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Design Your Life
AI & Human Creativity

Design Your Life

10 December 21
 | 9 MINS

At a time when we are all dazzled (and perhaps blinded) by the promises of technology, a new programme at NUI Galway focuses on the one thing that really matters – a fulfilled, purposeful life.

Designing Futures has introduced the new role of Student Success Coaches at NUI Galway to support students to achieve their unique academic, personal and life goals during their undergraduate student life.

Inspired by programmes created by Stanford University, NUI Galway Student Success Coaches are implementing the innovative principles of the ‘Design Your Life’ framework to enable students to make the most of their university journey.

Through Design Your Life workshops and coaching sessions, students develop personal and professional skills to complement their subject specific skills.  The programme is currently being piloted with undergraduate students across the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies, and the College of Science and Engineering. It is offered through in-curriculum or extra-curricular workshops.


Design Your Life

The Stanford University Design Your Life Framework draws on “design thinking” processes and encourages students to develop a new way of thinking about themselves and their lives.  It encourages creative thinking and cultivates mind-sets that support students as they design their life.  These core design thinking mind-sets are radical collaboration, curiosity, reframing problems, empathy, storytelling and bias towards action. By adopting these growth mindsets, students are empowered to become active agents in their own lives and to adapt to the changes and challenges they are likely to face during their university journey and beyond.  In more recent years, we have all experienced how the world has become more uncertain and by having additional tools and skills to draw upon, students are more resilient and better equipped to adapt to changing environments.

Through a personalised approach, students are supported to build their own life compass by putting the spotlight on what is important to them -, their unique workview and lifeview – and to notice what captures their curiosity and interest. Students are encouraged to pay attention to personal practices such as how they make decisions or how they manage their energy and motivation and to develop the skills to support themselves in what is important to them.  This holistic approach creates a space to explore and recognise how students are aligned with their purpose, goals and values – or are out of sync with themselves.  It helps them to develop coherence between who they are, what they believe and what they are doing and to challenge any dysfunctional beliefs.  The Design Your Life process encourages action learning and offers a rich range of techniques, methods and processes that are well crafted and designed.

This innovative way of engaging students contributes to their sense of agency as they grow in confidence to take action in their own learning. They are encouraged to create solutions when they are stuck, to learn by doing and to generate opportunities for themselves that are aligned with their unique aspirations. This approach encourages students to build their network within and outside the university and to connect with all the supports, resources and opportunities available to them at NUI Galway.

One of the benefits of this Design Your Life approach is that students deepen their understanding of who they are and what’s important to them in their life. They have the opportunity to explore their identity, their point of view, their skills and attributes and develop the language to articulate these as they move through university and onwards to their work life. Their self-awareness and confidence grows and they bring this awareness and skills with them on their university journey and into their future professional lives.

Design Your Life


Through the process of group learning, students deepen their connection with themselves, their fellow students and with the institution, which in turn supports their success throughout their university years. This is a fun, creative group process, which actively engages and encourages visual thinking and creativity. One-to-one and small group coaching provide more individualized support and offer a partnership approach as students explore their curiosities and questions.

Student Success Coaches have been introducing DYL workshops to students since the beginning of Semester 1 this academic year. To date over 300 students have experienced Design Your Life in practice, and learned new ways to approach decision-making, map energy levels, work-view and life-view and understanding their strengths. Recently, students had the opportunity to create their own individual odyssey plans, where they imagine three possible future lives for themselves. The odyssey plans offers a powerful way to open student’s thinking to new possibilities. It provokes students thinking to ‘imagine multiple ways you could launch the next chapter of your life’s journey – your quest’ (Burnett & Evans (2018) Designing Your Life p.80).


Feedback from students that have participated in the Design Your Life programme during our pilot phase has been overwhelmingly positive. The key benefits noted by students include:

‘An opportunity to work as part of a team, understand and develop myself’

‘Collaboration, self-evaluation and discovery’

‘Learning a new way to make a decision’

‘An amazing opportunity to learn more about myself and my time management’

‘I think that all students should experience this programme at some stage’

Design Your Life
Majella Perry, Student Success Coaches
Design Your Life
Larissa Lamb, Student Success Coaches

Student Success Coaches and other members of Designing Futures team completed the Life Design Studio training for university educators at Stanford University, thereby establishing strong links with Stanford University and colleagues internationally.


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