Book Review – Designing Your Life

Designing Your Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans is an excellent career book to add to your collection. Written by Stanford University design educators, this book discusses approaches to that question “What should I be when I grow up” and reframes the question to “Who or what do you want to grow into”. To be clear, this book is not just about careers. You are asked to create a dashboard to measure work, health, play, and love in order to be more balanced. There are many pearls of wisdom throughout the book, or as they call it, reframes, such as “Life is a process, not an outcome” and “I will only stay behind if I simply settle for what I have”.

In addition to the reframes, my favorite part of the book are the various tools that help you evaluate what you like. The Good Time Journal Exercise, available online, has you track your daily work activities for three weeks and rate each activity against two factors: how engaged and energized you are by the activity. There is also a Failure Log to help you differentiate from a screw-up, weakness, or growth opportunity and what insight you can gain from mistakes. One major point from the entire book is we learn from our mistakes and it is important to try things to learn more about ourselves. Prototyping is a way to get exposure to / learn about various careers.

My only criticism of the book is Burnett and Evans see little or no value in assessments and believe career counselors are only helpful if you already know what you are passionate about. For many people, especially individuals that are less talkative, an assessment can be a great starting point for a discussion. Also, career counselors help individuals open up the world of possibilities, often using the same tools in this book such as Brainstorming and Mind Maps. This criticism aside, overall, I highly recommend this book.

MichCDA Board Member Michelle Burdick worked in human resources for 13 years before obtaining a Master’s degree in counseling. She has a private practice and her goal is to use her knowledge of the world of work and counseling to help individuals find their dream job. She can be reached at

Are you feeling lost in work, thinking about making a change, but not sure where to start, or trying to get into the work world after a few years off? I can help. As a licensed counselor with over ten years of professional human resources experience, I can help you reach your goals.