PE.550 | Spring 2009 | Undergraduate

Designing Your Life


Course Meeting Times

Lectures/Discussions: 1 session / 2 weeks, 3 hours / session


This course provides an exciting, eye-opening, and thoroughly useful inquiry into what it takes to live an extraordinary life, on your own terms. The instructors address what it takes to succeed, to be proud of your life, and to be happy in it. Participants tackle career satisfaction, money, body, vices, and relationship to themselves. They learn how to confront issues in their lives, how to live life, and how to learn from it.

A short version of this course meets during the Independent Activities Period (IAP), which is a special 4-week term at MIT that runs from the first week of January until the end of the month. Then this semester-long extension of the IAP course is taught to interested members of the MIT community. This not-for-credit course is sponsored by the Department of Science, Technology, and Society. A similar, semester-long version of this course is taught in the Sloan Fellows Program.


An inquisitive nature and willingness to face the truth are required. Students should also have completed the first assignment beforehand. In addition, an open mind, a love of life, and a desire to make changes are helpful.

Learning Objectives

When students have completed this course, they should be able to

  • honestly evaluate where they are in life
  • identify what next actions will allow them to fulfill their vision of life
  • create a life vision
  • make and execute an action plan


This course is not-for-credit. Everyone passes by completing the assignments.

Course Outline

1. Promises and consequences and areas of life

  • Developing personal integrity
  • Making and keeping weekly promises

2. Theories

  • Examining theories about the way the world works
  • Discussing how theories affect what is seen as possible and impossible
  • Learning how to make new theories that align with our dreams

3. Theories, purges, and thought logs

  • Hunting for theories about the way the world works
  • Keeping a log of thoughts
  • Purging the mind of destructive thoughts that prevent us from honoring our promises to ourselves

4. Excuses

  • Identifying excuses that take away the responsibility of being great
  • Debunking the excuses that are holding us back from our dream life

5. Parent traits

  • Examining how personal traits can be a reaction to parental traits
  • Identifying how parents’ traits live within us

6. Haunting incidents

  • Finding haunting incidents in our lives
  • Learning the lessons that haunting incidents suggest we need to learn

7. Cleaning up haunting incidents

  • Resolving haunting incidents so that they do not haunt us anymore
  • Learning how to feel proud and confident in our skin

8. Connecting theories, traits, and haunting incidents

  • Explaining how haunting incidents arise from our traits and theories
  • Analyzing haunting incidents for insights into how we should evolve to reach our goals

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2009
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments