Living Life by Design
We often choose the default option just because we didn’t have to choose it; it is just there. Our computer screensaver is the picture of the mountains, the one that it came with. We are not really into the mountains but choose to look at them every day when we open our laptops because we can’t be bothered changing the default image. We listen to songs on autoplay, buy books based on a computer recommendation saying “You may also like…” We end up going somewhere because we were invited, take something because we were offered it. We choose options based on their ease; everything is prepared for us so we say yes and proudly admit that we “go with the flow.”
It takes courage to live the life you want especially because we are surrounded by those who settled. We need to have the drive within and instead of being inspired by others, we have to be inspired by our dreams. There are those who will keep dreaming and others who will start living their dreams. Those who aspire to live by design will dream, plan, and execute, and those living by default settle for temporary comfort and keep dreaming their dreams without a plan to live them. They defer taking action and choose to settle for the safety of their paychecks. They start believing that a job is not supposed to be interesting or fulfilling, that it’s a job. They work to live and wait for retirement when they’ll be able to live the life they want.
You know what life path you want to follow; don’t let anyone derail you. Continue designing life on your own terms and living your unconventional life. Don’t try to calculate the length of the process. You may not be able to determine when you’ll start living your dream life. You may be getting ready for it building it, and there will be a day when you wake up and will know that you have stepped into your greatness.
How Do You Measure Your Life?
forget what’s important in measuring your life. A company you work for may try to convince you that life should be measured with money. They could be motivating you with higher raises and asking you to devote more time and energy to work. Having money as a sole work motivator may work for some time, but one day you may get an internal wakeup call and realize that time is the way you want to measure your life. You’ll start considering quitting your job and starting a business to be in charge of your time.
There are those who work at the job they hate for years because they’re incentivized by money. As a result of their great paychecks and high raises, they adjust their lifestyles: they buy larger houses with larger mortgages and choose private schools for their children. They have to continue working at their high-paying jobs to sustain these lifestyles. Having gotten used to a certain way of living, they’re not able to scale back, so they continue working and complaining about how unhappy they are. And yet the golden handcuffs they chose to put on themselves are too shiny to give up.
“The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” says a common Japanese expression referring to how tough it is to live a non-conformist life. Social pressure of imposing what’s normal is so strong that it condemns any behavior that’s out of the ordinary. Living life by design is not for everyone—only those who are the most resilient and determined will make it happen.
Freedom: The New Measure of Being Rich
Are you experiencing true freedom? Are you doing it with or without the money? Does money give freedom? The old answer was yes because we didn’t know what was possible. Being rich and leading a celebrity-like lifestyle still gets a lot of social admiration, but all that glamour fades if being rich equals to working non-stop or not being able to travel. What’s prestigious, what gets attention and all the looks now, is true freedom. If amassing a fortune is the way to freedom, we want the fortune. However if fortune makes us prisoners of our lives, there’ll be a day when we’ll break off the golden handcuffs to experience true freedom, with or without the money.
We mistakenly define freedom as all the product options and choices available to us. We are content with freedom of choosing the size of a TV to buy and making a choice of a restaurant we want to go to for dinner. When have we lowered our standards so much?
Because of the transparency of our lives, which social media facilitates, we witness and get inspired by others who started designing their lives on their own terms. They take sabbaticals, extend their business trips adding on some extra days to surf, experience the country, and socialize. They take mid-week days off and work throughout the weekends. They get a taste of freedom because they are designing the life on their own terms. Even if our close friends are conformists and live the life by default, we can follow, reach out, and ask advice of complete strangers whose lives we admire. Only we know what freedom means to us and we shouldn’t let anyone else influence our definition. We are all at different stages of our lives, prioritizing different things.
What Should You Do With Your Life?
When you type “What should I…” into Google, the phrase “What should I do with my life?” is one of the top results. It may be hard to answer such a broad and overwhelming question. Just like with everything so vast and mind-boggling, I recommend breaking it into smaller, more edible pieces. The well-known question “How do you eat an elephant?” and its answer “One bite at a time,” couldn’t illustrate it better.
Robert Maurer, in the book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life, recommends tackling big questions by asking small, less intimidating questions first
try breaking the crushing question of “What should I do with my life?” into smaller questions, which will sound less scary and hopefully bring you closer to the main answer. Try answering questions about what work would excite and fulfill you, contributions you could make to the world, or the activities you love doing. Do these activities involve contact with people or are you more of a person who enjoys working and getting things done solo or with one or two people maximum? Getting to know yourself will bring you closer to knowing what your dream lifestyle should be.
When you meet people who are satisfied with their careers, ask them about one aspect of their jobs that makes them happy. Keep asking this question of everyone who you meet and who loves what they do, whether they’re employed or own a business. Collect these answers, write them down, and determine if the answers relate to you. Don’t feel anxious if you are not clear about what you would like to do with your life. This discovery is a process, and there may be multiple paths you’ll need to take to achieve clarity. Your seemingly futile efforts will give you answers—just don’t wait for them; keep going through your discovery process.
Tasting Your Dream
By taking a bite out of your dream and trying out your dream lifestyle, you’ll be able to determine if the dream lifestyle and career you have envisioned for yourself are for you. If you don’t do it, you will keep wasting your efforts and pursuing the path leading you to disappointment. The sooner you find out that the dream you thought is your dream is not what you wanted, the better, because you’ll be able to refocus and start working toward something you truly desire. The only way to know if your dream is really your dream is to take a taste of it and try living it.
As an example, it’s common to dream of buying a sailboat and sailing around the world but it would be safe to suggest that doing some ocean sailing will allow them to see if this sail-around-the-world idea is really their dream. Besides sailing in calm waters with the winds filling up the sails and enjoying a cold beverage, there’s also sailing in rough seas, which is unavoidable and is not for everyone. You must be okay with staying wet for a few days in a row. You will be exhausted from night watches (the 24 hour sailing day is usually divided into shifts of three or four hours as there has to be someone up and alert at all times), the boat will need repairs and unforeseen trouble will arise. It would be best if you discovered the joys and sorrows of sailing around the world early to determine if this dream is really your dream.
Our dreams are often shaped and conditioned by social pressure. We enviously look at other people’s houses and aspire to one day get our own. That day comes; we get a house that is over mortgaged, and maintaining it makes us work so much that we don’t have the time to enjoy it—not to mention owning a house doesn’t give us the freedom of being location independent. Doing dream research and taking a taste of our dreams allows us to possibly pivot and start pursuing the right path.
Connecting Your Dots
It can be tempting to evaluate the usefulness of every step we take toward designing our creative career. However, the discovery process is not a straight line. It’s a labyrinth where we may be taking wrong turns and be on a path which doesn’t serve us. We may be walking toward the unknown, waiting for the results, the payoff for our efforts. There will be many who may not be able to bear the discomfort of “working for free” without knowing if they will be rewarded.
Those who succeed focus on amassing experience, developing skills, and getting inspired anywhere they can. They attend the events without seeing the immediate reason, take courses, and learn new things, believing in the value of knowledge. When the moment of clarity comes, it’s not through force; it’s thanks to persevering in the process. The classes, conferences, and meetings they have been attending have solidified into a plan—the dots have connected and formed a line.
Depending on the circumstances, we may have to collect the dots in our spare time. Getting ready for our transition while being employed can be beneficial; we can approach the discovery process with more patience thanks to the security our job offers. This can be also motivating: we’ll be reminded daily that we need to change the status quo. Quitting our secure job to have more time for our transition may work for some, but others will find their day job very change-stimulating. There is no mold that fits everyone in the career design process. However, we all need to enjoy collecting the dots and trust the process.