Most people treat "life" as something that happens to them. They are the victim. When things go wrong, it's someone else's fault. When they don't get promoted, it's because of the environment. When a project goes haywire, when their team falls short, when the end product doesn't quite come to fruition, they are never the one to blame.
These people react to life, and let outside circumstances decide their fate.
They live by Default.
And then there are those that walk into any situation and grab it by the horns. They determine the outcome of their day. They wake up with intention, they are clear on their goals, they know what needs to get done and when something goes wrong they are the first to pull the thumb and admit where they went wrong. They know that success is a process and are willing to go through that process, knowing it will ladder up to something bigger.
These people create the life they want to live, and don't accept anything less.
They live by Design.
It is so easy to fall into the bad habits that lead to a life lived by Default. It happens all the time. People say, "I need to eat healthier," while they palm-to-face another handful of potato chips. People say, "I should really wake up earlier," meanwhile they hit the snooze ten times. People say, "I'm unhappy with my job," meanwhile make no sustained and intentional strides toward a change in lifestyle--they just expect it to change on its own.
How do you live a life by Design instead of a life by Default?
1. Write Down Your "Chief Aim"
This is a tactic I've adopted from Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich." He talks a lot about the importance of writing down what it is you are ultimately working towards, and then repeating it out loud to yourself every morning and every night.
It might sound silly, but try it for a month and watch what happens. It firmly instills in your subconscious what you're working on and helps attract into your life what you need to make that vision a reality.
2. Surround Yourself With People You Want To Be Like
People who live by Default hang around people who live by Default. Similarly, people who live by Design hang around people who live by Design.
Choose your friends carefully. As they say, "You are a reflection of the five people you spend the most time around." Make sure that the people who fill your life and your time are people who live with principles aligned with your own. Ideally, these people should even be a little bit ahead of you, forcing you to stretch and continue to grow in the direction you'd like to go.
3. Set Goals, And Actually Achieve Them
Everybody sets goals. "New Year's Resolutions" are the worst (or best) example of this. It's easy to set goals, but very few people actually follow through with them to the end.
People who live by Design practice the habit of setting goals and achieving them. No matter how big or how small, they set goals and create a measure for success. They know when the goal has been achieved. This constant practice is what allows them to set bigger and bigger goals and see them through to completion.
4. Don't Be Afraid To Go Your Own Way
Since so few people actually live a life of Design, it can be extremely tempting to maintain a lifestyle of Default just to keep familiar company. This is the hardest part. If you want to Design your life, you have to be willing to let go of people and environments that no longer serve a Default way of thinking.
At first, everyone will tell you that you're wrong. Everyone will insist that you are the "crazy" one. Everyone will point and share their opinion and then somewhere down the line, they will all come back around. They will see the life you've built for yourself, and they will ask you how you did it.
5. You Have To Practice Discipline
If you truly want to Design your life, you have to master the golden trait of discipline.
The reason this is so important is because the number one challenge in life design comes down to saying "no." In order for you to be who you know yourself to be, in order for you to get to where you know you can go, you have to say "no" a hundred times more than you say the word "yes." You have to stay so obsessively true to yourself and your mission, and the only way to do that is to have an extremely strong sense of self awareness and discipline.
The best way to practice this is to create habits in your life you refuse to give up for anyone else. These habits are so much more than just activities in themselves. The activity quickly becomes an opportunity to practice the art of discipline. Take going to the gym, for example. Depending on how you treat it, this isn't just "gym time." This is a practice you commit to, every single day, and it is through that commitment that you make it very clear (to yourself and others) what you are willing and not willing to budge on when it comes to your time.
Guard your time. Turn these moments into opportunities to practice discipline.
Design your life.