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The Art Of Designing A Life

Posted by on September 18, 2012

Designing a life.  It’s much different than making a living.  Unfortunately most people focus on the latter (as I did for many years).  I feel that I’ve broken free of that mindset now, and each day I am working on bringing into existence my ideal life.

It wasn’t always that way.  Making a living used to be my primary focus, and I also believe that its central position was a driving factor in a lot of my stress and dissatisfaction.

What is the different between the two?

Making a living is the primary motivator for a good number of young people when choosing what to study in school.  It is a product of the industrial revolution.  Schools are mini factories that pump out workers who can be slotted somewhere in the assembly line of life.  You can obtain a skill set leading you to a profession – a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, an engineer.  Alternatively you can learn some other skill (trades) that will allow for certainty of employment and certainty of income.  Liberal arts and other “fluffy” skill sets were generally discouraged by generations past because they wouldn’t equate into practical application.  That is, they couldn’t easily be parlayed into a job that would provide income stability and security.

Therefore, a great number of students chose educational paths not because of the fulfillment of what they would be doing, but because of the rewards (primarily income security) that the particular job would provide.  The media helped (and continues to help) feed this machine.  Every day we are reminded of how bad it is “out there”.  We are constantly reminded of the economic turmoil.  We are constantly reminded of the risk that exists in the “real world”.  This reminder crystallizes the fears that our youth have been socialized to believe. So they choose the path of safety rather than potential fulfillment.  So many students aren’t even aware of what they will be doing in their profession (in terms of day to day) before they enrol.  It doesn’t matter.  There is a time slot in the great factory of life that needs to be filled and the more protection for the factory worker the better.

It’s not this way with everyone.  There are those brave souls that have always forged their own path.  There are many people that choose paths of fulfillment, despite the inherent associated risks.  But I believe that these are not the majority.  They are a brave and inspiring minority.  The masses however merge into the life of the factory worker.  We all pile into our cars like a herd and “head to the factory of our existence” each morning when the morning horn sounds.  Then at 5 (or 6) when the bell rings to go home, we head back.  Day in day out the same process.  The factory of our life.

This was my life for many years.  I went to law school because the industrial wisdom influenced me that security should be my focus.  I never wanted to be a lawyer.  There was only one moment of clarity that I’ve ever had about what I wanted to do with my life.  That was when I was an LDS missionary.  I had the chance to meet the late Stephen R. Covey.  At the time I knew nothing about the Seven Habits franchise or the business development and self help industry at all.  I naively asked him what he did for a living.  He told me that he helped people to be successful and exercise personal leadership in their lives.  I clearly and distinctly remember thinking to myself, that is exactly what I want to do with my life.

I ignored that prompting and found one of the best factory slots I could find – law.  High paying, prestigious, but miserable.  For years I herded into the factory slot of my life. But I always held hope that there would be something better. I tried to fit in with the culture.  I definitely gave my best each day, but I always felt that was I was trading time for money.  Time was money.  Money ruled.  Money allowed me to go to my factory job in better clothes, but it didn’t change the fact that it was still a factory job.  I got tired of the trade.  I got tired of the factory.

Each day, no matter how discouraged or depressed I was,  I never forgot the conversation I had with Stephen Covey.  I dove into leadership and self development literature, and over time, with my wife we built a side business.  Now I am on the path of living the life I want to live.  I am designing a life, I’m no longer just earning a living.

The internet has changed everything in our life.

The industrial revolution is dead and it has been replaced by the intellectual and technological revolution.  This is a cause for great excitement in the world, but also significant disruption.  Every single day we can see people who resist the industrial model and embrace the intellectual model.  They find ways to make income that are untraditional.  To my parent’s generation this is highly disruptive.  It seems that their paradigms can’t reconcile this model.  To them there are only a couple of ways to make good money (if you aren’t in entertainment or professional sports) – you are a professional, or you build a traditional bricks and mortar business with employees, staff and the whole nine yards.

But that isn’t the way that the world works now.  Through the use of technology and the internet we’ve been able to build a significant business that is connected to North America and the UK.

The internet is driving an age of “lifestyle design”.  The rules that were so rock solid to our parents generation don’t apply anymore, and the more that the younger generations embrace the outdated model of our parents the more we will struggle with anxiety, depression and feeling that life is unfulfilling.   We have been given a gift where we have the ability to design our lives in an unprecedented way.  We don’t have to just accept a “making a living” life as a default.

The Art of Lifestyle Design – Where to Start?  Determine With Clarity What Is Important To You

You cannot design your ideal life without knowing what you value.  You have to determine with rock solid clarity what values are most important to you.

Here are my core values

Freedom

Contributing to others (helping them grow and find happiness)

Adventure

Family

Spirituality

Physical Fitness

Education

Communication  (writing and public speaking)

I have others, but those are my primary values.  I can see now so clearly why I was unhappy in law.  My three core values were not being met. In fact they were being fought against.  I never felt freedom.  The blackberry was a prisoner bracelet.  In order to progress (financially and generally speaking) I had to spend MORE time at the firm, which meant less time to do the things I wanted to do.  I did not feel that I was contributing to people or society in a meaningful way and there was very little adventure.  I was alienated from my family, because of the time I had to spend away from them.  My physical fitness suffered, as did my spirituality. I also never had the time to engage in my other values (writing and public speaking).  The most important part of being a lawyer – security – isn’t even one of my core values.

I am very happy in my current arrangement (building a direct sales company with my wife) because my core values are all being met.  I have absolute freedom (I’m sitting in a Starbucks on Tuesday afternoon as we speak).  I am building a business that I can run from anywhere, at any time and provide a substantial income for myself and my family.  I get a massive sense of contribution each day as I help the many independent business owners in our organization.  I feel a great sense of adventure in that each day is a new challenge.  I also now have the time to pursue personal adventures.  I work with my best friend and I have time for my family.  I also have time to keep myself in good shape and pursue my other loves (writing and public speaking).

You cannot design your ultimate life if you don’t know what you truly value.

Step Two – Create Your Perfect Outcome and Know Why You Want It 

It is very common for people to be scared of setting big goals.  They don’t like to engage in the hypothetical of actually articulating their “perfect outcome” Why is this?

I believe the primary reason is because we are scared of “getting our hopes up” and then being let down. This seems to be a very natural human reaction.

It is very natural to have a fear of failure. I believe that one of the primary reasons that we fear failure is because we don’t want to feel less significant than others. We intensely fear feeling inadequate because that feeling cuts directly to our feelings of self worth. When we feel inadequate, or less significant, we feel that “we are not enough”. This is a terribly immobilizing feeling. We also intensely fear the feeling of being alone, and “failure” when interpreted in a dis-empowering way gives us a feeling of being alone.

This is why many people do not ever engage in the creative exercise of “lifestyle design” or “dreamscaping” as I call it. They never really truly embrace the creative process of asking themselves the question “what would my life look like in the best case scenario?”. If they do engage in this process it is VERY common to censor their desire. If a desire pops in their head that seems unconventional, or “unrealistic” then it doesn’t come into their dreamscape. Again, we don’t want to feel that “we are not enough”, we don’t want to feel insignificant or inadequate if we fail. We don’t want to let ourselves down, so we are very reluctant to engage in any exercise where we “dream” for more.

As a result, most people focus on “making a living” rather than “designing a life”. We set impotent goals because deep down inside we have fear. We don’t believe in our ability to pull off the dream, and we are scared to test our own boundaries and fail because if we fail it will cut into our self worth and make us feel worse than we felt before we experimented with this “dreaming” business.

However when you do this you miss out on the incredible power of PULL in your life.

A clear and compelling vision for exactly what you want out of your life (no matter how ridiculous you think it may sound), has a tremendous PULLING influence on you. Dreams are a projection of the life we wish to lead. Therefore, when we allow them to “PULL’ us, our dreams unleash a creative force that can overpower all obstacles hindering the attainment of our objectives.

To unharness this power a dream must be vivid, clear and compelling. A fuzzy picture of what you want out of life has very little pull power. The better you define a dream, the better you describe it, the harder you will work on it, and the stronger IT PULLS YOU.

When you live in fear you never get to experience this creative PULL.

What My Perfect Outcome Looks Like – The Power of Precision

My perfect outcome is actually fairly simple:

  1. I want to make $1,000,000 a year with our Scentsy business.  I came up with this number a couple months ago. I know it is cliche, but I don’t care.  It is symbolic to me.  I want to make this amount of money, with Meghann as my equal partner in this business as an annual income.  I want to make this amount of income because with this amount of income I will be able to do whatever I want in my life.  I don’t need to be worth tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.  I don’t care about that.  I love to travel, I love having nice cars and nice things.  I want my kids to be financially secure.  I want to be able to give liberally to my church and other charities.  Having this amount of money will allow me to adequately do all of this.  I don’t need more.  That is amount I want.  I don’t need to specifically state I want ____ type of car, or I want to live in ______ place.  The reality is that this may likely change over time (my exact preferences).  It’s all really irrelevant.  The important part is that I have the ability to do or purchase what I want, and I know that my wants will be met with this amount of money per year.  Here is the trick with many people.  They want to make “more” money but they never really know what is enough.  If you are chasing a vague goal, you are chasing no goal in my opinion.
  2. I want to have a magical marriage and family relationship.  I want my wife to be my best friend.  I want to be the primary role model in my children’s eyes.  I need TIME to be able to do this effectively.
  3. I want to be a published writer and professional speaker.  I want to influence for good many people.  I want to write books, articles and have a professional speaking career.  This is something that is important to me.
  4. I want to have a physique like a UFC Middleweight (Chael Sonnen is a good type).  Don’t laugh.  I’m serious.  I am going to work on my body each day so that I feel fantastic and healthy.  This is something that is important to me.  I have every intention of taking daily action until I have the physique I want.

That is it.

If I have that I will have my ideal life.  Our Scentsy business meets my values in that it gives me ultimate freedom, I get to contribute each day to others.  Once I meet the income goal I will be able to experience the earthly things (travel, possessions, that I want).  It is critical that my family is magical.  I want to keep my body in excellent shape and I want to be a writer and speaker.

This is the crazy thing you realize when you engage in this exercise.  You can be satisfied.  It is amazing.  You also realize that you are satisfied with a lot less than you may initially think.

Once you have on paper what your ideal life looks like then you can start today to make a plan and take action.

That is the path to designing your ideal life.  You know your values, you determine with clarity exactly what you want, then you make a plan to take action.

When you live that way life is exciting and engaging.  Each day as you make progress to your ideal life you feel good about what is happening.  You don’t get caught in a rut, and best of all is that you have power to take action.  No one can stop you from taking action to get exactly what you want.  That is what life is about and that is what I intend to pursue

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