Designing My Life | Part II a: Building a Workview Compass

The second section of Designing Your Life is directed towards creating a compass in work and in life so that people can calibrate their efforts towards what they find meaningful and important.

The focus of this post is on my process of creating a Workview Compass. Lifeview will follow...

Wisdom from the authors

The authors provide some great questions to help people answer the question of why and so I've provided my answers here as an exercise in reflection and collaboration.

Before we dive in, I just want to prime my responses with an excerpt from the book:

We realize that these are somewhat philosophical questions, and we did just mention the "G" word. Some readers will see God as unimportant; others may have wanted us to address this up front as the most important issue. You've probably figured out by now that design is values-neutral and we don't take sides

The questions, including the ones about God or spirituality, are given to provoke your thinking, and its up to you to see which ones you want to try to answer. They are not talking points for religious or politicla debates.

Workview Compass

A Workview Compass should answer the following questions:

  • Why work?
  • What's work for?
  • What does work mean?
  • How does it relate to the individual, others, society?
  • What defines good or worthwhile work?
  • What does money have to do with it?
  • What do experience, growth, and fulfillment have to do with it?

The sections below are my first attempt at creating such a compass for myself:

Why work?

We work because we were made to work. It is part of our nature as human beings to apply consistent effort in order to survive.

We work to survive. We work to live.

As history has unfolded we've moved further away from the immediate task of survival and have moved up Maslow's hierarchy of needs towards self-actualization.

Early in my career, I worked solely for self-actualization, but as I have become centered on life as a family, I work primarily to provide for my family whilst pursuing opportunities that help me become who I was born to be.

I believe that God (that which is good and perfect love) gives us money not solely for the benefit of ourselves, but also so we will bless others and do so abundantly. When we bless others we are expressing love to them. When we love people in deep and profound ways, as Jesus, Mother Teresa, Gandi and Martin Luther King Jr. did, people are blessed.

I work so that we can grow our financial well-being sustainably over time and live a life that is full of abundant blessings, for ourselves and others.

I work so that I can grow as a person and be the best person I can be.

Work plays a central role in fulfilling my primary purpose to glorify and connect with God—that which is good and perfect love. If God created me in his image, and if I focus my life on being who I was made to be, then I will undoubtedly glorify him.

What does it mean to 'glorify' God?

What does work mean?

Work is disciplined and consistent effort towards the accomplishment of specific goals. In a commercial sense, this is almost always centered around money. In a social sense, this is centered around positive impact.

How does it relate to the individual, others, society?

Work is one of the primary means for an individual to establish an identity in our society. This may not be the most healthy way to arrive at a statement beginning with "I am..." but it is certainly the most common.

Equipped with an identity we can then understand how to interact with others based upon their identity. This allows us to know how to behave.

Collectively we form the fabric of society: individuals making up groups making up larger groups and forming a whole. We each perform different roles that relate to one another and accomplish the task of surviving, and hopefully thriving in our world.

Unfortunately there are lots of cracks in our system so not everyone is able to work in a meaningful and financially sustainable way. The system tends to create wealth for the few and create strife for the many.

This is where social business can make an impact by filling the gaps while sustainably producing profit and jobs to fill even more gaps...

I believe that social business is going to play a massive role in society over the next generation—especially as we see technologies like AI and VR disrupt existing industries.

What defines good or worthwhile work?

'Good' work for me should sustainbly produce enough income to provide for immediate and long-term needs (savings, investment), while also having a palpable positive social impact.

There should also be meaningful relationships that sustain the work, otherwise my personal energy becomes drained by lack of fulfillment. Genuine human interaction is key.

What does money have to do with it?

Money is the abstract exchange of value that ties the work of a cobbler and the work of a lawyer, creating a baseline of value that allows for a flexible marketplace where goods are bought and sold for a unified currency that can be used anywhere.

Money is mysterious in its ways given the systems of banking, interest and investment. For those who understand money, work can provide exponential returns.

For those who don't understand money, work can provide constant misery.

It is our control and power over money which determines how our work liberates us from working for our entire lives. If we do not control money in our early years, we will always be forced to work until the day we die.

If we control money early and invest it wisely, we will be left with a platform of wealth to provide and sustain outside the everyday actions of our labor.

What do experience, growth and fulfillment have to do with it?

New experiences have historically been the lifeblood of my satisfaction. I had been addicted to new experiences for some time (thus all the different locations and milestones along my journey). But as I've grown older I have felt a profound need to reduce the rate of change and grow deeper roots so that more fruits can grow.

Trees can't bear good fruits if you uproot them every season and move them to new soil—no matter how fertile the soil is. Fruits need roots to grow...

Growing as a person is centered around two things:

  • Learning
  • Meaningful relationships

If I am learning and cultivating meaningful relationships I am growing.

I feel fulfillment when both of the above are met AND I am earning a sustainable income whilst working towards a positive social impact.

Work doesn't have to make one grow or provide fulfillment. But if it does it makes life much more enjoyable.

I assume God is happier when we are happier, but I don't know. Maybe he derives satisfaction in seeing our egos crumble through hardship.


I discovered two key insights in this exercise:

  1. The increasing importance of money and how my perspective is evolving from the 'money is bad' sentiments of my youth
  2. The role of meaningful relationships in my work; understanding how working remotely and living rurally is deeply affecting this

I remember the first time I read about the 80-year old study at Harvard to reveal the clues about what leads to a happy and healthy life.

“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the study...

“Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”

Moving Forward

I'm keen to develop my Lifeview Compass and discover new insights about myself while working towards a coherent life design.

The book talks about a crucial intersection between our life and work. The authors emphasize the need for 'coherency', which is something that has been sorely lacking as I live in rural England while working remotely for a venture-backed tech company in Silicon Valley.

A coherent life is one live in such a way that you can clearly connect the dots between three things:

  1. Who you are
  2. What you believe
  3. What you are doing

I benefit from articulating my thoughts in words. If you're reading and have any thoughts to share, please do send them my way. I'm always happy to share ideas and hear where other people are along their journey.

You can reach me at or find me on twitter (@iamjohnellison).