Discover Your Design


Are you really good at what you do, but you do not feel as though you are thriving in life?

One possible explanation is that you are not using your design.  You are doing what you were taught to do, not doing what you were made to do.  When we work in our design, there is generally a significant level of fulfillment.

I have had conversations with four people in the last couple of weeks who were highly competent, in multiple fields, but were not thriving.  Yet because they had been doing what they were trained to do for so long, so well, they had difficulty imagining who they really were, beneath the cultural veneer.

So here is a tool that you can use to peel back the layers and arrive at some sense of who God designed you to be, before the culture shoved you in the odious sausage machine.  The art form is to take a large job category and break it down into little pieces, to see which piece of the big picture fits you.

There are two large pools of ideas you can draw from.  The first is your life experiences, and the second is the jobs described in the Yellow Pages.  Let’s start with a life experience example.

When I lived in Whittier, the soil in our backyard was awful.  It had been neglected for a least a decade.  The natural soil in that area is clay and this clay had been baked hard for years.  In order to make the soil usable, I would dig trenches about 24 inches wide, 18 inches deep, and 15 feet long.

The soil was so hard that I would start by using the pointed end of a pick.  It usually took a few weeks for me to finish one trench.  After I dug out the old soil I would add a lot of organic material as I replace the now loosened soil.  Then I would let it sit for a year while I watered it and buried our domestic kitchen scraps in it.

Economically it was ludicrous to try to use that yard for a garden.  The only reason I did it, was because I got a tremendous amount of gratification out of what was brutally hard work.

That is an example of the big picture.  Now I break the big picture down into a lot of little pieces.  Did I like swinging the pick?  Was I expressing some repressed anger through the violence of using the pick?  Was there gratification in having a really good garden when I was done?  Did I enjoy being outdoors in the sun?  Was moving dirt with wheelbarrow gratifying?  Did I enjoy not having anyone telling me what do to?  Was this an escape from building codes, because I could do it any way I wanted?

None of those things brought me pleasure.  The pleasure lay in healing something that was deemed irretrievably broken.  This is a clue about my nature.  Nobody was pushing me to make a garden in the backyard.  In fact a lot of people try to discourage me from doing that.  But because my design is what it is, I was compelled to take land that was supposed to be fertile, which had been condemned as unusable, and restore it to its original design.

Now I call this a letter.  It is one characteristic of my nature.  And like any individual letter which can be used in many different words, this characteristic can be used in many different applications in life.  I find myself gravitating towards the irretrievably  broken people, and I look for God’s principles to bring healing to them.  I’m working in a highly broken city in America, seeking to bring healing to that city just because it is so highly broken.  I recently looked at a fairly broken house, and once again felt that engine churning inside as I ached to restore the house to its former glory.

When you take a big event, and break it down into pieces, you can savor each piece to find out which ones bring you pleasure and which ones do not.  When you discover the things that bring you pleasure from inside, with no external reward, you have most likely found a piece of your design.  This is especially true if it is an area that other people do not celebrate for you.

So you place that individual letter on your Scrabble tray, and you break down another situation.  Each situation in life has one or more letters that tell you something about your design.  So you can go through school, time on the playground, your family holidays, shopping experiences, your family chores, your reactions to the pets, the different jobs you’ve had since you left home, the dynamics of your marriage, vacation, and a long list of other situations like that and break each one down into small pieces and find where the pleasure is.

For those who find it difficult to be that introspective about your own life, I recommend the Yellow Pages.  You can look at the Yellow Pages as a catalog of jobs rather than a catalog of things for sale.

So take any Yellow Pages and begin to look at the different jobs.  Try to envision yourself in each one of those jobs.  When you experienced strong emotion (positive or negative), stop at that job and try to break it down.

Take for example the idea of my being a policeman.  I find that utterly revolting.  I am delighted that there are many policeman out there, and I’m sure that God made some people with the personality necessary to be a good cop.  But when I break that down into pieces there are two things that stand out to me.

Number one, a policeman in a patrol car is primarily reactive instead of proactive.  He is driving around waiting for somebody to do something, and when they do something he will react to what they did.  This is an anathema to me.  I don’t wait for other people to make things happen, so I can react.  I am the instigator.  I make things happen.  And the strength of my reaction to the idea of my being a policeman, tells me that this is a core component of my design.

The other side of being a policeman that does not sit well with me is the fact that largely a policeman has to look at people trying to figure out what is wrong with them.  I am passionately drawn to what is right with people.  Most people come to me because something is wrong with them.  Many people get very frustrated because I kind of ignore the pain they came with and focus on something I saw about God’s design in them.

So after looking at just this one job description, I have two more letters about who I am.  The issue of being an instigator not a reactor applies to just about every area of my life.  So does the concept of wanting to find out what is right about a situation.  Whether I’m looking at an individual or a nation my line very simply is “God was there first.”

When you have spent a month or two breaking down life situations or theoretical jobs, you should have quite a collection of letters on your Scrabble tray.  The more letters you have, the easier it is to spot the word that it spells.  That is why I encourage you to spend a couple of months on the breaking down process, before you try to put the pieces back together.

In this process, it is relatively easy to differentiate between reaction from woundedness and reaction from design.  For example, if I were looking at being a high-rise window washer, the revulsion would be immediate and very deep.  I know that this is due to the fear of heights I have from when I fell off a roof and crippled up my left hand.  There’s a very different feel to a wound reaction compared to a design issue.

Similarly, as we look at the things we are drawn to, the question we need to ask is whether we would do that, if no one knew we were doing it and there was no one to affirm us.  All of us are codependent to one degree or another.  All of us have areas of emotional need and we have learned how to position ourselves to have others affirm us.  But when you find yourself consistently doing something, when nobody is looking, and nobody is affirming you, especially when people are criticizing you for it, you could be pretty sure you found a design piece.

The discovery of design is never final.  I don’t believe any human being has ever learned everything there is to know about the mystery of the majesty of who God made us to be.  It is therefore wise to pause regularly and assess your life.  Learn to use the downtime of waiting in line at the bank to explore design.  Either think back to a recent event, or visually explore the interior the bank.  You can do either one of these for 1 minute or 15 minutes without any props or tools.

By regularly using the scraps of time that we normally waste during the day, to dissect events that happened to us, to find the joy points, we are capable of building a significant profile of who God made us to be.

The resources are there.  If you are old enough to read this, then you have enough life experience to begin decoding.  As you use your time and your creativity to break big pictures down into little pictures you will begin to find the letters that spell the DNA of your God-given design.

Copyright December 2010 by Arthur Burk

From the Quarterdeck, in Anaheim

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12 Responses to Discover Your Design

  1. Nathaniel Wiseman says:

    Thank you, Mr. Burk. I really appreciated this article. I pray that the LORD helps me bear it in mind for when I need to wait. Shalom & Happy Holidays! Nathaniel

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  2. cliodhna says:

    Another piece of brilliant insight thanks so much Arthur. This piece reflects so much of what I am currently feeling….I had a wonderful international marketing career and spent a lot of time working with people from different countries, and now I am a stay-at-home mum who is feeling more than a little frustrated on a regular basis and struggling to see how I fit in anymore….I have the RG of Prophet and also am a real encourager which brings me joy…so now I’ll begin the Scrabble building!Bless you. Cliodhna, Dublin Ireland.

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  3. Mary-Anne Simpson says:

    Thank-you for posting the how to, on design, giving words to things makes them so much easier to unpack.
    The day I read this I had been investigating a query in my office, and in order to reply I had gone back to my files, researched the matter thoroughly and responded in a very step by step methodical way. No-one was there, no-one would know what I had done or how I had prepared my reply, but doing so gave me deep satisfaction and enjoyment AND I felt pleased with myself. One of my games is to first work from memory, then from documented history and see how much memory remembered, I had remembered well.
    As a mercy I should have the blessing of presence to bring alignment and I should be a good administrator. Both of these are true, but for years I was ashamed of enjoying administration. I worked in an industry where if you were REALLY good you got promoted out of Admin into client liaison and sales. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I got promoted, cried daily to and from work until I took a transfer back to admin because I was happy there.
    I do most of the admin in our own business and for a while resented that my husband was out and about meeting people and going to lunches while I sat in the office cut off from the “fun”.
    Now I take pleasure in realising that I was designed to be good at and love admin and I no longer feel ashamed or boring for enjoying it. I love the fact that when the world is turning up-side down 1+1 still equals 2, that is such a reassuring thing for me.
    Arthur, thank-you for giving dignity and validating design in such a way that this administrator feels proud to be one!

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  4. Nathan Noble says:

    I strongly resonate with this article – I am wanting to discover the design that is at my core, beneath the competencies (as average, good, or excellent as they may be) that have been shaped by my culture, environment, family, etc. These competencies are valid and important, but I feel I am in a process of trying to discover with more clarity who I am, the engine that drives it, the heart that makes it all worth doing.

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    • Nathan Noble says:

      I recently read a book called “A Leader’s Life Purpose: Handbook” by Tony Stolzfus, a book on life coaching that gives life coaches different tools to help people move towards their calling. Your suggestion above reminds me of/is very similar to a tool Tony discusses in the book called “Coaching a destiny event” where the coachee chooses an event preferrably from as early in life as possible where they felt it all “came together” and in the conversation the coach/coachee draw out the details/emotions of the event. I observed this recently in a training I was at and was stunned that the seeminly minor details of this self-chosen “destiny event” had major implications and meaning, they were almost a prophecy of this womans call that she and we could all see her operating in more fully 30-40 years later. The person who was chosen for this demo was someone already walking in their call at a high level; the destiny event coaching served as a confirmation of God’s plan and work and affirmation of her design even from young childhood. This is a skill I want to learn for my own life but also as a tool to help others in moving towards understanding their design with more clarity and how God has been moving them toward their destiny even from ages where we all perhaps have assumed we were “unseen” in the galactic plans of heaven.

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  5. Lorna says:

    Thanks Arthur! This is a great tool!

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  6. Glenn says:

    I have always marveled at Father’s ways. They are always higher(greater)than my ways. Throughout my life He has lead me to jobs that were not my choice in order to teach me His design and purpose for my life. Each was necessary to prepare/equip me for the next opportunity.

    The underlying principle of my design and purpose that was developed in each unique workplace was to be redemptive and life giving, to correct what was dysfunctional so that the department or organization was successful socially and economically in fulfilling its mission. I now have the priviledge of leading, teaching and developing a team of talented leaders who want to help their 400 fellow employees learn how to operate as redemptive life givers from the realization of their individual design and purpose.

    The picture Father has given me is the design of the milky way. The is a core or center from which all life in our galaxy spirals outward. When we walk in His design for our life, His life flows out from us to those around us.

    This blog was a deep blessing and encouragement to my spirit. Thank you.

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  7. Mimi T says:

    So, for several years now the Lord has told me to “Follow your joy”. My problem has been that I find joy in lots of things! This practical exercise will give me some tools for more deeply analyzing those things. For example, for years I have kept a list of little sayings that I want to put on, of all things, bumper stickers! I created one for my daughter when she was a student driver that was clever and bright and fun, and she loves using it 2 years later! I have a strong desire to speak to people in short, profound ‘bites’, that will provoke them to think more deeply about where they are in life and point them to God. However, I’ve just thought that this little idea was kinda cute and all, but not really important.
    Hmm, I’m going to go play Scrabble now….

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  8. Jeanette Nafziger says:

    This posting landed very deeply in my spirit. I am at such a point of depression and despair that I feel like I am drowning in an overwhelming surging sea. Not a great placed to be. Yet in the midst of it I know how big my God is and I am leaning on my faith in that fact to pull me through. This posting has brought quite a few thoughts to my mind as to why I am feeling this way. We are doing what the Lord has called us to do at this season in our lives, but are we going about it in the right way? Perhaps I am working to far out of my design to make this work. This morning in my alone time with the Lord, I heard Him tell me to do what is in my heart to do…. great advice if I knew what that was. I think now that maybe He was pushing me to dig a little deeper and find my real place in this endeavor. If I come to a clearer understanding of my true design, then maybe I won’t be trying to do things that others were designed to do. Therefore, God can begin placing them into the places they are to be if I would just get out of the way. And, by getting out of the way, perhaps I will land into the place I am to be by design. Thank you, I am looking forward to trying to find my way in the midst of this “surging sea”.

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    • Jenny says:

      Uncreated God, bless Jeanette with Shalom peace as you help her through the wisdom of your Holy Spirit, who lives inside her, to unwrap how you designed her.

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  9. September says:

    Thank you for this post.

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  10. Rosa says:

    Like,like, like! Practical , hardworking tools…maybe by the time I grow up, I will have some of my design figured out, and I will know what I wanna be 🙂

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