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One of the most trendy topics these days that you often overheard or may as well participate during a coffee talk or a drinking night with your crazily smart, intelligent, successful friends who most likely have landed a job in some big industry corporations or have set up an energetic startup with a few investors ready to pour on their money, is whether or not, their lives have been ‘fulfilled’. I recently read an article where (another) author stated that he/she has proven to him/herself that they can live a fulfilling lifestyle with less than what they make right now. Meaning, less than 40 hours a week with a worthy salary. While I have no objection with the statements or all the reasons that were listed  to prove for it, (to be honest, If there is anything, I am one of those people who believe that you are able to feel perfectly fulfilled with your life even if you don’t work at all, but let’s talk about that later), the fact that people keep focusing on this formula: “the more hours that you work” or “the more money you earn” will NOT increase “how happiness your life can be”, bothers me a little. I mean, isn’t it so obvious? This is not the beginning of 20s where Gen Y entered the labor market and started asking for their work-life balance that were missing in their parents age. This is 2016, almost 20 years has passed since the first time you heard that phrase ‘work-life balance’ and young people like you and me, who have obtained a high education and enough social intelligence to decide whether or not you want to work 40 or even 60, 70 hours a week for a lifestyle that you want. Let’s put aside those with huge pressure to support their families or any similar reason, I’m talking about you and me, the 20 something graduate, highly professional experience with no strong urge to support anybody except ourselves. I am asking you: why do you still work for 40 or more hours per week if it’s not making your life happier? What makes you stay late at night where everybody has left and spend more time on that so ordinary project? What stick you to your desk on a Sunday afternoon when the weather is warm and your friends are lying on the sand drinking beer from a watermelon? Is the extra money worth it? Or in my case, the fixed salary, because I have no extra no matter how long I stay at work. Up until now, if you don’t think I am a freaking nerd or a crazy cat lady who has nothing better to do with my life (which could possibly be true), you may start to see my point.

Now let me tell you a bit about my work. I am working in a medium tech start-up company focusing on software development. Their products are these highly intangible low-level software that most of the time only engineers or similar geeky people understand what it does or where it is in your computer operating system. And I am a graphic designer in that geeky environment. No, not a developer, a designer, which means my work is by no means related to the products that are making money for the company. And to tell you the truth, I don’t think the work I do is considered that important to my management. People highly value my contribution, that’s for sure, and I get 100% support whenever I come up with new idea that would bring fresh air to the company’s image, but still it’s not like I’m designing a product that would increase anybody’s salary for the next 12 months. So now you ask me, why the hell do you want to spend more time there, for god’s sake?

My answer is: because it makes me happy. For me, the concept of being fulfilled has never been about how much money I get or how many stuff I can own. And sure, spending time with friends and family are something I definitely treasure. But to be able to learn something new everyday, a better way to make my work much faster and more efficient, or to master a new design method that is highly desired, is my joy. It’s the joy of discovering and achieving that gives my life meaning and satisfaction. If you have ever been in similar circumstances, you will understand that sensation that I am talking about. I am yearning everyday to learn something different than what I knew yesterday.

(…may be continued…)

I always have this guilty feeling when I start blogging about stuff while I actually should have been doing stuff. On another hand, writing is also the simplest form of an act. If you consider writing is work itself, the completion of a writing piece also brings you a sense of accomplishment. I always should have done more anyway.

The latest Kinfolk Issue includes articles and interviews around a topic I have been thinking about lately Can we create Happiness by Design? I used a pencil to underline all the ideas that click with mine. One the very first article, it was mentioned

The strategies employed to create a perfectly proportioned bookshelf can also be used to enhance our personal well-being.

This somewhat shares the same idea with the philosophy of Marie Kondo in her book about decluttering.

The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.

In other words, it is suggested that by designing our surrounding, we are actively designing our happiness. By applying design-thinking in every aspects of our lives and involving questions about the comfort of our inner-self in the process, we would actually take care of the unspeakable problems and create a harmony between our mental and physical world.

If we all agree that everything in our lives is design – to solve one or many particular problems – we should also agree that it should always be human-centric. A good design should not only be beautiful and functional (which was already hard to achieve), but also touching.

Beauty is aesthetic with feeling attached to it, basically – it not only looks good, but it touches you. It goes one step beyond aesthetics.

There’s a list of questions that a designer needs to answer before starting the work. It seems to be that back in the old time we tended to create goods that help us to answer the basic questions like how can we eat without dropping food on the floor, and thus we solved it by a simple solution, i.e a bowl. Now we need to answer rather more complicated questions: how does this bowl make me feel good about eating, or how can I get people to enjoy the precious dining time together? In a fast speed, rapid life we are living, these questions seem to be more concerning and require a more complex, thorough solution.

alvar aalto

Source: Iittala

It’s actually interesting for me to realize at this point, it’s true that, we are making our life more complicated than it should be. I don’t think the dinners I used to have in my childhood with mom and dad needed fancy plates or carefully crafted spoons to make it more tasty and joyful. Everything was simple back then, when time is not calculated every second and eating was simply a pleasure when you are surrounded by your beloved. But in the essence of all that, I believe there was always a touch of design that made the meal delightful. It lied in the way mom decides when is the best time to serve food for everyone or how to arrange the dishes in a colour-balanced, nicest-looking way. Growing up and moving far away from home have turn this natural event to be rather luxurious.