Are you living by default or living by design? Do you even know?

I recently made the decision to make some adjustments and redesign my life; starting with my days.
I’d been feeling drained, overworked and agitated by the smallest things. I’d been racing through my day, checking off my to-do’s and then feeling resentful that I had no time to breathe or just be.

The funny thing is that I work for myself, choose my own projects and decide my own hours. My kids are grown men living on their own, my husband has his own career and my pup, Hudson, is totally flexible.
My life is filled with choices that I get to make.

So why do I still end up in the pattern of living by default, rather than living by design? And I’m not alone. It happens to the best of us.

Here’s my story.

After a whirlwind six months filled with starting a new business project, my youngest son’s college graduation and party, my oldest son’s engagement party and wedding and our family vacation; I’d gotten completely derailed from daily routines and rhythms.

I was living on autopilot “ruled” by endless to-do’s, organizing and deadlines that were nonnegotiable.
My intention was to get back on track after the wedding on Sept 17. I prayed for wisdom, wrote my plan, shared it with my husband and best friend and started off on my path.

Then I had an unexpected writing project that came up and and before I knew it, I was off my path again; reacting to life, rather than designing it.

I’d fallen back into my default patterns: rushing, checking off to-do’s and being frustrated because projects always take longer than I think they “should.” I am constantly working on living with more patience, ease and flow in my life and business.

This is what I know. Living by design starts in the day-to-day.

The daily choices we make, the imperfect actions we take, the people we connect with and spend time with and the investments we make in ourselves; all set the foundation for the quality of our lives.

So what about you? Are you living by default or living by design? Do you react to life or respond to it? Do you set intentions, create plans, get started and then end up in your own default patterns of living again?

I totally get it and you’re not alone.

Default patterns are tough to break. We have to intentionally choose to do or think something differently; and continue that different way of doing or thinking consistently for weeks to create a new pattern.

Think about brushing your teeth. Most of us do that automatically everyday. What if I told you that you could no longer brush teeth? Do you know how hard that would be to stop? It would take intentional effort, practice, accountability and guidance to change that default pattern and create a new one. You might even need a support group!

The default patterns that guide our lives are no different. They’re so ingrained in our being, that we often don’t notice them until we stop to reflect on how things are going in our day-to-day.

The way we stop living by default is to start living by design; one day at a time.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I think about changing or redesigning my life, it can seem very overwhelming. That’s why I suggest that you focus on redesigning your days because that’s a more doable place to start.

Here’s a 7 step process that I’ve used countless times with myself and with my clients to make that transformation happen.

I find the process works best when we create sacred space and time to do this work. For me that means finding a place where I won’t be interrupted, quieting my mind with meditation and asking for guidance through prayer. Then I start writing.

For you, it may look different, but it’s important to be in the right mindset to begin.

Step 1: Start living by design: Reflect on your day.

Take some time to stop and reflect how your days are going. Use the 80/20 rule as a guideline. When you think about the majority of your days, how to you feel? How do you want to feel? What’s working and what’s not?

Step 2: Start living by design: Notice your patterns and habits.

Notice the patterns and habits that you keep repeating. Think about the things that you do automatically.
Write them down in two columns. Column 1 is for the patterns or habits that are helpful, beneficial and empowering. Column 2 is for the patterns or habits that are draining, stressful and zap your energy.

Step 3: Start living by design: Identify the ONE

Review your list. Start with just ONE default pattern that you want to break or change and move forward from there.

Think about the pattern, habit or belief that causes you the most stress, frustration or chaos in your day on a regular basis. Follow the suggestions below to give you ideas. Write your ONE down.

  • Choose a pattern or habit to change that doesn’t involve other people. For example, waking up before everyone else to meditate or pray.
  • Choose a pattern or habit that you confidently believe you can change or break in the next 30 days. For example, turning the TV off for 1 hour in the evening to give yourself time to do something crafty.
  • Choose a pattern or habit to change that would make you feel happy and proud to have accomplished it.

Step 4: Start living by design: Evaluate your ONE

The better you understand  the root cause of your pattern, the easier it will be to change it. Ask yourself the following questions. Set a timer for 15 minutes and just write whatever comes to your mind.

  • How long has this pattern been part of your life?
  • When did it start to become a problem for you?
  • How is it serving you?
  • Why do you continue to do it, if it cause you stress, frustration or chaos?
  • What would your day be like, if you no longer had this pattern or habit in it?

Step 5: Start living by design: Brainstorm new ideas

Once you’ve identified your ONE pattern or habit to change, it’s time to get creative. Brainstorm on some ways you could replace your negative pattern or habit and create a new, more productive and empowering one.

See how many different ideas you can come up with. Don’t disregard any of them, even if they seem silly.
When we open our mind to receiving wisdom or guidance without setting limitations, our answers often come in unexpected ways.

Step 6: Start living by design:  Choose, Create, Commit

Choose the ONE new pattern or habit that you want to start to redesign your days and become a better YOU.

Create a mini-action plan on how to implement it into your day. What do you need to do, be or have to make it happen?

Commit to creating this new pattern or habit a priority in your life. Set your start date and move forward.

It’s true that change begins in your mind, but it can’t be completed without taking action.

Step 7: Start living by design: Phone a friend.

Together is always better. Ask a friend to join you or at least hold you accountable to your word and new path. Choose someone who can support and encourage you in a firm, but loving way. There is power in accountability.

There you have it.

My 7 step process to help you stop living by default and start living by design. You can repeat this process as needed for any pattern or habit you want to change.

Breaking free from your negative default patterns is just one of the ways to begin redesigning your life; one day at a time.

Starting with your days is a great way to gain momentum and achieve small, doable goals. Success in the little things gives us the clarity, confidence and courage we need to keep moving forward to create success in the bigger things.


If you’re feeling up to it, I’d love to hear from YOU.

Commit to trying the steps above to change one of your negative patterns and see what happens. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much better your days become.

Please share your experiences in the comments below.

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Set your intentions in the morning and notice how much better your day flows.

  • Choose your primary focus.
  • Set purposeful priorities.
  • Use your time wisely.
  • Honor your soul.
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