Note: This article was originally published under the title Lifestyle Design for Beginners – but some amazing feedback from readers helped me to realize I wasn’t approaching this from a beginner standpoint, but rather from a realist standpoint. Some edits and additions can be found below …
One day while catching up with my baby sister we stumbled upon the topic of lifestyle design. True to our personalities, we had both discovered this new approach on life, but from very different angles. Carolyn, or Koa as we so lovingly call her, had discovered lifestyle design on her quest for inner peace and balance through Ayurvedic studies. I came across lifestyle design from the standpoint of a realist attempting to find a solution to a problem on how I wanted to spend the next 40 years of my professional career and personal freedom. From completely different avenues of thought, we both found ourselves at the same crossroad.
This, in and of itself, is the beauty of lifestyle design. I think of it like art. While a pompous few want to pigeonhole the interpretation of an artistic piece with only one inspiration or explanation, I find that that same piece of art is a living, breathing, evolving message that means whatever it should to that person in that moment. I can’t help but believe that artists would want to be meaningful to audiences beyond their critics.
Lifestyle design is much the same – it is meant to be whatever it should be to each person who has reached that moment in life where they ask, “Why am I here, and how can I be true to my own self if I only get one shot at this life.” Think about that for a moment, unless you are a believer in reincarnation, this is it … your only lifetime in which to succeed, flourish, grow, love, and follow your dreams.
I have always been a quiet dreamer with the composure of a realist. Thus, it was only natural that my approach to lifestyle design would incorporate those two realities of self. The problem – I knew that I was not meant to be in the same position for the next 5, 10, or 20 years. I knew that I was capable of more than I was limited to within the confines of my career. I knew I wanted to feel passionate about my work, and I wanted ownership of my own success as opposed to being buoyed to anyone else. I knew I wanted more freedom and not to sit at a desk for eight hours a day. I knew I wanted more. The question became, how do I achieve this?
When I was in my 20’s, I was unafraid of failure and saw opportunity in most everything. I got on a plane to Thailand, flying alone, knowing nothing about the country I was going to live in for the next six months apart from a few tidbits out of a Lonely Planet. I did this without thought, without fear, without hesitation and it was one of the most magical times of my life. I met amazing people, I explored the country from the tuk-tuk riddled streets of Bangkok, to the white-sand beaches of Ko Samui, to the tribal mountain villages of Chiang-Rai – where we slept in thatched huts with mud floors and a stone slab in the center of the room that served as a stove and fireplace. We went on trail runs through the rainforest of Krabi, got leeches – which is only funny in retrospect– and lived among the wildlife of free-roaming monkeys and elephants in our treehouse bungalows. In those moments of my life, I felt alive. I felt connected to something beyond myself and that anything I put my mind to was possible.
Fast forward 12+ countries and years later, and here I am feeling stifled in my career path and devoid of passion. What perplexes me the most is how my once free and fearless feet moved me forward from those white sand beaches and endless rainforest trails to quicksand. Somewhere along this path my quiet dreamer faded into the shadows and the only voice that I could hear was of the realist, who was experiencing a much more grueling route to success, one that did not come with road signs or a map.
Perhaps it is just me, or the fact that I am nearing 40 and have a BS meter that is more in-tune with cynicism than belief, but I feel we all have to get to that place in our lives where what we thought we wanted, the safety of a salaried job, steady, stress-free existence is not at all the bags of goods it was sold to be.
What is Lifestyle Design?
Lifestyle Design is simply what it sounds like – designing your life around your wants, needs, and abilities. The concept has many supporters and critics, as it is sometimes equated with pushing back against the norm to create a selfish and unrealistic lifestyle- or creating an attitude of less work, more reward. Well, my comment to the critics is to first define what a typical lifestyle should be and then tell me what is selfish and unrealistic about wanting to follow your intelligence and ability. I think of it as more meaningful work with more reward.
As I mentioned earlier, lifestyle design is whatever the person needs it to be at the moment they seek to change. It could be a lifelong New Yorker moving to a farm in rural upstate, giving up a corporate career to raise animals and grow her own veggies. It could be a machinist getting away from his factory position to pursue his passion for restoring and selling old cars. It could be a young high school graduate foregoing an expensive college education to test his aptitude at starting a small business. It is as simple or complex as you make it.
Lifestyle design is simply you creating a life that suits your needs and wants. For me, it means creating my own business and an outlet for my writing, through which I can build an income so I no longer have to work for anyone else. Don’t misread that, as I am happy to work with people, but I also want the freedom to explore my true ability.
As I continue down this uncharted path, which would have seemed so obvious in my 20’s, I find myself discovering more ways to attend to my overall wellness, I find myself speaking up more when my BS meter has reached its limit. I find myself worrying less, but still uncertain of what I can create. I find a reignited happiness in sharing my voice when I write, underpinned by doubt as to whether anyone is listening. I guess if it was really easy to change our life people would do it daily, making it less worthwhile. So, here I am back on that winding rainforest trail, dodging fallen trees, slippery stones, and leeches dropping from the canopy of trees that hang overhead. My best, and only, advice to myself — just keep moving forward, you will get there.
Why is Lifestyle Design Important?
This is important, now more than ever, as we live in a society that values and connects people very differently than it once did. Look at any major news story, focusing on the comments area and the amount of hatred perfect strangers have for one another about current issues. Look at the stagnation of the employee wage, how people are struggling to make ends meet with each year that inflation and costs rise but our salaries remain the same.
Look at the example of how people are being treated. Take the recent incident with United, the airline overbooks the flight then drags a person off said flight for their overbooking mistake because he didn’t agree with being eeny-meeny-miney-moed out of his purchased seat. And, the lawsuits being waged against behemoths like Fox News, who were so untouchable for so many years that abuse ran rampant within the organization. Consider the amount of frustration people have in their jobs, as more work is dumped on them and fewer staff members are hired. That frustration is clear in the area of customer service, it is clear in the United video, as people simply don’t feel connected to the companies they represent or the customers who are in need of their compassion.
The upside is that we also live in a society that is connected virtually. We don’t need money to invest in the brick and mortar American dream since there is so much that can be achieved online. Examine the number of household names that are closing stores around the country – Macy’s, Sears, JCPenney, just to name a few. People don’t work, spend, or even read like they used to, and that is something new entrepreneurs can capitalize on.
Your question becomes, what will lifestyle design be for you?
Begin with these simple steps-
Step 1 – Use moments of frustration with your current situation to help identify what you really want to do or how you really want to spend your time.
Seriously, you can opt to do those find your passion flowcharts and VENN Diagrams, or you can pay attention to what you love, what you enjoy, and where your mind goes on those days when you know that your job is not fulfilling your ambition.
Do you have a hobby that you can turn into a business? Can you expand on your skills set enough to help others? Is there a low-cost way to get your information out there – like a blog, website, or as a seller online?
Step 2 – Begin learning and/or researching.
This does not mean returning to school, as YouTube or a simple Google search offers an endless array of ideas for entrepreneurs and hobbyists who want to branch out on their own. Read more, learn more, become more.
And no, I am not sending you to the self-help aisle, although there are some great books I will suggest since I opened the ‘read more’ can of worms. I am sending you to the know thyself aisle of your heart (passion) and mind (logic) – as it already exists there – you just haven’t tapped into it yet.
Step 3 – Make a transition plan, setting goals and timelines.
Here’s the first thing I stumbled upon when I found my stumbling, we make plans, set goals, and establish timelines every quarter or year in our profession but we don’t add the same value to our personal endeavors. Change that now.
This is a minute but massive step of your process. Where do you start building your blog or website? If you want to sell things you make online, how do you get connected to the right online retailers? How much are you comfortable investing to start – never over invest, always find the most sensible way to start out.
As you learn, build out steps and checklist with goals and dates of completion to keep yourself on track. I found that my journey started with a culmination of moments where I realized things had to change, but I really defined that change once I put it to paper. Use your phone to build out reminder lists so you can check things off as you go, keep yourself on track, and celebrate the things you have done successfully.
Step 4- Lay the groundwork.
Along with research, learning, goals, and checklist, you need to start having conversations. This is going to sound nuts, but the initial conversations need to be with yourself. Visualize the plan, talk yourself through the steps – what is done- what is next. Once you feel comfortable, bounce ideas off of others. These are people you are comfortable with, people you trust, and people who are in professional areas that can help you assess your ideas.
There will also be inevitable conversations with family (my spouse was my first and only go-to person) and employers as you follow your path and transition from your current role to your new role. My best advice is to take your time. Don’t put it off, but don’t throw yourself into the deep end either. Pace yourself. If it is meant to happen, you will make it happen.
Step 5- Learn from failure.
This is NOT easy. I am a perfectionist, so allowing the word failure into my mental vocab feels like failing. Failure is, like many have proclaimed before, your BEST teacher. Learn from others who share their stories online, as it is certain that those stories are filled with ups and downs.
Listen to or read their stories and try to apply what you’ve learned to avoid those same pitfalls. And, above all, be prepared to learn as you go and face off with your own pitfalls.
Step 6 – Be patient and keep moving forward.
I promise you, nothing happens overnight. Every step, every goal, every setback, every slow day, every little success will feel a bit like a roller coaster. This is the point where people start to question their choice and miss the steady (read complacent) calm of their normal corporate gig.
Truth be told, you should still be in your corporate gig at this point – as mentioned above, sweeping change is not the suggested route. So, instead of comparing the two sides, learn from your setbacks and celebrate your successes, so you can keep moving forward.
Step 7 – Use measurable targets, goals, timelines, and/or data to track your progress.
Make sure you are checking off tasks, keeping yourself on target, and setting new goals as former ones are achieved. This is why I like checklist apps or the notes and reminders on iphone. I can see all I’ve done, so to keep myself on target through the crummier days.
If you started a website or are selling items online, all these wonderful tools come with gadgets that measure data. You can track when people most often visit your page, what they read, what they like, and what they are purchasing.
Technology is a splendid storyteller and it makes your life easier – so, no excuses, just use it!
Step 8 – Don’t get discouraged.
Putting yourself out there can sometimes feel like you’ve just agreed to take a daily punch to the gut. It gets discouraging. There are days when you will feel invisible, even though you have 1000s of social media connections.
When we ask something of people in our network of pals, it can be difficult. So, push wider. Don’t simply ask or rely on friends and family – the people who you actually know– to buoy you. At the same time, it is okay to let them know you are putting yourself out there – and like hugs in real life, likes can go a long way.
Step 9 – Model like competitors or sites/businesses/people who inspire you.
Whatever it is that you have decided to do, it is highly likely that someone else is already doing the same thing or something relatively similar. Check out their store, website, etc… and see what works. Do not copy or infringe on their brand, just get a feel for how you can make improvements on your own ideas and concepts.
Modeling is a lot like mentoring. Choose an inspiration, a direction, a niche, along with a means to communicate your message. Try your hand at it in your own style or voice. (see suggested readings below)
Step 10- Begin the transition with baby steps.
Baby steps, indeed. We all want to follow our passion/ability/ambition, but we can’t necessarily afford to give up a paying job with benefits to make that happen. Work after hours or on the weekend as you get started. If you just read that last sentence and thought “no way“, this may not be for you. When you are creating something that matters to you and the future you envision, the time does not feel like a sacrifice- it becomes an investment. Once you get started, or as more time is needed, think about working on your schedule – can you take some paid time off, reduce your scheduled hours, reconfigure your schedule to create more time and space for you?
Transition slowly and intelligently, as throwing yourself into the unknown, in which the only knowns are lack of money, stress, and the need for time, can be counter-intuitive.
For some, going full force, headlong into a new life makes them work harder. I would personally work smarter and bridge to two sides within my constantly expanding comfort zone.
Use the links provided to purchase these great reads on Lifestyle Design
Price: 13.99- 24.00
Reader Reviews: 4.5/5
From the critics …
“The 4-Hour Workweek is a new way of solving a very old problem: just how can we work to live and prevent our lives from being all about work? A world of infinite options awaits those who would read this book and be inspired by it!”
—Michael E. Gerber, Founder & Chairman of E-Myth Worldwide and the World’s #1 Small Business Guru
Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers
Price: 16.99- 30.00
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From the author …
“I created this book, my ultimate notebook of high-leverage tools, for myself. It’s changed my life, and I hope the same for you.”
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Reader Reviews: 4.5/5
From the book …
Price: 6.99 – 12.00
Reader Reviews: 5/5
From the critics …
“Being an entrepreneur is scary. Especially in the beginning when you feel lonely, lost, and wondering: What if my idea fails? In Will it Fly?, Pat Flynn shows you step-by-step how to figure out if your new idea will be successful before you go all in. This book is an absolute must-read for any entrepreneur looking to start a new business, enter a new market, or launch a new product. I 100% recommend reading, and re-reading this book.”
–Ryan Levesque, #1 National Best-Selling Author, Ask
Price: 7.99 (Kindle Edition)
Reader Reviews: 4.5/5 (and Koa’s recommendation)
From the readers …
“There are many endearing features in `Make Your Creativity Pay’ by Pete Mosley. The writing style is clear, organised and easy to follow, and it’s a good read and useful, which is always a winning platform. Pete balances its value between being understanding and insightful about creative mindsets, being well thought through and pragmatic, and using his renowned human touch without any loss of business edge.” (Rob Popsys)
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About the Author
Gwendolyn is a lover of travel and culture, having visited over 13 countries and having lived most of her adult life in Europe and Asia – where she explored, learned, and fell in love.
In her professional career she has worn the hat of director in International Education, professor, trainer, strategist, and fundraiser for nonprofits. Most recently she started lifeinherent.com and co-founded Laifeu LLC.
She holds a MA in Public Relations and a BA in Media Communications.