There are hundreds of thousands of people living a lifestyle they’d rather not be living. Their bodies are failing them, their emotional health is a sewer of stress, they are bitter toward their family, their career is simply about the next paycheck and they have no idea what the purpose of it all is.
Creating a life in the exact way you want is not only impossible, it’s reckless. It is this “all guns blazing approach” that destroys marriages, ends careers, leads to selfishness, festers jealousy and makes you sure the whole world is about you! Your life and the choices you make influence everyone around you – whether you like it or not.
This is where lifestyle design comes in and makes an enormous difference. Lifestyle design makes you stop and think about your life, the direction it’s heading and what you most desire. And those choices will influence the people around you.
When people think about lifestyle design they think about moving to the beach for a sea-change! It’s a popularised view, but it only goes part way of plunging the depths of lifestyle design.
For many people, a lack of life and a lack of style leaves them in a pickle. Life just happens, with most people reacting to the circumstances around them. Without a careful and deliberate pressing of the pause button, things never change. And the dream of a live well lived remains buried somewhere deep in the abyss of your heart.
The regrets of the dying
Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse compiled the top 5 regrets of the dying. At the top of the list:
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
It’s a very poignant reminder. Creating a life based on what you want–not what you think others expect of you–is the real heart of lifestyle design.
Lifestyle design has been popularized over the last 10 years, mostly through Tim Ferriss and his book The Four Hour Work Week. The book has become a run-away bestseller because it provides an alternative to the traditional view of life, which is mostly about living for the weekends, holidays and retirement. This video gives a good overview of the book.
What is Lifestyle Design?
In its purest form, lifestyle design is simply creating and living a life that you love. Some are quick to criticise this, but the truth is, if we aren’t designing and creating our lives, someone else will be.
Corbett Barr of Fizzle explains lifestyle design in these terms:
Lifestyle design is about questioning the predominant work ethic that teaches us to become corporate drones, working 40-60 hours or more every week while living for the weekends and a few weeks of vacation every year.
This corporate drone syndrome begins in high school. Young people are encouraged, first and foremost, to plan their future based around which career and job they want.
This is the problem.
Related: Career Advice for Everyday People
Lifestyle design on the other hand, begins with a different question: what sort of life do you wish to be living, on a day-to-day basis, now and into the future?
This includes everything from how much money do you want to earn, where do you want to live, what marital status are you hoping for, what work get’s you excited, what are your frustrations and so on. It’s a conversation, not an outcome. It’s a more holistic view of life, not focused on one aspect.
And intertwined through it all is the question of ‘why?’. As a person works through these types of questions, a lifestyle is being designed. This allows decisions and choices to be made that will influence and create a person’s desired lifestyle of the future.
Lifestyle design is an ongoing process – we never fully arrive at the perfect style of living. We’re constantly evolving, developing and changing. Our circumstances never remain the same, therefore neither must our lifestyle.
Is Lifestyle Design Realistic?
This is a bit like saying, ‘can I own a dog?’, because the answer is of course you can! But, it means you will need to make decisions which will be different to your current choices. These choices will allow you to own a dog.
And so it is with lifestyle design. You can definitely do it, but it means you’ll need to make changes, discern the priorities in your life and make choices based around what you really want your life to look like.
However, lifestyle design is not realistic when you begin comparing your life to other people. You become jealous of everything you don’t have, which stops you from creating the life you really want.
How to make Lifestyle Design your reality – despite all the ‘life’ pressures that are on you
Lifestyle design inevitably leads you to asking broader questions about life. It’s not as simple as just setting a lofty goal about one aspect of your life and then making it happen. It’s multi-faceted. This is often the time when many people consider the whole thing too hard and just give up.
But remember, we’re talking about your whole life, not simply one component of it. Therefore, it’s important to unpack and understand each area of your life and determine what your ideal picture of that area looks like.
There is never a one size fits all solution when it comes to lifestyle design. We are all different. our lives are complex, diverse and incredibly unique to our range of factors.
The critical questions to ask before you begin designing your life
All helpful lifestyle design begins with four simple questions:
- How fed up am I with my current lifestyle that I’m motivated to do something about it? Give yourself an actual score out of 10. And this should initially be an emotional, off the cuff response. Why? Because intuitively you will feel your quality of life before you can verbalise and explain it.
- How willing am I to do what it takes to make changes in my life? This is also a more off the cuff response, like question 1. Mark yourself out of 10. Because again, this will reveal how you feel about what it will take to create the lifestyle you want. This question uncovers the drive for you to learn, explore, ask questions, seek answers and keep moving forward, even when things get difficult.
- Are you prepared to think big? That is, are you prepared to think about the possibilities of your life without the restraint of words like “I can’t” or “that’ll never work” or “I’ve tried that before“? Because it’s these limiting beliefs that will stall the creative process of prevent you from building a lifestyle you love.
- Do you have the support of the key people in your life who will be affected by this intended lifestyle shift? This is critical. Let’s say you’re a 35-year-old husband with 3 kids, one who is at school, have a wife who loves her 3 day a week job and you enjoy being near immediate family, yet something about your life still feels ‘off’. There is no point trying to create a new lifestyle if your wife isn’t on the same page and she is quite content with where things are at. It doesn’t mean you can’t make some changes, it simply means there are limits to what you will be able to do.
If you scored above 7 on questions 1 and 2, and you said yes to 3 and 4, you’re primed and ready to design a life that better fits with your long-term desires, values, hopes, dreams and passions.
So let’s dig in.
Design a lifestyle on your own accord
To begin, lifestyle design is all about asking the right questions. To do this, you’ll need 3 pieces of A4 paper.
And then follow these steps:
STEP 1: On one piece (you may need more than one piece), write for 15 minutes: What’s my most desired lifestyle? Close your eyes and write down the types of pictures, images, ideas, thoughts, memories that come to mind. Let your mind go and record what you think about.
STEP 2: On your second piece, draw a line down the middle. On the left side of the line write down: What are my current responsibilities? These are things that you can’t (at the moment) get out of or that are super important to you. It could be a mortgage or job or that you’re the sole bread winner etc. This step is about having a reality check.
STEP 3: And then on the right side of that line, answer this question: What’s in my hand? What skills, talents or experiences are untapped, that if I dug into them, my ideal lifestyle would become more of a reality? This can even be things you love doing currently, but aren’t utilising as much as you could.
Then, place your two pieces of paper side by side.
STEP 4: Now, take your third piece of paper and brainstorm all the actions you can immediately take to bring about the things you wrote down on paper piece number 1.
STEP 5: Pick 5 of those items on page number 3 and begin doing them. Set a goal around each of them and create an action plan to keep you on track. Turning those things you can do immediately into reality will provide the needed momentum and motivation to keep you going and create the lifestyle you want.
And that’s it!
As I mentioned earlier, designing a lifestyle on your terms takes time, work, personal insight and self-awareness.
It’s not something that can be created in a one-off session, but over time as you begin to take steps toward a lifestyle on your terms, you will begin to see the fruit and joy of living a life determined by you, and not by anyone else.
Don’t become a statistic who nears the end of her life, wishing they would have done things differently.
Make the changes and take the steps today.