strong relationships with them. Many more options surfaced by reaching out to peers and senior leaders to explore how she could have a more significant impact. Most of them were low risk and high benefits.

A critical moment was when she wanted to imagine three different lives in the future. We can only live one life at the moment, but we can ideate with many. She thought long and hard about what these lives could be. She even had night dreams about them. At the end of the ideation, the message was clear: she enjoyed her current life, and there are many ways to get more out of it without changing it significantly.

She continued to prototype options and invest time and energy into the activities she enjoyed. At the end of the eight weeks, here is what Aniela achieved:

  • She was invited to be the only divisional representative on a global board on a topic that is very close to her heart. This is her first board appointment.

  • She was invited to be a speaker at an international technology conference and featured in important publications.

  • She was asked to lead three strategic cross-functional projects outside of her division and on topics that make a difference to the company and her

  • She became a subject matter expert outside of her division in areas where her team excelled, talking more widely about their achievements and helping other teams achieve the same standards

Interestingly, all the opportunities she saw achievable only externally were available internally. By growing her network and asking for directions, she got access to such opportunities. She got to choose what opportunities she wanted to lead because now she had a compass for her decision-making. Not all opportunities are equal.

She didn’t have to look for the perfect job. She designed her ideal job. Aniela was very determined to make the most out of our journey. She did, based on what she was looking for.

Not everyone is looking for the same things, and there are no two journeys alike. But common about these journeys is that many possibilities open up when we commit to designing our lives.

Reach out if you would like to have a free conversation about Designing Your Life.


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