5 Ways To Live More By Design Than Default

There’s a question that comes up in every program I teach, woman I work with, and even conversations with random strangers on airplanes:

Q: How did you get to where you are? (career, relationships, mindset, happiness, etc.)

Real underlying Q: How do I get what I desire too, instead of staying stuck, lost, and comparing?

Qs that often follow:

How did you know what you wanted to do?
How do you stay motivated?
What’s your secret to getting it all done?
What do you do when you doubt yourself?
Where do I start? How do I start?

TRUTH: We make this way more complicated than it needs to be. What it boils down to is this…

{almost} every achieved desire starts with design.

As I reflect on my own journey of true wellness, creating my own successful business, and navigating marriage & relationships, I can pinpoint exact times I was living by design and, on the flip side, living by default (i.e. letting life/food/boredom/career choices/bad relationships and even old gnarly habits ‘happen to me’).

But, what is SO clear now is that every actualized desire of mine happened during/because of intention + design: deeper quality relationships, weight finding her sweet spot and never thinking about it again (truly), contagious joy by choice, business growth with purpose, play, and my biggie, freedom – travel, time, work.

While defaulting looked a little bit like this for me: I’m in a hamster wheel that I can’t slow down, keep up with, or get off of. I’m reacting to everything and feel like I can’t get my head above water long enough to catch a breath (or space) to be proactive and intentional. Why do I keep eating/drinking this when I know it isn’t good for me?! Man, I resent saying “yes” to that. I’m doing those same habits I thought I got rid of, ugh. I feel like there’s never enough (time, money, connection…). I’m overwhelmed and I’m half-assing (and failing) just about everything…


So, how do we pull ourselves out of default mode, get more of what we desire (less of what we don’t), and live with purpose?


In our bodies, relationships, adventures, careers, finances, and yes, even in our beauty care products (oh hello, magical PP charcoal deodorant that has made my life and pits better than ever imagined!).

Here’s my simple secret sauce created from reverse engineering my personal experiences, 10+ years psychology training, and coaching over thousands of ladies… the exact steps and questions I use to uncover + craft every desire, goal, self-care, and action plan in my personal life and business.


Space to think, be, play, breathe, and experience. This allows for creative freedom and intuition. It’s hard to figure out what you truly desire when you’re stuck in the hamster wheel always trying to catch your breath. Create space for what you want to show up. As you think back over the last year and moments you had clarity, what were you doing right before? Going for a walk. Traveling. Journaling. Skiing. Playing with your kids. Cooking. Meditation. Set aside 1-2 hours outside of your hamster wheel so that you have space.


Danielle LaPorte says, “Everything we do is driven by a desire to feel a certain way.” If we do/accomplish/obtain something and we don’t feel how we thought we were going to feel, we’re often disappointed, sad, lost, confused, or just plain blah and don’t know why. We need to start with the root (the desired feeling) and create goals based on that. BUT, we have to narrow it down. Research has shown repeatedly we can only focus on one, maybe two, at a time. In the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown says, “…only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.” We must choose our essential desire and stay focused.


You must be crystal clear what your desire actually looks like in your life. Every single detail you can think of. What are you doing, saying, thinking? What are you wearing? Who are you with? When do you wake up? What are you eating? Without knowing these key details, we’re aimlessly walking around hoping our desire will magically appear for us and then not knowing when it has because we don’t know what it looks like.

This is a key step most people miss and automatically puts people in default mode.


To live with intention means to do something on purpose. If there is no plan or strategy for how you will do something, then it’s almost impossible to do something on purpose…thus, we default. Don’t beat yourself up, it’s not brain science. 😉

Your vision is your intention. Declare it. Then, strategize how you’re actually going to make your Vision (step three) come to life. Brainstorm every single tiny step and detail that would be necessary to bring this vision to fruition. Example: freedom (specifically financial). Exact steps: cook 3 big dishes every Sunday at 2pm so you can eat them through the week instead of eating out. schedule an automatic transfer of funds from checking to savings on the 1st day of each month. Research 3 ways to create residual income by January 31st. Select one of these actions to focus on for February and create all steps needed to act on it.

Have your vision + intention but don’t know where to start? Don’t just say I don’t know. Read a book, find a mentor, join a program, study others who embody what you desire, ask questions, get curious, take ownership. Want something fun to ignite your spark? Join my upcoming 5-day Live By Design Challenge!

Finally, a big tip! Be proactive with obstacles. This allows you to be on the offense vs. defense, enjoy the journey, and ensure much greater success.

1) Identify every obstacle that might come in between you and realizing these action steps AND come up with your alternative plan. Common obstacles: time, resources, habits, people, etc. Using our financial freedom example: a friend invites you over for brunch on Sunday and it infringes on your Sunday meal making ritual. You want to go. What’s your secondary plan of action that you can put in place before?

2) What obstacles have sabotaged you in the past? What do you need in order to reduce these obstacles this time?


We can uncover, plan, and strategize ‘til we are blue in the face, but if we don’t take action we fail by default. Choose and act. Don’t let life happen to you.

If nothing else, remember this…

{almost} every achieved desire starts with design.

Now I want to hear from you. In the comments below, what area of your life are you going to design instead of default this year? And, what is one thing you need in order to make it happen?

Want to add more freedom + joy to your life in just a few minutes a day? Join the upcoming free Live By Design Challenge. 5 days, 5 ways to feed your soul, find your freedom, and love you life! So fun!


Intentional living means to do something on purpose. If there's no plan for how you will do something, it’s almost impossible to do something on purpose - thus, we default. In this post, get 5 ways to get yourself out of default mode, get more of what you desire (less of what you don’t), and design a life with purpose. | Primally Pure Skincare

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Katie Den Ouden

Katie Den Ouden is a freedom + joy junkie running her wellness company - hello, KDO! - all about how to become more of the women we’ve always known we could be - in life, body, and business. How? Creating and teaching the strategies, soul, and tools to live & lead more by design than default.