When you scroll through your social media feeds, sometimes, you wish you could swap places with people living your dream lifestyle.
Whether you’re attracted by cars, status, big house, luxury, travel or whatever it is you desire, deep down, you wish you could also build that lifestyle.
But there’s a problem…
Striving only for extrinsic rewards over intrinsic ones can become a constant struggle of chasing happiness and never getting there. No matter how much wealth, fame, power or status you achieve, you’ll never feel you have enough because there will always be people who have more than you do.
When the grass always seems greener on the other side, your self-confidence and self-satisfaction decrease as the feelings of jealousy and envy increase.
So how do you know if you’re chasing the right things? The answer is lifestyle design that leads to true freedom and authentic happiness.
Before answering how you can design your ideal life, let’s start by understanding what lifestyle design is…
What Is Lifestyle Design?
Lifestyle design is the process of designing your life aligned with your nature, strengths, values, dreams, passion, and purpose. It’s the freedom to design your life the way YOU want. It’s a way to end the rat race and to help you attain true freedom.
The term “lifestyle design” exploded after Tim Ferriss wrote the book The 4-Hour Workweek. Although the concept of designing your life wasn’t new, he made it a lot more popular.
While most people live the life designed by their society, culture, and family, lifestyle designers break the societal pre-conditioning. They question and re-think everything from education, work, retirement, relationships, location, travel, dreams, beliefs, values, passion, purpose to their day-to-day lifestyle.
So how do they make it happen?
Hard work combined with smart work. One without another can’t get you there when you’re starting from scratch. Once you have leverage, then you can transition more towards smart work. But when you’re self-made, you have to work your ass off at some point in your life to enjoy the freedom that comes with lifestyle design.
So the question remains…
Is Lifestyle Design For Everyone?
Anyone can become a lifestyle designer, but it may not be for everyone. Here’s what I mean: Every individual has the potential for living the lifestyle of their dreams, and today, it’s more possible than ever before to make it happen. But not everyone is able to gather the courage and discipline required to build a lifestyle from scratch.
So how does one gather that kind audacious courage and discipline to design their ideal life? It starts with the defining moment.
The Cycle of Lifestyle Design
Stage 0: The Defining Moment
The defining moment is the moment you decide to change your life. It’s when you can’t tolerate the pain anymore and the only option you have left is to make a massive shift.
People have different names for this moment. Chad Fowler, who appeared in Tim’s book The 4-Hour Body named it as the Harajuku moment which, according to him, is an epiphany that turns a nice-to-have into a must-have.
MJ Demarco, the author of the book Unscripted, calls it a “Fuck This” Event (FTE), which he described as a traumatic event or frustrating experience that finally makes you realize that the life you’re living isn’t the life you dreamed.
Then there is this famous quote from Tony Robbins which goes like…
“The difference between ‘must’ and ‘should’ is the life you want and the life you have.”Tony Robbins
Do you see the pattern here? It all starts with the defining moment.
It’s true but people rarely ever start something without pain. So all pain is not bad. The pain that catalyzes a reaction in you is good when it turns into action.
Stage 1: Define
Before you design your life, you must define what you want and what you don’t want. Without a specific definition, you won’t have clarity on the direction you want to move towards.
If you’re confused about what you want, start with what you don’t want. As you move away from what you don’t want, start exploring and find out what brings you true happiness and fulfillment.
Once you find your bliss, define exactly what you want out of your life. You don’t need the perfect definition of your dream life and lifestyle. Just get started and iterate as you go along — that’s what lifestyle design is about.
Set stretch goals and then detach from the outcome because it’s not all about the achievement of your goals, it’s more about who you become when you strive towards your goals.
It’s also crucial to not just define the outcome you want, but also imagine the obstacles you’ll face along the way. And then think about how you’ll tackle each obstacle.
Stage 2: Explore
After you’ve set the direction you want to take, explore different pathways to see what fits you best. You can ask people who’ve been through what you want to do or get direct experience to see what it’s like.
At this step, you’re collecting more information to gain more clarity on the path you want to pick — the path that fits your nature, strengths, values, dreams, passions, and purpose.
You want to be careful about who you take advice. It’s best to listen to the people who have walked a similar path you want to walk. After listening, the final decision is still up to you, so don’t let anyone else decide for you. That’s what makes you a lifestyle designer.
Stage 3: Decide, Act, Pivot
At this stage, you already have a good idea of what you’re going after and the path you will take to get there. Now it’s time to take 3 steps one after another and repeat that until you’ve reached your specific goal.
The reason I like to combine these three steps into one big stage is that it’s best to alternate them quickly. It’s like being on the battlefield where you’re constantly planning, acting and adjusting according to the obstacles, failures, successes, opponents, challenges, luck factors, and so on.
Here, you have no time for dwelling, crying, blaming, complaining or obsessing because you’re so damn busy doing stuff. Failed? Meh, I’ve already taken the lesson and moved on to the next trial. Got rejected? Too bad, next!
The important part is to decide (go all-in), act (keep moving forward) and pivot (adapt).
Stage 4: Reflect
After you’ve reached your desired outcome, it’s time to reflect. Were you chasing the right things? Who did you become in the process of achieving your goals? What key lessons did you learn? Are you proud? Are you happy? Are you giving back to the world?
The deep reflection will reveal a lot and hopefully, will give you valuable lessons and wisdom to take your next steps in the right direction. That’s when you go back to the first step — defining your new journey and inner transformation.
All this sounds great, but there’s still a problem.
The 3 Types Of Freedom
This is where most lifestyle designer gurus stop. They don’t tell you the reality of it. But I’ll tell you the truth.
Lifestyle design alone won’t set you free. It won’t solve all your unresolved issues or problems. It won’t make your life perfect.
Once you’ve had your defining moment, your life design process begins with the first type of freedom.
Freedom From (Negative Liberty)
Freedom from (AKA negative liberty) is the freedom from societal conditioning whether it is mental or physical. Since childhood, we’re taught certain rules to follow to become successful. These rules could come from your parents, teachers, or the culture you were born in.
In my case, my culture taught me to follow a life path that was supposed to make me happy. I had some choices, but they were limited to being an engineer, doctor or getting some other high-paying job.
While I was questioning this metal conditioning, I had my first defining moment when I realized how miserable I was becoming while following the traditional path to success because it wasn’t aligned with my nature and strengths.
So I decided to break free from the illusion and I started my own journey.
Freedom To (Positive Liberty)
The next kind of freedom is the freedom to (AKA positive liberty) which is the freedom to do or achieve something. That’s where you create a life vision, set goals, take actions, and get closer to your dreams one day at a time.
When your driving force is strong enough, no obstacle can break you, no can failure hurt you, and no person can stop you. Over time, you develop unwavering faith and self-efficacy to design your life as you want.
In my journey, I’m always striving to accomplish more and create more freedom in my life. But, I also know that this freedom can easily become a never-ending cycle of desiring more and hoping to become happy one day.
The hedonic adaptation takes over soon after you achieve something. You become a slave to your desires and in the end, you’re never really truly free. This is where most lifestyle designers live. They work hard to design their life and attain the freedom to do what they want, but they remain empty as they don’t attain the final form of freedom.
Freedom To Be
The last freedom of all is the “freedom to be”, which brings you to the state of equanimity and tranquility. It’s the emotional and spiritual freedom to be and express your highest, true self moment to moment. It liberates you of regrets and fears because you’re free to let go of your possessions and surrender to what is not under your control.
As opposed to other forms of freedom, this type of freedom is always in your power. As Viktor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning said …
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”Viktor E. Frankl
The last form of freedom is always within your reach and yet it is hardest to attain because it takes a lifetime of mental training to get good at it.
I’m not saying that “freedom to”, and “freedom from” have no value. In fact, they are a core part of my life, but without the “freedom to be”, one can’t attain true freedom.
For instance, I can go against societal norms and design my life the way I want. I may work hard, take shortcuts and go against my values to get what I want without a strong life purpose — all that would still get me “freedom from” and “freedom to”, but then I’ll be hollow from inside. If I don’t choose the path aligned with my nature, values and true purpose, I would live with regrets and hold on tightly to my accumulations and accomplishments because I’ll be scared to lose them. I wouldn’t be confident in my ability to lose everything and be okay with it. I wouldn’t have the courage to express myself fully. I wouldn’t achieve my true potential to give the gifts I’m meant to give to the world.
Lifestyle design can set you free when you follow its cycle. But even after that, you’d only get two types of freedom. The third kind of freedom, which is the rarest and most valuable is the “freedom to be”.
Your job is simple — know your path, have the courage to walk it, act with virtue and be indifferent about things that are not under your control. That’s the key to tranquility. And that’s how you attain the ultimate freedom and become a true lifestyle designer.