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How to escape your rut to ‘Live by Design’


Life and business coach Joel Burgess writes about how to escape the pandemic rut by 'living by design'.

Joel Burgess is a dad, a life and business coach and the founder and CEO of Nutrifix, a food tech business backed by Just Eat. It was through founding Nutrifix and going through his own struggle with mental health that Joel felt inspired to go on a journey of self-discovery and development. Through an increased level of personal awareness and consciousness, Joel has developed a huge passion for helping others to develop and grow. It is now his mission to help others work smarter, play bigger and live fuller. Here he gives his thoughts on ‘Living by design’.

If you have found yourself in a bit of a rut recently, then you are certainly not alone. Just as we thought we were out the other side of Covid, another lockdown looks imminent. Life is hard right now, and we have every reason not to be at our best. We are social beings, and we draw energy and creativity from others and new environments. So when that gets taken away, motivation, will power and our creative juices are put to the test. 

Every time things get tough, I remind myself of the quote: “What we do on our tough days, determines what we do on our extraordinary days.”

Anyone can feel motivated when things are going their way. But when things aren’t, that’s the real test, and those who face the situation head-on will be the ones who come out stronger and more resilient. Now is the time to be proactive, to live by design, not by default. To create, not react. To initiate, not wait. 

Here are 3 ways Living By Design can help you not only navigate the next few months but to come out on top.

1. Fall in love with your future self

Hope is the ultimate resource we need to cultivate currently. At a time when the media is doing their absolute best to make us think we are in a hopeless situation. But without hope, we can’t make choices. We are crippled by fear. We procrastinate and dwell on things. The ultimate antidote to the feeling of helplessness is to fall in love with our future self. [Entrepreneur/coach] Dan Sullivan says: “The bigger your future, the better your present.” This idea is based on what psychologists call Prospection. The notion that we predict our future emotions – whether consciously or unconsciously – that helps us make decisions today. 

Suppose we anticipate that it is possible to shape our future self by acquiring new knowledge and additional skills. We engage in repeated actions driven by the goal to improve these future capacities. I will give you a personal example. 

Years ago, I had the limiting belief that I wasn’t intelligent nor a good writer or public speaker. Something I accepted as I had little hope in ever changing. That was until I got clear on who I wanted to be, and fell in love with my future self: someone who wrote books and blogs and regularly gave talks. So I set out to change that belief by investing in my future self with online education and a coach, and by acting ‘as-if’ I was that future person now. I wrote every day and practised public speaking in front of the mirror, and after a few months, my belief system completely changed. My future vision, coupled with agency and my strategy to become my future self, fuelled me with hope and motivation. 

Hope and motivation, though, are not something you ‘have’ or ‘don’t have’, they are emotions you summon, generate and create. I created it by getting clear on who I wanted to be and building a plan of action of forcing the function of action through investing in my future self, and acting ‘as-if’ I was my future self. It’s tools and habits like these that matter. They get us to think about the future; they move us into action, so we rely on momentum to keep us moving forward. 

Other ways I summon motivation and hope:

  • I get myself in a peak state every morning – practising gratitude and queueing my mind for the day ahead and connecting to my vision
  • I read books on psychology, personal growth and autobiographies – books are like my fuel
  • I surround myself with people who remind me of my future, not my past
  • I get accountable and speak with my coach, wife and mentors – which also often reminds me of how far I have come – motivating the hell out of me

So step 1 in Living By Design; get clear on your future self, fall in love with your future self, build a plan to make it happen—schedule it in. And just start!

2. Design Your Environment

If you have been trying to rely on will power to exercise, create or whatever your goal is right now; I’m sure you have noticed it is more challenging than ever. But regardless, willpower is for people who haven’t decided what they want in their lives; it’s for people who are sitting on the fence. It’s for people who want to lose weight, but also really want to eat that cake. It’s for people who wish to read more, but also want to watch hours of Netflix. Instead, we need to outsource our decisions to our environment. We need to design conditions that force success.

Until people pair their environment to their goals, they will be required to use willpower and will continue to make minimal improvement. True commitment means designing your environment and building several external defence systems around your goals. It means you have designed conditions to make the achievement of your goals inevitable. It means you have no choice but to act in alignment with your strongest desires. 

Yes, your life is a product of our thoughts, focus and choices. But by shaping your environment, you will be directly shaping your thoughts and behaviours and have greater control over them. Those who Live by Design understand that our internal and external worlds are not clear cut. Our intrinsic and extrinsic motivation plays off each other. When we change our environment, our inputs change along with our thoughts and emotions. These inner changes alter our values, ambitions and dreams, which in turn requires us to change our external environment. 

Living by Design means we proactively shape our external inputs – such as the people we surround ourselves with, what we watch, listen to and read, the things we do and the places we go. People who live by default react, they let their environment dictate what they are—leading to a victim mentality. And, no matter how strong their willpower or motivation is, they will never win. 

A personal example of when I wanted to build the habit of waking up at 5am, despite previously being an avid snoozer, I designed my environment to make success inevitable. I would leave my phone in the kitchen, often next to a note reminding me why I wanted to wake early. So to turn off my alarm, I would have to walk down the corridor, turn on the light to switch off my alarm. Which by the time I had done that and read the note, I was wide awake and ready to tackle my day. It was a habit I was committed to building and was willing to redesign my environment for success. 

Another example from above, is investing in my future self by hiring a coach. It created an external condition that forced success. It gave me accountability. Same can be done with a personal trainer and online courses. When we put ourselves in conditions of discomfort, we grow, learn and adapt. 

Your current environment is a reflection of your current level of commitment. If you want to come out of this next few months on top, you have to be willing to redesign your environment. Create external conditions that make success inevitable. To align your outer world with your vision, goals and values.

So are you ready to fully commit? 

Are you ready to redesign your environment?

3. Start Every Day in Peak State

The quality of our emotions determines the quality of our life. Our emotions control everything in our lives such as our mood, decisions and actions. Our state drives our emotions and the meaning we give things in our lives, which are shaped by our mindset, beliefs and values. 

For example, two people may experience the same event of waiting for someone who is late, where one person thinks, “For f$%k sake why are they so late, this has ruined my day,” and someone else, on the other hand, thinks, “I’m sure they have got caught in traffic, I’ll enjoy this time to listen to some music.” The difference in meaning they attach to the same event will affect the quality of each person’s day and the action they will take next. 

But what is more powerful to know is that we all tend to have an Emotional Home; a dominate emotion which we go to most often. Be it passion, gratitude, joy, love, or even anxiety, depression, anger or jealousy. So you can quickly see how vital our Emotional Home is on the quality of our life, and by merely changing our dominant emotion, we can change everything. So how can we do that?

As mentioned above, our emotions are driven by our state and the meaning we give things. But it’s difficult to give things a positive meaning from a place of low energy. So, the place to start is to make being in a ‘peak state’ a habit, and most importantly, on those tough days. “The real test of life is when life isn’t going your way… Anyone can live fully when things are going well” – [motivational coach] Tony Robbins. 

We have to work our hardest in times like now to live in a peak state, to design the life we want to live, to create the routines and rituals that bring the best out in us. Achieving a peak state requires letting go of the past, adopting a mindset of excellence and mastering the three forces that control your emotions – your physiology, your focus and your language. Let’s walk through each…

a) Physiology – Motion moves emotion. Change the way you move, to change the way you feel. This idea is closely aligned to the ‘As If’ principle mentioned above. Want more confidence? Act’ as-if’ you are confident, stand tall, shoulders back, chest up, deep breaths and head high. Want more joy… dance. Want more happiness… smile. And, this isn’t just some nice head in the clouds theory, it’s backed by research. Amy Cuddy, a researcher at Harvard, found that by merely standing in a high power pose for two minutes increased testosterone by 20 percent and decreased cortisol levels by 25 percent. Simply: WOW! This concept also applies to the importance of looking after our health. Creating energy through good nutrition, quality sleep, and regular exercise are vital in mastering our emotions.

b) Focus – “Where focus goes, energy flows.” I love this quote! It holds so much power, as by simply shifting our focus, we can completely change the meaning we give something and as a result, our emotion. So rather than focus on the past, things you don’t have control over or things you don’t have, focus on the present, the things you can control and gratitude for the things you do have. Starting and ending every day with gratitude and visioning your perfect day and future is the ideal way to do this. You can download my priming meditation here ( 

The key purpose of a morning routine is to shift your focus to the important stuff in your life – rather than the urgent. The goal is to put yourself into a peak state so you can operate from that state all day, every day. It’s how you get out of survival mode and gain momentum. And momentum leads to confidence. Which then leads to hope, motivation, bigger dreams and a more congruent life.

c) Language – The third component is language. Many people underestimate the power of our words. How we talk to ourselves internally and externally determines how we operate in the world. If you ask questions like, “why do bad things always happen to me?” or “I’ll never be able to start a business,” you’ll likely feel powerless in your life. Flipping it to, “what can I can learn from this and improve upon?” and “I can do anything I put my mind to,” is going to provide you with far more power and a means to figure it out. Awareness is essential here, try for the next week being aware of the language you use, both internally and externally. Perhaps even ask a friend or your partner to reflect back the language you use. Once you start doing that, you’ll be able to alter your pattern of speech to a more positive and empowering way and in turn, fuelling you with a positive emotion like passion, drive, joy and confidence.

By mastering and putting into action these three areas, you’ll be able to shift your emotional home to one that empowers you with positivity, resourcefulness and gratitude—improving your relationships, productivity, success and ultimately the quality of your life.

Don’t be the result of your circumstances; you are the creator of your life – not the manager. Get ahead, Live by Design – fall in love with your future self, set up your environment for success and make living in a peak state a habit.

To explore coaching with Joel visit, or follow him on instagram @joel.burgess_
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