Can you guess what the most popular elective classes are at Stanford?

Woman mouthing

A class called Designing Your Life — which shows students how to use design thinking to build a fulfilling life — is at the top of the list .

The Designing Your Life approach taught at Stanford involves four key steps :

  1. Get curious

  2. Talk to people

  3. Try stuff

  4. Tell your story

You can use these steps to move toward a more fulfilling university experience, especially if you're not having a great time in your first year.

Get Curious

If you're not happy at university, consider what you can do to feel better.

Create a dashboard with four gauges:

  1. Work

  2. Play

  3. Love

  4. Health

A dashboard with rows for work, play, love, and health. Each row has a gauge from 0 to full.

How full is each gauge in your life at the moment?

Note your reflections. It's fine if not every gauge is at 100%. The goal isn't to be perfect, it's to be mindful of where you are today.

Once you have your dashboard, think of an area you might improve and one small thing you might do to improve it. This is called "creating a prototype" in design thinking.


Barry creates a dashboard and finds that his health gauge is low. What small thing can he try to improve his health? Select all that apply.

Talk To People

Once you know what area of your dashboard you want to improve, find people you think are successful in the area of the dashboard that you're trying to improve.

For example, maybe your work gauge is low and you want to try to increase it by finding a job where you can apply what you're learning at university.

Consider whether you know anyone who's already in a job that relates to their field of study, or who has been in the past. Can you ask them to share their story with you?

Chat boxes mimicing at text message exchange

Try Stuff

Now it's time to jump in and test your prototype!

Scuba diver jumping into the water

For example, maybe your goal is to improve your "play" gauge by making new friends. Your prototype is to go to at least one university club meeting each week.

In this step, you need to go to those meetings to see if you're actually able to make new friends there.

Tell Your Story

Once you've tested your prototype, can you tell a story about the process of getting curious, talking to people, and trying stuff? Doing this will help you:

  • Get clarity on what you learned

  • Figure out if a different prototype might lead to a better outcome

  • Share your story to help others

Neon script on the wall under a bookshelf - the script says Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash


Barry wants to document his experiences with healthy eating. What can he do to tell his story?

Take Action

Once you've finished the steps above, it's time to start again because the process of designing your life is iterative — a cyclical process that helps you get clarity through repeating the same steps with small changes each time.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

To feel more satisfied with your choice to attend university:


Your feedback matters to us.

This Byte helped me better understand the topic.

Get support to take action on this Byte