Hitchhikers guide to designing a successful life

Have you considered what is required to be successful? This article looks at how success is achieved, but taking it a step further it looks at how the why and how of success.


Success is illusive and for some a major goal, and for some a major obstacle. What is success really? Is success not the attainment of a state of being in which we are happy, healthy and fulfilled in all things? Various authors have defined success differently over time – and chasing a working definition is part of the fun.


This does not help for the person that is searching for success – so this guide may help you a bit on the journey, or at least get you inspired to look at the topic slightly differently.


The angle that is taken here is that success is not something that happens to you – but something that you design. There are few authors that will claim that success can be achieved instantly – except for the ones that teach you how to relax and take a step back from your high-strung life, to reflect. The value of reflection on what you want to achieve, can be achieved instantly – so viola, your first instant success can be that you are thinking about what it means for you. This is difficult (but not impossible) to do when you are busy moving mountains and everything is moving fast around you. The key to the practice of reflecting on success will only be unlocked if you make some time for it.


GETTING STARTED: A place to think about success.


And this is where the hitchhikers guide starts. The first thing you need for real success is a place to think about it. Your favourite armchair may be good, beds (as long as you can be in it with your eyes open) or a meditation spot, your car (if it is neat and tidy). Return to this spot daily and have a reminder there to tell you to think about your success. Visualisation, Idealisation and Realisation should become your mantra for seeking to find something that moves your most inner being.


A WORTHY IDEAL: Setting a goal that needs to be achieved.


If we are realistic, then we must realise that success requires that we actually do something. What to do? There are so many options – but the key to success is to succeed in something that you have some passion for. Broadly this is described as a purpose.


Do you have a purpose? Do you have a goal that you want to achieve? Research show that most people either set their purpose to wide or too narrow. Is your purpose to drive a new sports car? Or is to change the world?


These purpose statements may be too specific or too broad. So what is a good purpose? The best purpose is one that is your own and something that you can believe it.


One way to think of yourself is that you are not a linear person. You don’t only have a purpose in one dimension of your life. What is your purpose or goal in each aspect of your life that may include social, spiritual, emotional, financial, business, tasks, shopping, events, travel, people, health, assets, education, media, political.


Another way to think about purpose may involve life stages. One formula says that you should view the world as a stark contrast between black and white when you are in your teens – while reading poetry and the classics, explore the world and what you want to do when you are in your twenties, learn when you are in your thirties, venture out when in your forties, start living when you are in your fifties, reinvent yourself in your sixties and have a roaring time in your seventies.


Some people need a definite purpose, which can be phrased as a slogan or description of what you want to achieve. Some examples are below.


My purpose for being on this earth is to help others recognize, develop, and use their God-given intuitive abilities to ease suffering and grow in goodness, love, compassion, and wisdom.


In life I strive to remember where I have been and where I will go through maintaining positive relationships with family and friends.


I live in peacefulness within myself by looking inward while using my heart to guide my dreams and desires, and my mind to pursue knowledge, creating balance among all of my obligations.


I am content myself in my surroundings so I will always know where security lies within my life.


I build a reputation of being dedicated to every goal I choose to pursue while having successes in both my personal and professional life.


My purpose is to enjoy every moment along this journey finding laughter, love, and happiness with each day that passes


My mission is to learn and understand my clients’ needs and the external factors affecting them so that I can aggressively and professionally represent them throughout the legal process. I clearly communicate my legal knowledge and experience, thereby enabling my clients to make well-informed decisions for themselves.


As indicated before – you may have a financial, career or multiple purposes. The key is to think about it – wait till it crystalizes and until you know what you are here to do.


REFRAMING: Seeing the hidden


The next step as a hitchhiker through your life is to find the path. It may be hidden – so you have to discover it. It may not be where you are looking for it.


Take a step back and re-look at your life’s challenge from different angles. Are there underlying assumptions that can prevent you from uncovering the real challenge faced? New research is showing that the biggest challenge with problem solving is that we solve the same problems the same way. It is almost as if you need to knock yourself on the side of the head next time you make the same mistake over because you have applied the same mental pattern to the problem.


So why have you not yet achieved your goals or targets. Think about your purpose in a new way and you will see some new possibilities. The path will reveal itself, or you may find that you have been on it all your life up to now.


COLLABORATION: Embrace differences


No person has ever achieved success on their own. No matter what you read, no matter what anyone tells you – it may start with an intense desire or buring longing to change something – but eventually it involves others.


Learn to work in a collaborative and multi-disciplinary setting to encourage different perspectives in any problem solving. For purpose solving you need to work with others to understand what you do not.


Start building networks of people that can advise you, also give advice to others in the direction that you are interested in and start building your social skills in selling and developing your ideas.


Research shows that social intelligence is often the key to getting an idea sold. People that have great minds but no social skills end up failing – although they are brilliant. Some people are good with people and succeed although there may not be much upstairs. You decide what is more important EQ or IQ?


UNDERSTANDING THE USER: Know the person behind your self


When designing a new path you need to look at user behaviour. Through various tools and methods, gain a deeper insight into your users’ behaviour and unearth their real needs and values.


You need to know yourself. What do you think and believe and where does this come from? Are you stuck in the past, living in the future or rooted in the now? Why do you not like to do certain things, and why do you like doing others? Are you willing to change that if it would bring you closer to your purpose? Understanding the user is a critical internal process that translates externally in becoming self aware, confident and able to act on challenges.


You also need to know what you are good at. You also need to know what you need to be good at. When you combine this you have a map of things that you need to work on. The good thing is that you are aligning your goals and purpose. Some people call this the start of praxis. Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, practiced, embodied, or realised.


Being practical is the key to success. To be practical – you need to know why you do what you do. It allows you to be better at doing it.


FRAME YOUR OPPORTUNITIES: Build on your insights


Framing is the process of forming a framework of what you want. You may want a situation to yield a specific result. Framing the opportunity is to look for the aspects that you want to see. This process is used in design to come up with features that fit the user. Through framing opportunities you start to visualise aspects of the eventual solution. Some people brainstorm before framing opportunities. Research shows that it is more important to identify the big aspects of a solution first and then to brainstorm on how to get there.


These big buckets – are the frames in which your solution will proceed. Don’t be afraid to reframe later – remember as long as there is a move towards the purpose, the frame may be necessary.


IDEATION: No idea is too wild


Ideation is fast becoming a standard word in business.


To become really successful you need to start thinking about ideas that will get you there. If you want to make a million – then think that you can sell 100,000 at 15 each, and if it costs 5 then you have made the million. This is a wild idea (for some). Now by changing the challenge – you can start thinking bid ideas. You now only have to find something that costs 5 that you can sell for 15. Most people will come up with a couple of ideas soon.


What is a purpose if it cannot be acted on? Wild ideas may just lead to success.




With simple and cheap materials, refine your ideas by creating low-cost prototypes. The cheapest of all materials is your own perception and smile. Validate your concepts through role-play or getting users’ feedback quickly.


You can also experiment with new attitudes, words and behaviours. By trying out different things and finding out what works you become smarter with your purpose. Not everything costs a lot of money.


The key is to move from ideas to action in a short space of time. Make it stick by making it work.


INTEGRATIVE: Gain the Big Picture


If it works – start combining it with your other aspects. If you start pursuing steps towards your purpose – you will soon find that you are on your way there.



The process above is called design thinking and can be applied to any challenge. As a hitchhiker through your own life – you may want to pick up the tools for success and make it work for you.