How to Design for the Results You Want

Luke Baker | April 18, 2019

The Arstid lamp from IKEA may be the most life-giving purchase I made in the last year. There’s nothing particularly special about this bronze lamp that looks like it belongs in an outdated Holiday Inn. It’s more about the role it plays in the design of my room and my evening routine.

For nearly a year, our team has been having the conversation around holistic leadership. We believe God desires for us to experience wholeness, and that it will take us caring for our emotional, physical, and relational lives in order to step into the full life Jesus offers His followers. When we compartmentalize our lives to the point of sacrificing one of these facets for the sake of another, we create our own burnout and restlessness.

We are whole beings, easily influenced by the small decisions we make that design our daily environment. One choice in a particular area of our lives will show effects in multiple areas of our lives. For myself, a choice to purchase a lamp is proof.

I was experiencing some uncharacteristically terrible nights of sleep. I have never been the greatest sleeper, but these worse than normal nights had me concerned. Poor sleeping (physical life) led to drowsiness during the day, which made it almost impossible to focus and experience flow during work (work life), which irritated me (emotional life) and made me easily agitated and absent-minded in my relationships (relational life), which irritated me even more (emotional life), which led to more poor sleep (physical life), which perpetuated the downward, dreary cycle (whole life).

After too many day naps, late nights of tossing and turning, and helpful conversations with friends, I was able to pinpoint the main cog infecting this brutal cycle. One lamp. Like most complicated cycles, there are countless parties at play, but a single lamp was leading the charge.

Before this cycle began, I had established an evening routine that was leading to better rest, which led to an inverse of the cycle I just described. I was noticing more focus and clarity in my work and relationships. I was able to choose running rather than evening naps. And I was slower to become irritated and quicker to experience peace.

Here’s how my routine would go:

9:30pm- Make a cup of sleepy time tea

9:35pm- Go to my room to read until I was done with my tea

10:15pm- Pray through The Examen

10:30pm- Lights out

This simple routine led to tremendous benefits in the moment, as I slept, and how I carried myself the next day. It was a life-giving routine, until my reading lamp had wiring problems, breaking itself and my routine.

Since my room wasn’t getting enough light, especially in my reading corner, I found myself saying, “Well, I can’t read in my room tonight.” This led me to not even bothering to make my regular cup of sleepy time tea. (Tea and reading are like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and when one ingredient is missing it just feels weird to still try to make the sandwich.)

So what did I fill this false new hour with? I reacted to what was given to me.

If my roommates were watching a show, I’d probably join them. Or I would scroll through my phone, looking for something to entertain me. Or have a bowl of ice cream. Or send a couple emails. Nothing entirely wrong in their own right, but not the best decisions to bring about the results I was aiming for with the routine I had initially created.  And these decisions were perpetuated for far too long. They actually became my new habitual evening routine. And this routine didn’t create the space for me to properly wind down, process my day, and experience good rest.

I eventually faced my lazy, frugal, and oblivious self by purchasing another lamp, but here’s the lesson I learned from a single-lamp purchase:

We are our habits, and we usually develop our habits based off the environment we create for ourselves or allow life to create for us.

On the most recent episode of the Catalyst Podcast, we sat down with Ben Hardy to talk about how to design your environment for the results you want. In this conversation, Ben talks about how we are bombarded with too many options, which leads us to experiencing decision fatigue- the making of bad decisions due to having to make too many of them.

Ben says the beginning of the solution is to eliminate many of the possible decisions you have to make and to design the environment that almost forces you to make the decisions you believe to be best for you. In his book, Willpower Doesn’t Work, Ben shares with us how design beats willpower every time. This is why I’ve heard many people place their alarm clock across the room. It’s nearly unheard of to get up in the morning and walk across the room to only hit snooze and get back in bed. But if you leave your alarm by your bed and are leaning on willpower, you’re much more likely to hit the snooze button. Design beats willpower.

Therefore, we must begin with the end in mind. Who do you want to be? Then design your environment that such a person would find themselves in.

In this podcast episode, Ben talks about a process called “be then do then have”. We tend to believe that if we only had particular things then we could do the thing that would make us into the person we want to be. Ben encourages us to think backwards of this process by thinking forward with our lives.

Who do you want to be? What would that person do? Then you will have.

Just like Andy Stanley said at Catalyst Atlanta last year, “If you want to make a good decision or even become a good leader, ask yourself often, ‘What would a great leader do?’”

You may not consider yourself a great leader, but you have an inclination of what a great leader looks like. If you want to become a great leader, do as you think a great leader would do. And the best leaders empower their team to do the same.

The cornerstone idea of this process is for us to be a people who live proactively rather than reactively. You are currently developing habits. The question is whether you are intentionally designing your life to create the habits that will form you into who you want to be, or if you are allowing the chaos of your daily whirlwind to dictate the formation of your habits and who you’re becoming.

Ben goes on to talk about how confidence is built off prior performance. And when we hold true to our word of following the habits we’re designing for ourselves, we gain confidence, which leads to overall clarity for our lives. I think we could all use a little more clarity in our leadership journey.

So what’s the current lamp in your life? What is the cog infecting the cycle you don’t appreciate being stuck in? You have the power and freedom to begin designing your environment that answers the question, “Who do I want to be?”

Luke Baker is the Digital Content Producer at Catalyst. He enjoys tea, has socks with his dog's face on them, and cares way too much about his Uber passenger rating. 

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