(This is a third part of a four-part guide to meaningful work. If you’ve stumbled here by accident, go to the first part.)

Day 3: Build work-life prototypes

Work to live, don’t live to work

We can’t separate work and life, at least not entirely. Anything we do in life affects everything else. That’s why we view work as an inseparable part of life and use the concept of work-life as what we design here.

Work is part of our lifestyle, it affects our relationships, and it’s one of the ways to create value and gain meaning.

Step 6: Assemble the Happy box

The Happy box is the place where your longings, joys, and strengths connect. Any scenario inhabiting the Happy box will employ your skills fueled by joy to fulfill your most important longings in life.

When you start assembling your Happy box, focus primarily on your top of mind and must have longings, and where what you enjoy doing connects with what you’re good at. Together, they form a compass for finding the treasure that the Happy box is.

Write down what the longings, joys, and strengths are, and assemble your Happy box. If your Happy box is well-calibrated (its content has authentic origins), your newly found work-life is going to be meaningful and fulfilling for you on every layer. It will offer the personal lifestyle you desire, support functioning relationships in your social bubbles, and deliver the meaning you seek in your daily work-life. What is inside your Happy box?

Use worksheet: Step 6: Assemble the Happy box

Until now, we had our heads in the clouds, thinking about what we want and don’t want, like and don’t like. In the next step, we’ll work towards a specific real-world scenario build from what’s inside our Happy box.

Step 7: Visualize work-life scenarios

We’ll look again at our Happy box and visualize real-world scenarios, that could be made from its insides. To imagine possible work-life scenarios is like having ingredients and create recipes, that would best combine them into a delicious meal.

However, it would be too good to be true to find a work-life that employs 100% of our Happy box and contains nothing else that might annoy us – some boring tasks and unwanted responsibilities we didn’t ask for. There is always something we don’t like to do in any work-life. And if there isn’t at first, our brain will quickly make something up to be unhappy about. That’s its job.

We are realists here. So when you visualize scenarios, keep in mind, it’s good enough to find the ones that are mostly made of your Happy box, but it’s okay to let in some unwanted parts.

Also when you visualize your work-life, don’t include just the work part, but describe any parts that are important to you (based on your longings).

If you struggle to choose a scenario to write about, you might be experiencing one of these situations:

Start small and go from there

Maybe it’s overwhelming for you – the volume of what you need and want. Maybe you aren’t used to big changes, and frankly, you don’t even like them. That’s totally fine. To make things more comfortable, just imagine what your current work-life is, describe it in words, and then add changes that would improve it.

Fight the fear of missing out

Because you read this guide, it means you have the opportunity to do and learn almost anything you want (you have access to the internet) and that sheer amount of options feels paralyzing. You are constantly under pressure to choose only one thing and leave everything else on the table.

To allow yourself to choose, think about it as picking the next thing you want to try. You don’t commit yet. It’s just the thing that interests you the most at this moment, and you’d like to learn more about it.

Use worksheet: Step 7: Visualize work-life scenarios

The first that comes to mind

  1. Hopefully, with A and B in mind, you are now ready to find an answer: What is the first Happy box work-life scenario that comes to your mind?

If the first one wasn’t possible

  1. Sometimes, we bet all our hopes on one and only option. And we get miserable if it doesn’t work as we expected.

You’ll visualize this scenario to prove to yourself, there is more than one work-life, which can fulfill your longings and that you’d enjoy. Try to step a little outside of your thinking box, and describe what it could be: If the first scenario wasn’t possible anymore (robots do it better cheaper now, sorry), what else could you do?

Rainbows and unicorns

  1. Hands up, shorts down. Throw the box out of the window and consider this utopian scenario, even if just for fun. Don’t let your visualization be stopped by the voice in your head that screams it could never work in the real world. You don’t have to actually do it. Just enjoy the ideas of what it would mean to your work-life: If money didn’t exist and no one could laugh at you, what would you do?

Go-to scenario

  1. Now, think about what you’ve learned from all three of them, and put it together. It might be an updated version of the first one, or it changed with something you discovered when thinking about the one with robots in it. Anyway, keep in mind how to start small and fight the fear of missing out, and pick your favorite one at this moment. What is the scenario you’d like to pursue in your life right now?

The further we get, the more specific and down-to-earth we are.

Sleep on it and then continue to Day 4, where it’s all about putting dreams into concrete plans and action.