I think many people believe the goal of lifestyle design is more leisure time through the automation of your work.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all about working more effectively, so I can live the lifestyle that works best for me.
However, I believe that is a contemporary definition of lifestyle design. It’s a short-term fix.
More leisure time isn’t going to lead to a lifetime of satisfaction (I’ve tried it and felt empty), but I do believe designing your lifestyle around more meaningful work can provide the purpose you are seeking.
I define lifestyle design as living with intention. It’s about living in alignment with your values and your purpose. It’s about living up to your own ideals and not someone else’s ideals.
It’s not about getting out of work, but rather setting up your lifestyle, so you can work on your terms.
Most of us feel anxious and dissatisfied about our work because we are working out of alignment with our purpose and our needs.
Many lifestyle design advocates believe you should quit your job and immediately start building a “passive income” business.
That is a “tactical” approach to lifestyle design, not a “strategic” one.
Let me be clear: I’m all for building passive income businesses, but in terms of creating lasting and meaningful change in your life, you are skipping over a few crucial steps in the lifestyle design process.
Before you quit your job, you need to learn about the most important subject that has never been taught to any of us: how to learn about yourself.
Take the time to really learn about your purpose, your values, your needs, your motivations and your strengths before you plan your escape from your cubicle
Get clear on your “Why”.
Why do you want to redesign your lifestyle?
When you take the time to learn about yourself, you will think more “strategically” and less “tactically” about your lifestyle design plans. Each of your decisions will come from within, rather than taking someone else’s word for it.
Taking an extensive self-inventory will dramatically increase your chance for success. Before you work for yourself, know yourself first. You’ll make far better decisions and you will truly build a lifestyle on your terms.
Here are the 10 steps of lifestyle design I believe are the most important and often the most overlooked.
#1 Tell Your Career Story
Not only is “telling your career story” the first step of lifestyle design, it’s also the most important of the Life Skills That Matter.
It’s the single most impactful action you can take as you design your ideal lifestyle. It’s the spark!
Nothing else will set off a chain reaction of change until you commit to the change you want to make by telling other people about it. Of course, you might not be able to tell your boss or some of your colleagues, but tell as many other people as you can!
When you tell the story of the work you really want to do, you are making a commitment to making that change. You are beginning the process of assuming a new identity.
Even if you have no idea at all about what it is you want to do, be honest about your desire to explore your possibilities. Many of us don’t know what we want to do because we never looked. Give yourself that opportunity.
Tell people what you really want to do, not what you think they want to hear.
#2 Purge to Let Go
If you want to make a big change in life, you need to make space for it.
For those of you who don’t know what they want to do, the action of purging will help you discover what’s important in your life and what is not. It will reveal your previously hidden possibilities.
There are possessions, obligations, digital documents, relationships and thoughts that no longer have meaning in your life. They don’t have a productive role in the change you want to make.
They are holding you back. Let them go.
I truly believe an external purge of all the stuff in your life ignites a mental purge of your fears, expectations and cravings that have been holding you back.
Purging begins a process of enabling you to reframe your mindset and gives you permission to start telling yourself a new story of how your life will unfold.
#3 Practice Self-Awareness
Changing your lifestyle requires changing your habits. The process of changing your habits begins by gathering self-knowledge. The most effective method of learning about yourself is through a practice of self-awareness.
In terms of lifestyle design, practicing self-awareness involves self-experimentation by tracking keystone habits that will spark the transformation you are seeking in your life. Some of your existing habits will be strengthen and others will be eliminated.
Meaningful and lasting lifestyle design is taking the time to align your habits with your purpose, your needs and your natural tendencies.
Throughout your lifestyle design transformation be sure to practice the #1 self-awareness habit: writing daily.
#4 Calculate the Cost of Your Lifestyle
Do you have any idea how much you need to make each year to live your ideal lifestyle? It’s probably not as much as you might think.
We all know how much money we made last year, but most of us have no idea how much money we spent.
I think knowing how much money you spent is the more important number because it will provide context for how much money you really need to make to live your ideal lifestyle.
To quickly calculate the cost of your lifestyle right now, add up all the withdrawals from your checking account over the last year (this will include all your credit card payments, monthly payments and cash withdrawals).
I also generally recommend putting aside money to cover the cost of your existing lifestyle for one year. The process of saving that money might seem daunting, but it will force you to look for ways to align your spending with the goal of designing your ideal lifestyle.
#5 Build Community
A good friend of mine asked me why I really wanted to start this business. He didn’t care about my rational reasons. He wanted to know my emotional reasons.
I told him that I never felt so alone in all my life than when I was redesigning my lifestyle, especially when I felt stuck for 5 years. I never want anyone to feel like that again. That is the feeling driving me to do this.
There is probably no other factor that will directly impact your lifestyle design success than building community. It will definitely increase the momentum of your transformation.
You need to hangout with like-minded people. You need to seek out people who want the same change as you.
When you surround yourself with other people who truly get you, they will offer you encouragement, accountability, emotional support and missing pieces to your success puzzle.
You will be inspired by the achievements of people who might be just a few steps ahead of you in their development. You’ll see that they did it and realize you can too.
Humans evolved to work together.
Go and find your people!
#6 Plan Your Path
I know the idea of creating a plan can sound intimidating, but it can help you make strategic decisions about your life rather than purely emotional ones.
I’m not an advocate of formally written plans, but you want to create a plan in a way that makes sense to you.
Here’s a very quick template you can use to start your plan:
First, the most important part of your plan is understanding “your Why”. Think of it as your vision statement for your lifestyle and work.
- Why do you want to do the work you want to do?
- What is the sense of purpose that is motivating you to make this change?
Second, come up with no more than 3 primary goals you believe will have the greatest impact on helping you achieve “your Why”.
Third, create weekly goals as benchmarks to track your progress. At least one of those goals should be learning a new skill or something about yourself in the context of “your Why”.
Finally, focus on no more than 3 daily habits you believe will have the greatest impact on the change you want to make.
Keep your plan simple. Make your goals achievable and accountable.
You might not always know exactly where you are going, but you want to know you’ve made some progress to encourage you to keep going.
#7 Align Your Habits
Stop being a slave to “To Do Lists”. They are a drain on your personal energy and it’s a “tactical” approach to lifestyle design.
A more effortless method for taking action is through the alignment of your habits with your purpose.
You will also dramatically increase your chances of success by embracing your own habit development rather than mimic the habits of another person. When you make your habits your own, you’ll require less energy to make them stick because they are in harmony with your unique needs and tendencies.
You can start aligning your habits by . . .
First, assessing your existing habits by deciding which ones are helpful to your transformation and which ones are unproductive.
Second, identifying the 3 primary habits you will practice each day that will have the greatest impact on your goals. That might involve strengthening one of your existing habits, creating a new habit or eliminating one. (Sometimes you have to create a habit to eliminate an unproductive one.)
We all have different sources of motivation, but I believe committing to a set of daily habits aligned with your needs and goals will increase your resolve for making a big change in your life without having to overthink it!
#8 Take Imperfect Action
We are often the biggest obstacle to our own success. We are afraid of making mistakes. We avoid failure. There are people in our life who will inevitably have doubts about what we want to do.
As author Gretchen Rubin advises in her book Better Than Before, “Make progress, not perfection.” Perfection is someone else’s ideal. It holds you back. You’ll never learn anything about yourself if you stay stuck in your own head.
Make small, consistent and imperfect actions each day. Take the pressure off.
Making a habit of your habits is more important than the actual habit.
Life is unpredictable and maybe you only have 15 minutes instead of an hour to practice one of your habits. It’s better to practice that habit for just 15 minutes than not doing it all at.
Each action you take helps you learn a little more about yourself, as well as helps you take another step toward your goal no matter how small it might be.
Make a habit of action.
#9 Stack Your Motivation
By this phase in your transformation, you will have learned a lot about your sources of motivation and your available energy to sustain your motivation.
Stacking your motivation involves maximizing the power of your motivations by integrating as many of them as possible into your habits and routines.
For example, I recently stacked my motivation by waking up an hour earlier to work at a co-working space to focus on content projects that have a monthly deadline.
I combined three of my motivations:
1) My highest level of energy each day occurs during the morning.
2) Although I have worked out of my house for years, I still am susceptible to any number of distractions, so working outside the house helps increase my focus.
3) I am also motivated to work on projects that have an end date. I completely lose my resolve for work when I don’t see the end in sight!
The process of lifestyle design can take one to two years or longer for some. Stacking your motivation can sustain your commitment and provide you with additional strength during the toughest periods that are inevitable during this process.
#10 Continue Practicing Self-Awareness
The process of designing your own lifestyle never truly ends.
You will celebrate many planned and unplanned milestones along the way, but the work on yourself is never truly done.
The most effective method for maintaining the lifestyle you created for yourself is by continuing to practice self-awareness.
Everything around us is constantly changing. You are a different person today than from yesterday.
Change can be dramatic, but more often it’s incremental. It’s tougher to spot because it quietly sneaks up on you.
Practicing self-awareness can help you better prepare for those incremental changes, so you can avoid feeling deeply stuck again.