Life design

Are you the Chief Design Officer of your own life?

May 2017


Jacob Schaldemose Peterson

Think of a person – not necessarily someone you know personally – who always seems to have that extra energy, is content and passionate about life and often achieves astonishing results. Chances are that this person is doing really well when it comes to self-leadership.

A major building block of self-leadership, which I’m deeply passionate about, is life design. It deals with how you intentionally design major and minor aspects of your life in order to chase a passion, fulfil a purpose, achieve higher performance, create less stress and enjoy more happiness – for yourself and those around you.

In order to find out what works for you, you have to iterate. All great achievements – whether we’re talking about personal development, innovation excellence, corporate strategy or leadership styles – are the results of several iterations and experiments. Hardly anyone gets it right the first time.

So, my fiancée and I decided that we didn’t want to wait until we’re retired to design our lives the way we want to. We figured out that we would most likely achieve a far better result, if we started experimenting with our intentional life design straight away.

Said and done. On 1 January this year, we set out for our first major experiment: A three-month retreat from the uninspiring Scandinavian winter months to the hot southern part of Africa to indulge in and cultivate our greatest passion: kite surfing. The major question to explore: How would it affect us, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, to spend a quarter of a year somewhere else on the planet?

A proven way of fuelling the passion for one’s professional career is to actively let other passions flourish alongside it.

Don’t get me wrong, we both love what we do for a living. While this is true, a proven way of fuelling the passion for one’s professional career is to actively let other passions flourish alongside it. Combined with a shift of environment, the people you surround yourself with and the creation of new experiences, this is a magic formula.

In other words: In order to stay, I have to go.

To me, work shares several features with my greatest passion. Some days, everything is going just the way you want it to, and you seem to be 100% in control. Other days, the sea is rough and unpredictable, and you can’t seem to get anything right. However, if you never fail, you don’t play hard enough. When it comes down to it, it’s all about riding as many waves as possible and in the best way possible, both on the sea and at work.

If only we could bring more of the playful attitude of surfing – or whatever makes your heart beat – into everyday life and work, I believe that leaders and organisations would achieve better results, surround themselves with happier people and create less artificial stress for themselves and anyone around them. Life’s short. You might as well enjoy it.

Think again about that person you just thought of. That person most likely has something besides work which he or she inexhaustibly invests hours, days, weeks or even months in to be able to excel at it. These accomplishments energise the mind of the practitioner and boost their performance, even in other domains of life.

What steps would you take to become the Chief Design Officer of your own life?

I’m humble and honoured to be a part of an organisation whose leaders have understood the extreme importance of passionate, purpose-driven people and individual flexibility. Let your people cultivate their passions outside work to be passionate at work. Organisations and leaders who are able to incorporate a greater sense of life design into their existence will without doubt be considered the best workplaces with the best performance and the most inspiring people.

Let’s see what future experiments will bring!