What do you think of when you think of design?
You may think about one of those designer shows on TV that completely redecorates a living space. Perhaps you think of designing consumer products with packaging that enhances a brand. I think of Steve Jobs and his famous quote: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” –Steve Jobs
Design isn’t just for products. It’s also for lives. Designing a life that serves others is a worthy goal.
And, if something isn’t serving us well, we can redesign it and everything changes.
BJ Miller has a unique perspective on redesign that caught my attention. He wants to redesign dying. As a palliative care physician and long term patient, his ideas are both personal and professional. His story is compelling. While climbing a commuter train with some buddies in college, he was electrocuted, severely burned, and lost three limbs. Today, he specializes in end-of-life care at the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco. His purpose is to serve others by helping them die with dignity and grace, with no regrets or undue suffering.
“Design is a solution to a problem. Art is a question to a problem.” –John Maeda
Hospitals were not designed as a place to live and die. Healthcare providers mean well, but when someone dies in a sterile hospital setting among the beeping of the background noise and the bright fluorescent lights, the body is wheeled away, and there remains a numbness. It feels like the world should stop for a moment because a life was lost, but instead the room is quickly prepped for the next patient.
“We have a monumental opportunity before us…to redesign how it is we die.” –BJ Miller
With planning, end of life can bring us closer through compassion. There is not a magic reset button for end of life; there are no do-overs. In this TED Talk, B.J. Miller lays out real life examples of human connection through our senses. When one of the residents dies at the Zen Hospice Project, the body is wheeled through the garden. Songs and stories are shared while flower petals are placed on the body. Mourning is guided in with warmth.
It’s a beautiful redesign of the inevitable.
“Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.” -Jeffrey Zeldman
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The approach reminded me that any aspect of life could be redesigned.
- Don’t like your body? You can redesign it with a fitness and nutrition plan.
- Not getting enough sleep? Develop a sleep plan.
- Are you mentally week? Learn the habits of the mentally strong.
No matter what area of your life needs redesigning, you have the incredible opportunity to start again. It doesn’t even have to be major. There are times when acting on the small things makes all the difference. Here’s to your redesign plan!