How To Make Good Choices That Help You Design Your Life

by Caitlin Kelch

In this last sneak peek into the book Designing Your Life, we’re going to be examining the process of choosing. As the book points out, most of us fall victim to negative thinking when overwhelmed with life decisions, and the voice inside our heads issues ultimatums that get in the way of being the architects of our own lives. We hear things like “To be happy, I have to make the right choice.”, instead of “There is no right choice — only good choosing.” But how, exactly, does one make a good choice?

You’ll remember that in last week’s exercise, we created a mind map with one idea at the center and free form off-shoot words that connected to that central concept. This was an exercise in letting your mind run free and literally just generating associations. Once we got a few layers of words outside the center concept, our brains were emotionally disconnected from that meaningful central concept and that allowed us to objectively come up with some actionable ways we could get closer to, and test out, real life situations that would put us closer to that meaningful center concept.

Today we’re going to go through the simple process and steps of the life design choosing process. The choosing process has four steps, so click through to see them in order and learn how to put them into motion for your life design. –Caitlin

Image above via GIPHY


This post is brought to you in collaboration with Designing Your Life. All words and experiences are my own and I highly recommend this book as a tool for moving forward into a thoughtful, considered life that you’ve designed.

So first you gather and create some options. If you did last week’s exercise, use the words on your outer layer to create some real life options. Next, you narrow down your list to your top options simply based on the ones that appeal to you most. Then you finally choose one to pursue. Lastly, you agonize over your decision. NO! This is what you will want to do, but do not do it. Don’t overthink your choice with thoughts of which would be easiest, etc.

The last step is to LET GO & MOVE ON.


Step 1. Making good choices comes from having really good insights about yourself. Creating mind maps and keeping journals that note the specific, daily things that energize you or deplete your energy are both good ways of keeping track of what works for you, and more importantly — what doesn’t. There are more exercises in the book that can help you flesh out the type of insights about yourself that will be helpful in designing your life. These exercises will help you complete the first step as you gather and create options.

Step 2. Narrowing down your choices will feel difficult. Try not to let it. Pick a maximum of five options. There are so many studies on how having too many choices paralyzes people’s decision-making process. If you find yourself struggling with this step, reframe your idea of options by realizing that if you have too many options, you actually have none at all. Remember that options only actually create value in your life when they are chosen and realized.

Step 3. Now it’s time to choose. To choose well, we need to understand how our brain works when we choose. The part of the brain that helps us make the best choices is our basal ganglia, which is part of the most primitive area of our brain. The basal ganglia does not communicate in words. It actually communicates in feelings and guides us wisely through our life. This part of our brain stores our accumulated life wisdom, but when we are faced with a choice, it’s the verbal brain cortex we hear and that cortex is louder than the basal ganglia’s nonverbal cues. Luckily, the basal ganglia and its connections to our intestines are many, and can tell us what is right or wrong for us. Cut out the noise of overthinking and go with your gut feeling. Trust your intuition, not the voices and words in your head.

Step 4. In order to let go and move on in life, you have to understand that you always have options. If the choice you made in Step 3 ultimately doesn’t pan out or you develop new goals for yourself, you should now have confidence knowing you created many options before and you can do it again. When in doubt, as you may often find yourself when working on Step 3, let go and move on. Only by taking action with the choice you made in Step 3, can you move forward.

“Happiness isn’t having it all, it’s letting go of what you don’t need.” 

–from Designing Your Life

I hope this series has brought you to a comfortable place to actively tackle designing a life you love. Since I began writing the series and articulating some areas in my life that I’d like to move forward with, I’ve had several brushes with things and circumstances that fit right in with the work I’ve done thus far. My central concept of “Be more social” has seen two impromptu opportunities literally knock on my door in the last two weeks. Thanks, universe! This book couldn’t have come at a better time.

If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Designing Your Life, leave a comment affirming that you think you’re up for the challenge of creating your own options!

Suggested For You


  • “Remember that options only actually create value in your life when they are chosen and realized.”

    REALLY needed this reminder today, thanks!!

  • LOVE this! It’s been a hectic year to say the least and next year isn’t looking any easier – but maybe! Hopefully this will help!

  • I am trying to let go more after being blind sided by crushing ‘perfection-itis’ as regards my Interior Design studies. I keep on reminding myself that doing SOMETHING is better than doing nothing because I’m striving for a perfection that doesn’t exist.

    Wish me Luck!

  • I’ve so enjoyed this series! Just taking time out of my day to do these exercises has proved to be immensely inspiring!

  • It’s been five months on the job search with no luck! This gives me hope that I can make and find options and that I will succeed in finding the job of my dreams sooner than later. Thank you for this series.

  • Awesome post and great series! I would love to win a copy of this book! It’s so relevant to where I am in my life. Thank you for sharing.

  • Working in a really competitive and subjective industry, I come back to “Keep your eyes on your own paper” — a lot. (But what does my paper look like?) Ready to dig into that! XO

  • I think the biggest thing in this for me is the realisation that after taking one path/making a particular choice, there will indeed be further choices along that track. A decision that doesn’t pan out isn’t the end, though we (I) so often believe that it will be.

  • This is what I needed. Yesterday I was grappling with the question of “Where do I start?”. But what I realized was a simple solution.. just start. Make a choice and start there, and the universe will guide me in the right direction. Thank you for this post and bring this book to my attention. See, the universe is already doing it’s divine work!

  • I am one of those people who over-researches, ending up with so many choices that I become paralyzed when it’s time to make a decision. ‘Designing Your Life’ seems tailor-made for me. Bring it on, world!

  • I’ve definitely spent too much time in the ‘agonize’ step over what to do next in terms of job hunting and contracting, and how each different setup would affect the life I want in the future. I’ve so enjoyed this series, and am ready to let go and start designing options!

  • Jan
    I just came across this series, when I read “Happiness isn’t having it all, it’s letting go of what you don’t need” I cried.
    Thank-you for the much needed inspiration.

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.