Guide to the Life Design Journaling Framework

Table of Contents


In early 2018, I went through the process of transferring my paper journals to OneNote. Being a business analyst by profession I quickly realized I needed a framework for entering everything I had written down over the years. At different points in my life, I focused on different things and I recorded my life in different ways on different media. There was so much insight that was trapped and lost in old paper book journals, or in file folders, or in old Daytimers. I needed a system and a way of organizing the information that would work for what was already recorded and what I wanted to continue to record in the future.

The result was the Life Design Journaling Framework.

The life design journaling framework is a journaling methodology for documenting your life design and the ongoing journey of realizing your life design.  Your life design encompasses who you are, the life you want to live, and the ongoing journey to get there.

Life is complicated. There are a huge number of influences, decisions, opportunities, paths, ideas, factors, that you have to deal with.  To help, there are many excellent gurus whose wisdom on the internet is free, but each of them solves only a few aspects of your life design.  Not only that, there are new people on the internet every day that have new ideas and different ways of solving some of life’s problems.

The life design journaling framework provided a structure for recording the wisdom, strategy, learning, ideas as they relate to you. A way of continuously adding the wisdom of different experts, as well as your own life experience so that the information is available to you when you need it.

The life design framework is a methodology and taxonomy that allows you to journal all the different aspects of your life design in their basic components.  The components are at a fundamental level regardless of whose strategy you are following.  Therefore, any wisdom and experience you learn from one expert/guru will already be part of your framework for the next expert/guru.  Over time you will have a wealth of information that is relevant and resonates specifically with you.  That information is readily searchable and accessible.

What is Life Design and Why is it Important?

Life design is the process of purposefully and intentionally creating the life you want to live.

Life design is creating and executing a plan for your life to maximize your happiness and fulfillment.

You only get one life to live. You can live life randomly, taking whatever comes your way and hope for the best. Conversely, you can purposefully and intelligently choose the path you take through life.

You can live a life by design.

We live in a rapidly changing society. The way we will live and work in the future is going to be radically different than how we live and work today. That future is coming faster and faster.

New technologies are going to change the future at an accelerating pace. Due to technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, virtual reality, blockchain, 5G networks the future is going to be much different than the present.

By designing your life and following a pre-defined plan better allows you to adapt to the changes that the future is going to bring.

Life Design Key #1: Responsibility

The first key to creating and living a designed life is responsibility. You are responsible for designing your dream life and putting in the work to make it a reality.

You need to make intelligent choices of how to spend your time.

The responsibility for our careers and our lives is ours, we can no longer rely on society to look after us. We need to take that responsibility to design a life that works for us

But take heart, the rapid change in society also brings an abundance of opportunity.

The one thing you have control over in that future is you.

There are endless choices vying for your time. Most of these choices give a short term payback but no long term payback. Binge-watching Game of Thrones is fun while it lasts, but will it affect your life five years down the line?

I believe that taking responsibility for our lives, finding our purpose, and continuously defining/refining and creating a life around that purpose is the future direction of our lives.

In our world of instant connection, social media, and accelerating change, those who take on that responsibility will flourish in the new economy and have the greatest impact on the world.

A secondary part of taking responsibility is realizing part of our purpose in life is to create value for the world. I believe that everyone’s universal purpose is to create value for society. We all have a unique set of DNA, and life experiences and that combination is uniquely able to create value that no one else can. It is our overall purpose to find what that value is and then to pursue creating that value to the best of our ability.

First, what is value?

The Collins dictionary defines value as:

“the desirability of a thing, often in respect of some property such as usefulness or exchangeability; worth, merit, or importance”

Everything you do in life has an element of consuming value and creating value. We need to create a balance in life so that we are creating more value than what we consume. If we consume more value than we create then society will regress.

“It is in fact the height of selfishness to merely consume what others create and to retreat into a shell of limited goals and immediate pleasures.”
― Robert Greene, Mastery

The biggest lessons I learned during my career as a business analyst were around value and the different perceptions of value. What was valuable to a business as a whole may not be valuable to the front of the line person. What seemingly has little value for a business today has a large payback in the future.

In a similar way, we need to create a life that effectively maximizes the value that we create.

Life Design Key #2: Lifelong Learning

The second key to creating and living a designed life is lifelong learning. It is critical that you learn new skills, new ways of doing things. Most importantly continually learning who you are and what you are capable of.

“The key to success is dedication to life-long learning.” – Steven Covey

Your life is your masterpiece, the singular work of art that only you can create.

The creation of that masterpiece is a lifelong process. As you design and achieve your next level of life, you will discover that there is always another level to be achieved. All the parts of your creation can be refined during your journey through life.

Learning is also a key to flow which is a key to happiness. Investing time in learning topics that interest us creates motivation to learn more. Eventually, the learning will build on itself to create something new or reveal a new path.

Life Design Key #3: Awareness

The third key to creating and living a designed life is awareness. Awareness of who you are, awareness of your purpose, awareness of how you interact with the world, and awareness of how the world is changing. New opportunities continue to come, but we need awareness to recognize them.

The combination of that awareness and the clarity of your life design will bring amazing results.

You need to record your thoughts and your experiences over time to learn from them. Otherwise, you keep going back to the start. (Keep redoing lessons … never learn from past lessons)

Your life design requires you to understand yourself and your opportunities.

“In the future, the great division will be between those who have trained themselves to handle these complexities and those who are overwhelmed by them — those who can acquire skills and discipline their minds and those who are irrevocably distracted by all the media around them and can never focus enough to learn.”
― Robert Greene, Mastery

Keystone Habit of Journaling

Journaling is a keystone habit that fosters living la responsible life, builds awareness, and provides a structure for lifelong learning.

By consistently defining and refining your life design and journaling the process will build awareness in your life. Life design is a process that starts at a young age and continues until the day you die. It becomes a part of who you are – you are constantly working at becoming a better person living a better life. That focus brings awareness to who we are, how we fit in the world, and the legacy we want to leave behind.

Journaling your life design and how you are making your life design a reality is key to taking responsibility for your life. You have a document source of what you want and how you are going about achieving it. On your journey what you focus on in your life design changes. Journaling keeps all your wisdom about your aim, who you are, and your ongoing plan. As your focus shifts from one area to another, you can quickly get up to speed based on the information you have journaled so far.

There are times on your journey where you will pick up wisdom, knowledge, and insight that is important, but not important to what you are currently working on. Keeping this information in your journal, organized according to the life design framework, makes that information available when it is required.

The additional benefit of journaling is the clarity that results from writing experiences, reflections, thoughts, and ideas down. Putting thoughts from your head into your journal gives them substance. Once journaled, your thoughts and ideas can be objectively looked at. It is sometimes surprising the difference in your reaction to an experience or a thought when you read it, rather than think about it in your head.

Bill Burnett of the Stanford Life design lab delivering a TED talk on designing your life:

Life Design Journaling Framework


The life design journaling framework is the combination of a taxonomy and a journaling process.

A taxonomy is simply a fancy way of saying a way of organizing information. The terminology for the Life Design Journaling Framework is Segments, Aspects, and Perspectives.

The framework organizes life design into four major parts that are termed segments. The four segments of the Life Design Journaling Framework are:

  • Aim Segment – What you want out of life
  • Self Segment – Who you are
  • Map Segment – How you will achieve your life design
  • Execution Segment – What you actually do

Each segment is further divided into Aspects. Each aspect defines one independent part of a segment where the sum of all the aspects defines the segment.

Perspectives are different ways of looking at a segment in a holistic way. As an example, health is a perspective by which you can view the Aim segment. It looks at what you want out of life just from a health perspective.

Aim Segment

The Aim Segment of the Life Design Framework is the creative part. It is the part that allows you to dream, to imagine where you will live, the type of life you would love to live, and the type of people you want to share it with. Most of all, you determine your purpose, your overall WHY that drives everything else.

Every life chosen requires work. We want to create a life where the work is easy for who we are, and the benefits give us joy, fulfillment – fitting in with our overall purpose.

The aspects of the Aim segment are:

  • Purpose  – The unique way you create value based on your gifts
  • Vision – The life you want to create within all the life areas
  • Mission – The path you want to take to create the life you want

Difference between Purpose, Vision, Mission

It is important to understand that these 3 aspects of your life are different.

Many people confuse purpose and vision. They will use the words interchangeably or combine the two meanings into one.

You as a unique human being have one purpose in life. Your purpose is deep within the core of who you are. Even with that one purpose, there are many ways that you can live your life to fulfill your purpose. You discover your purpose, you design a life vision to fulfill that purpose, and create a mission to follow on your journey to realize that vision. That is the creative part of your life design; creating a life that uniquely fulfills your purpose.

People also confuse vision and mission. Your vision is your ideal life that you designed uniquely for yourself. It allows you to live the best parts of yourself, so you get the most from every minute of the day. Your mission is how you are going to get there, what you are going to commit to today to start that journey. The work lies in executing your mission. The payoff is living more and more of your vision thereby fulfilling your purpose.

“Discover your #purpose, design a life #vision to fulfill that purpose & create a #mission to follow on your #journey to realize that vision #journaling #lifedesign #ldjs”

Life Area Perspective

The Aim segment can be viewed through the lenses of the life areas: Health, Personal Growth, Family, Fun and Recreation, Lifestyle, Love, Social, Career, Finances, and Lifelong Learning. When looking at your Aim segment through a life area lens, you are still looking at the whole of your life creation. In whatever vision you imagine, each part, no matter how small, contains elements of each life area.

Balance in the life areas is important, if one life area does not have the attention it needs, other life areas will feel the effects.

When you are defining the life that you want to live, it is important to take in all facets of life. We sometimes only look at a particular outcome of a person’s life, not all the supporting pieces that go along with it.

For example, we may dream to be an NHL hockey player, but we don’t want the life of practicing and gym workouts that goes along with an NHL lifestyle.

The ten life areas of the Life Design Journaling Framework are:

  • Health
  • Personal Growth
  • Family
  • Fun and Recreation
  • Lifestyle
  • Love
  • Social
  • Career
  • Finances
  • Life-Long Learning

Self Segment

While the Aim Segment was based on creativity, the Self segment of the Life Design Framework is based on introspection. Who we are is going to tell us if the life we designed is really the life we want.

Who we are is going to tell us who we need to become to create the life we want.

What skills we will need, what habits, beliefs, and ways of thinking that need to be developed. Ultimately who we are will dictate how fulfilling the life we design is going to be.

In many ways, it seems the Self segment is the easiest to understand. But most of us know how hard it is to really understand ourselves.

The aspects of the Self segment are:

Roles Perspective

The Self segment can be viewed through the lenses of the roles we play in life. Again, like the life areas, all of these roles exist at the same time and to some extent affect whatever we do at any point.

Understanding who we are based on the roles we play gives us additional insight into who we are.

Map Segment

The Map segment creates the plan to create our vision. The plan takes into account all the life areas and the roles we want to live. The more the plan is refined based on the different perspectives the more we will want to follow it.

The creating of the plan will reveal the path and the work that needs to be done to realize our vision. The plan may reveal paths that we do not want to take which will result in us refining our vision. The constant revaluation of all segments is ongoing and is a natural part of life. It is one of the reasons why it is so important to look at all segments all the time.

The plan is going to consist of the big overall goals that once accomplished get us to the vision we have created. Each goal will is broken down into achievable objectives and actions.

The aspects of the Map segment are:

Map Perspectives

There are many perspectives that can be used for looking at the map segment. These include financial plans, roadmaps, and simple reflections on life. Any way that you can look at your plan to ensure it is taking you in the right direction.

Execution Segment

The execution Segment is about executing the plan, the actions that we are taking in the present.

Life requires action. Introspection needs to be balanced by execution.

Once you have created your life design you need to do the work to bring it into reality. This requires focus on a yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily basis.

The execution of our Map is what reveals who we are, what we really want in life, and what type of plan we should use to get there. The process of doing, evaluating how it went and what we learned a

The focus of the execution segment is doing the work required.

This process at a high level has the following steps

  1. Determine where you want to go (AIM)
  2. Create a plan (MAP)
  3. Execute the plan (EXECUTE)
  4. Evaluate how well you executed the plan (SELF)
  5. Evaluate how well the work created your vision
  6. Refine all segments and repeat

Execution Perspectives

The perspectives you can use to evaluate the execution segment are reviews. You can review what was achieved from a yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly perspective. Each of the perspectives will give you different insights into your life design.

Each of these perspectives gives you a different viewpoint on your life.

Weekly and monthly perspectives are more focused on what you are doing, what work has been accomplished.

Quarterly and Yearly perspectives are more focused on what overall goals have been achieved.

Each of these perspectives has its place.

Join the JournaledLife Conversation

I invite you to join the conversation about these ideas. Together let’s add clarity and insight.

  • What struggles do you have with designing your life?
  • What is your biggest struggle with your journaling practice?