What is Lifestyle Design?

Kristi writes for Juggling Normal and Medium. This post first appeared here, and is published in full with permission.

I had a life coach about 20 years ago challenge me to pick a job that matched the lifestyle I was looking for. At the time, in my early 20s, I wanted to double my income, travel nonstop, and work for a company with a lot of brand cache and strong leadership. That exercise led me to HBO for more than a decade. Now, years later, I’m a life coach, and one of my specialties is lifestyle design. I like helping others figure out what they want and how to get it without struggling to make it happen.

Game of Thrones Premiere, April 2011

There’s this idea out there that what you really want isn’t possible for you: It won’t make you any money, people will judge you for it, or for some reason, it won’t work.

Maybe, you keep that dream packed away, a kind of backup plan if all else fails, for after if you’ve tried something legit first. Of course, you’ll listen to your heart at some point, but first, you must follow the prescribed path.

Perhaps, it’s your crazy big idea, your someday dream, that you revisit from time to time, but don’t even know where to start. Who really sells their stuff and moves to a tropical island to be a bartender on the beach?

After you’re married, after you have kids, after you cross six figures, lose 20 lbs, or upgrade your house, then your ducks will be in a row. Then you can experiment or go for it. Maybe after retirement, you’ll see all the things you wanted to see and do all the things you postponed along the way.

Why wait? If you truly believe you only live once, and anything is possible (2020 is evidence of that, right?), why do you postpone your best life?

What if you could live your best life as you were building your best life? It may sound a little contradictory or even feel impossible. If it was that easy, why don’t others do it?

Here’s the truth: Your best life is likely to expand as you evolve, so it’s actually quite impossible to suddenly have it one day in a true possession type way. It’s more likely that you’ll build it as you go, expanding your idea of what you want.

Take your kids, for example. They know what they want and can easily define best: A popsicle every day, playtime with friends, lots of family time with stories and snuggles, a dog or cat, frequent trips to Disneyland, and school to go back to normal after COVID.

Given what they know already, they envision best from a combination of what has brought them pleasure, what seems to take the cake for amazing, and what they like about their life already. It turns out to be a pretty formidable formula.

Best Life Formula = What brings you pleasure? + What is the ultimate definition of amazing for you? + What do you already love about your life?

Another example is overly simplified for effect: One day, you discover 600-thread count organic Egyptian cotton sheets on the most comfortable, blissful, dream-inducing mattress ever. Seriously, you sleep so much better it’s inconceivable really, and now, having experienced that situation and the benefits, you make it a requirement of your best life.

The sheets didn’t come into existence because you discovered them, the bed wasn’t invented for you, and your best life was possible before the perfect bed situation became a prerequisite, but now that you know, you have to have it, right?

It’s the same for any aspect of your life that you are working on — You can’t aspire to what you don’t know exists. It’s not just products or services or things or experiences you can purchase either; it’s true for ideas and concepts, ways of thinking and being.

The more you know, the more it opens the door to the next level, a previously unknown existence that is (possibly) exponentially better. The more you have, the more you’ll want. The more you see, the more you’ll long to see. The more you learn, the more you know you’ll know how much you don’t know. And you’ll appreciate it all to a degree you previously couldn’t comprehend, (possibly even) finding a higher quality of life. Pretty crazy, but cool, right?

It’s not a level-up kind of thing in the sense of gamification or competition. It’s not my best or your best, or best in relative terms. It’s next-level like “why didn’t they tell me it could be so good?” It’s happiness mixed with contentment and wonder. It’s life-affirming.

Why didn’t they tell me it could be so good?

That’s why it feels good while you are doing the work, but it’s also why everyone doesn’t have it. Even though it’s simple, it often means being relentlessly focused on your best life, and letting go of mainstream good enough. It often means giving up what you want right now to have what you want most, and that’s not as easy as you might think.

If you are thinking, “I just want more money” or “I just want more time” or “I’m pretty good, but I would like to be a little bit happier” — that’s usually where it starts. You are being called to higher living, your best life.

See, lifestyle design is about making the most of your life by picking what matters to you, choosing how you want to live, and then making it happen. It’s a process. That’s what I meant about living your best life while you are building your best life.

Let’s try it. Pick a category — an area of your life in which a drastic improvement would change everything. Then, select three criteria for what you are looking for within that category like I did with my career choice at the top of this post. Don’t overthink it.

Be intentional, imagine the best possible version or best possible outcome for you and your family (or, if the word best trips you up, think ideal or most incredible). Imagine what your best looks like and write down the three criteria.

“I want to double my income, travel nonstop, and work for a company that has a lot of brand cache and strong leadership” is a prime example. I didn’t ask for a job that would make me a millionaire, in which I’d get to travel internationally by private jet, or to own a company that changes lives because I wasn’t there yet.

My version of best has evolved, and while I do believe you can skip steps or make quantum leaps, you’ve got to start where you are. Go for what you want right now, not what others have, or what you think you should want.

You’ll know you are on your way when you get little signs of support from the universe, when things start to fall into place, or over time, when you look backward. I quadrupled my income, traveled 3–5 trips/month for years, leveraged that brand cache, and soaked up the lessons from that leadership, but when I changed, it was time to upgrade yet again.

Don’t feel like you have to pick the best of anything possible, just the best of what you are drawn to, something that fits and seems to get you to where you are going next. Also, it needs to be a sustainable path that you can stick with long enough to build traction. If you are changing directions with the wind, if you can’t fully commit, you will likely miss out on capitalizing on the opportunity or discovering unexpected gifts.

So, choose what you want, your three criteria, based on what would be a stretch toward something amazing that would fundamentally improve your life. Start there.

Start where you are.

And that’s it. That’s all you have to do to get started. It’s actually Step 3 that I just outlined, but the idea is to create momentum, so the right order isn’t the most important thing. Build some momentum, and let me know how it goes.

I’ll be back with an exploration of Steps 1, 2, 4, and 5, or, if you can’t wait, download the Best Life Blueprint right here.

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