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Step 5 in Designing a Meaningful Life: Develop a Design

Part 5 of a 5-part series on Designing a Meaningful Life

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For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

– 2 Timothy 1:7

Step 5 – Develop a Design

You created a vision and are ready to work out a preliminary design. This is an important step before constructing an actual goal to complete.

What areas in your life are you struggling with right now?

Where do you want to make improvements first? Usually, one area will stand out above others in importance. Focus on completing the most important goals in one area before moving on to another.

Example of a goal development inventory

1. What do I want? (You have already reflected on this in steps 3 and 4).

2. What goals do I want to accomplish in the following areas:

  • Personal growth
  • Family
  • Physical/Health
  • Intellectual or education
  • Social
  • Spiritual
  • Financial/Time Management

3. Explore each area and write down the goals needed to achieve what you want. Some areas might require more work than others. You decide where to start. Completing work in one area can influence work to be done in other areas.

4. Select one goal you want to achieve in the next six months. Then select three others you want to work on next. Then go from there.

5. Make a commitment right now that whatever goal you choose to work on, you will stick with it through completion.

Preliminary work

Step 5 in Designing a Meaningful Life: Develop a Design

Using the inventory example, let’s go through each of the areas briefly. Again, one area might require attention first. Describe in depth how each impacts you. You can rename or add additional areas to help clarify the goals you want to make. There will often be an overlap among them.

Personal growth

For example, personal growth may include difficulty with anger or resentment or establishing boundaries.

It may mean developing  trust in yourself or becoming less anxious and fearful.

It may involve working to improve self-esteem or emotional stability.

It may involve furthering your education.


Family can revolve around ongoing conflicts and how to work with them.

Communication is important. How do you communicate your needs without attacking or blaming? This is where “I” statements vs “you” statements” are very important.

Do you struggle standing up for yourself without using the blame game?

Family includes our kids, whether they are still living at home or are on their own. What rules have you set in place? Are you able to follow through with reasonable consequences that disapprove of behaviors without attacking the person?

Family includes in-laws and family get-togethers. How can I avoid arguments and confrontations? If you are struggling in a current relationship, you may want to see a counselor to help you.


Physical is an area for all health needs. Health includes emotional needs as well.

Emotions can have a huge influence on our health. If we are constantly over-reacting, our stress levels will be high.

Emotions are tied to our pattern of thinking and include personal growth. Do I avoid confrontations and stress? Do I exercise on a daily and weekly basis? Do I set aside a specific time to do that? Time management is important here.


With intellectual or education, develop a desire to learn and read. You don’t always have to get a college degree, but there are respected authors who write on many life topics where we can gain valuable and applicable information.


Social includes all our relationships and problems we might have establishing friendships, working together in social settings like book clubs, church events, etc.

Can I be friendly with a colleague even if I don’t like that person?

Communication is an important asset here.

  • Have I learned how to listen and reflect the needs of others?
  • Can I share what is important to me without disrespecting another?
  • Can I build others up and listen with respect?

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

– Thomas Aquinas


Spiritual includes not just examining your beliefs, but the church you choose to affiliate with.

Are you living your values or just attending church?

If you are struggling with the death of a spouse or friend, you might include that under personal growth or spiritual. Here, education can also help as you read about how others have worked through difficult times such as loss and have made that transition.

Financial/Time Management

Under financial/time management, your focus is on how you spend your money, as well as budgeting, saving, investing, future plans for travel, etc. It also involves how you manage your time. It is a huge area – one that is often overlooked but is very important.


Looking at each of these areas will help you put your problems in perspective so you can better understand their importance in relation to each other.

Communication, for example, impacts so many areas of our lives, from family and spouse relationships to social and the work environment, to how you communicate with yourself. If you find communicating difficult you may want to work on it first.

If you are struggling with health issues, develop a plan for appropriate diet and exercise. Start small. Take tiny steps.

If you are constantly stressed, knowing the underlying cause can not only help you lower your stress but can have an enormous effect on your health.

Make Stress Work For You by Marlene Anderson | focuswithmarlene.comFor more information, See my book, Make Stress Work for You, and my Relaxation audio, both available on my website.

Establish your own areas if that makes it easier. What is important is that you recognize the changes required to improve your life overall.

Whatever your most crucial need, find a place to put it so that you will work on it and know how it fits with the rest of your life.

The more you understand the changes that can help you live the life you want, the easier it will be to make a goal and complete it.

Goals impact every area of your life.

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