How to live more by design, vs. default

There’s a question that comes up in every program I teach, woman I work with, and even conversations with random strangers:

Question asked: How did you get to where you are? (career, relationships, mindset, happiness, etc.)

Real underlying question: How do I get what I desire too, instead of staying stuck, lost, and comparing?

Comments that often follow:

How do you stay motivated?
What’s the secret to getting it all done?
How did you know what you wanted to do?
Everything seems easy for you (or another woman).
Where the hell do I start?

We make this way more complicated than it needs to be. What it boils down to is this:

{almost} every achieved desire starts with design.

As I’ve been reflecting on 2014, I can pinpoint exact times I was living by design and on the flip side living by default (i.e. letting life happen to me and old gnarly habits creep back in).

What I confirmed…every actualized desire of mine happened during or because of design: deeper relationships, contagious joy, business growth, play, and my biggie, freedom.

While defaulting looked a liiiittle bit like this for me: I’m in a hamster wheel that I can’t slow down, keep up with, or get off of. I’m reacting to everything and feel like I can’t get my head above water long enough to catch a breath (or space) to be proactive and intentional. Man, I resent saying “yes” to that. I’m doing those same habits I thought I got rid of, ugh. I feel like there’s never enough (time, money, connection…). I’m overwhelmed and I’m half-assing (and failing) just about everything…

So, how do we pull ourselves out of default mode, get more of what we desire (less of what we don’t), and live on/with purpose?


And this year, that’s what I want for you, too.

So here’s my simple secret sauce…the exact steps and questions I use to uncover and craft every desire, goal, and action plan in my personal life and business…

STEP ONE. Create Space.
Space to think, be, play, breathe, and experience. This allows for creative freedom and intuition. It’s hard to figure out what you truly desire when you’re stuck in the hamster wheel always trying to catch your breath. Create space for what you want to show up. As you think back over the last year and moments you had clarity, what were you doing right before? Going for a walk. Traveling. Journaling. Skiing. Playing with your kids. Cooking. Meditation. Set aside 2-4 hours outside of your hamster wheel so that you have space.

STEP TWO. Uncover your true Desires.
Danielle LaPorte says, “Everything we do is driven by a desire to feel a certain way.” If we do/accomplish/obtain something and we don’t feel how we thought we were going to feel, we’re often disappointed, sad, lost, confused, or just plain blah and don’t know why. We need to start with the root (the desired feeling) and create goals based on that. BUT, we have to narrow it down. Research has shown repeatedly we can only focus on one, maybe two, at a time. In the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown says, “…only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.” We must choose our essential desire and stay focused.

Need some direction? Highly recommend: The Desire Map workbook by Danielle LaPorte.

STEP THREE. Detail your Vision.
You must be crystal clear what your desire actually looks like in your life. Every single detail you can think of. What are you doing, saying, thinking? What are you wearing? Who are you with? When do you wake up? What are you eating? Without knowing these key details, we’re aimlessly walking around hoping our desire will magically appear for us and then not knowing when it has because we don’t know what it looks like.

This is a key step most people miss and automatically puts people in default mode.

STEP FOUR. Set your Intention & Strategy.

Website_QuoteBadges_GoalPlanWishTo live with intention means to do something on purpose. If there is no plan or strategy for how you will do something, then it’s almost impossible to do something on purpose…thus, we default.

Your vision is your intention. Declare it.

Now, strategize how you are actually going to make your Vision (step three) come to life. Brainstorm every single tiny step and detail that would be necessary to bring this vision to fruition. Example: freedom (specifically financial). Exact steps: cook 3 big dishes every Sunday at 2pm so you can eat them through the week instead of eating out. schedule an automatic transfer of funds from checking to savings on the 1st day of each month. Research 3 ways to create residual income by January 31st. Select one way to focus on for February and create all steps needed to act on it. Reduce all memberships to ones used more than 4x/week by January 15th.

Have your vision but don’t know where to start? Don’t just say I don’t know. Read a book, find a mentor, join a program, or study others who embody what you desire. Ask questions. Get curious. Take ownership.

The last step of your strategy is to be proactive with obstacles. This step allows you to be on the offense vs. defense, enjoy the journey way more, and ensure much greater success. 1) Identify every obstacle that might come in between you and realizing these action steps AND come up with your alternative plan. Common obstacles: time, resources, habits, people, etc. Using our financial freedom example: a friend invites you over for brunch on Sunday and it infringes on your Sunday meal making ritual. You want to go. What’s your secondary plan of action that you can put in place before? 2) What obstacles have sabotaged you in the past? What do you need in order to reduce these obstacles this time?

STEP FIVE. Take action.
We can uncover, plan, and strategize til we are blue in the face, but if we don’t act we fail by default. Choose and act. Don’t let life happen to you.

If nothing else, remember this…{almost} every achieved desire starts with design.

Now I want to hear from you. In the comments below, what area of your life are you going to design instead of default this year? And, what is one thing you need in order to make it happen?

with joy,




p.s. If you’ve desired love and romance, but haven’t seen it happen…well, that takes mega design, intention, and inner work first. Check out my what my friends Bern Mendez (relationship and dating coach) & Giordana Toccaceli (soul and body coach) have put together…a powerful, free video series to answer questions on love and intimacy called the Embody Love Project. One of the things I love most about how Bern and Gio talk about this subject is that they go beyond the usual advice of tips and strategies and teach you how your most powerful tool in attracting a man and touching his life forever, is your heart. Click here to sign up.

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4 thoughts on “How to live more by design, vs. default

  1. Thank you so much for this, Katie! This not only inspires me to desire & dream but to follow up with the necessary action. Grateful for the formula and your wisdom.

  2. Oh boy! Where do I start? I’ve got so many things I want to tackle. One biggie is my desire for get financial freedom. In order to do that, I need to set up a plan to create income for myself. I’ve been such a fly by the seat of my pants person for so long and it hasn’t gotten me to where I want to be. You’ve been a great inspiration and mentor in this area! I’m going to dive into some worksheets I’ve gotten recently and that great spreadsheet you shared with me to keep me on track and moving forward. I’m a visual person and it helps so much!

    Another area is my writing. I want to write about things that move me and hopefully move others. It’s easy to push this aside each day as I find other things that “seem” to demand immediate attention. However, writing is something that feeds me and I’ve been starving myself as of late. No more! I need to set a timer each morning and give myself at least an hour to write whatever tugs at me that day.

    Love this post–such great advice!

    • Hallie I love this insight and commitment so much. Writing is part of your soul food. We must feast before we can give fully. Ahhh I can’t wait to watch what is going to unfold for you in 2015. Taking ownership and action…. magical. Straight up. :) xo

  3. Thank you so much for this, Katie. All of the advice and steps to follow really resonates, as I’m finding myself so overwhelmed with ideas and desires for creating a very different, focused and financially ‘comfortable’ (‘free’ is still to big and scary a word to use) life, that I often do nothing as I don’t know what to do or where to start. This is only a dream at this point as there is no real plan yet, but I feel ready to start working towards this dream. Your guidance in invaluable!
    I was looking at The DesireMap Book and Workbook previously, so I was very please to see the recommendation on that, thank you! It will be on the night-stand very soon!

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