5 Steps to Building a Lifestyle That Means Something to You

Man looking at a planning board representing building a lifestyle
It takes some planning

People seem more passive nowadays.

They graduate high school and do everything they were taught to do. Their lives play out as they should, and they hit every milestone with perfect timing.

When they reach middle age, they come to the realization that the life they lived never really belonged to them. They never wanted to get married, or go back to school, or take the management position. I never want to have a realization like that, and I know you don’t either.

The sooner you can be honest about who you are and what you want, the sooner you can start living life in a meaningful way. And plus, imagining your ideal life can be a lot of fun.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Plan Out in Vivid Detail How You Want Your Lifestyle to Look

You’re allowed to get extravagant here. Aiming high is exciting, and before anyone can tell you you’re being “unrealistic” you can say that you’re just looking at the ideal; not that you have to apologize for dreaming.

Even if you only hit 60% of your criteria for an ideal life, that’s still a life you chose for yourself. And it can be pretty damn good.

Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Where do you want to live?
  • What kind of people are you surrounded by?
  • What do your relationships look like? Are you married? Are there children? Or are there dogs instead?
  • Do you own a home? Or do you hop trains?
  • What purposes do you serve? Who do you help? How do you contribute?
  • What could you achieve?

Here are some more specific things to consider:

  • Do you create great art?
  • What skills are you a master of?
  • What do you do on weekends?
  • How many cars can fit in your garage?
  • What is the square footage of your yurt?

Plotting these things out gives your life a sense of direction. If you have an idea of where and who you want to be, you’re less likely to fall into what Viktor Frankl called, “the existential vacuum.”

The existential vacuum is the state of dread, depression, and boredom that occurs when your life becomes nothing but consumption and pursuing things that don’t matter to you.

Designing your lifestyle, and considering what would be most meaningful to you, will save you from falling into passive living.

2. Work Out What You Have to Do

This is the hardcore planning stage. This is when you consider what will be required to live the life you imagine, and how you can begin. The sooner you start, the sooner you can screw up, adjust, and make progress.

Here are the questions to consider:

  • How much money will you need to support your lifestyle?
  • What training is required? Do you even need higher ed?
  • What books can you read to self educate?
  • Should you look for a mentor?
  • Can you afford to quit your job and take a mini-retirement?

Then there are the deeper questions:

  • How can you deal with the fear of change?
  • Do you feel you deserve a better life?
  • Are you willing to struggle, maybe for years, to get where you’re trying to go?
  • Do you have pain that needs addressing? Should you seek therapy?
  • What uncomfortable conversations do you need to have?

This whole process requires introspection. Sitting down and thinking about these things for fifteen minutes can define the direction of your entire existence. It’s worth the time.

3. Implement and Hammer Away

This won’t always be hard. Your lifestyle change could simply involve being easier on yourself and having more fun. But, for most things, an effort will be required to put your plans into action.

Here are three useful concepts:

Systems > Goals:

Author James Clear emphasizes that goal setting is important, but what really matters is the system you create to reach your goal. Focusing only on an end result (the goal) distracts you from what you need to do in the present.

If you focus on accomplishing the daily tasks that get you to your goal, and appreciating your small wins, then you will start seeing progress.

The Grid

Consider an old grid from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Steven Covey highlighted four types of activities a person can devote time to. They are important, not important, urgent, and not urgent.

The most effective way to get where you’re trying to go is to focus on the 2nd quadrant of the grid (Important, but not urgent). These are the daily habits and activities that benefit you most in the long term.

What’s Essential

Greg McKeown’s Essentialism philosophy is summed up by the phrase, “You can’t do it all, even if you think you can.” You won’t make progress in any meaningful way unless you focus on one thing at a time. What you focus on should be what is most essential to you.

Mckeown recommends that you determine which things are most essential to you in life and say no to everything else. The idea is to stop devoting time and energy to the unimportant, so you can do the things that matter to you, better.

4. Tweak Your Lifestyle

People change over time, and so will you. Maybe you’ve collected enough life experience by now to know exactly what you want, or maybe you haven’t. What matters is that you pursue something, even if it’s only something you might like.

The sooner you find out what you don’t want your life to be about, the sooner you can make it your own.

So start dipping your feet into things. And know that, over time, your values are going to change. The more conscious you are of where you are going, the more capable you are going to be of steering the ship in a different direction.

5. Be Prepared for Other People’s Opinions About Your Lifestyle

A person who goes their own way is intimidating and strange. People who don’t have the will or the boldness to choose their life will criticize you for choosing yours.

Whether your lifestyle is lavish or humble, people are going to have something to say about it.

To be truly independent, a person needs to value their own opinion first. That isn’t selfishness. That’s self-respect. And it’s the key to living the life you want.

Getting to choose how you live should be the most fundamental human freedom. Assuming you aren’t causing chaos or harm, you have to believe that your preferred lifestyle, is ok.

Specifically, ok for you. It doesn’t need to be ok for anyone else. There’s more to life than feeling trapped. So take the time to consider what is going to matter to you in the end, and by God, find a way to make that life happen.