My wife and I just completed a three-week road trip to a remote area of upstate New York. It was the place where we spent our first two years as a married couple. Even with the dark cloud of COVID hanging over the country, we had an incredible time together, took a ton of pictures, and made incredible memories as we have started our phase as empty nesters.
Since our return, we have had many of our friends tell us that they too would love the ability to do something like that. That they wished they had an opportunity to road trip, work from a different location, and live “that kind of life”. My response to each one has been “why can’t you”? The usual response to that question is either silence or a list of excuses as to why they can’t. Jobs, kids, family, finances, etc.
This is when I let them in on a little secret. My wife and I did not just wake up one morning and decide we were going to take a three-week road trip and work as little as possible. We designed our life to be able to do this kind of thing AND we are still in the design phase.
I don’t believe that any of us intentionally set out to live a prefabricated life. I believe it is something that we gradually allow ourselves to accept and then one day, ten to twenty years down the road we begin to ask if this is what we really wanted or expected from our lives? And rather than make any changes to begin living life fully, we settle and accept what we don’t have and this is when life becomes dull, bland, and unfulfilling.
The good news is that it is never too late to begin to design your life and I highly recommend a few things to get yourself started.
One of the things my wife and I started doing and still do consistently is discuss what we want, both as individuals and within our relationship.
Nothing is off-limits and we have made quite a long list that continues to be refined, with new items being added and other items being scratched off the list. We talk about where we want to live, what we want for each other, what we need from each other, the experiences we want to have, and what we want to do professionally.
As we add and subtract from the list, we discuss what it would look like, how achievable that is, what the driving force is behind that want, and how it lands with the other person.
If you want to begin designing your life, start to get alignment with your partner or within yourself. Define the things you really want and what is most important to you. Don’t hold back, write it out, and continually come back to it and refine it as needed.
While both my wife and I continually “spitball” ideas as we like to say, we also take the steps to prioritize what is most important and what will enable us to live the life we want. This is why it is important to prioritize.
By prioritizing what is most important it will allow you to make certain decisions and avoid the chaos that may put your life design in jeopardy. Our prioritization has led us to the decision to sell our home so we can downsize and have more financial flexibility.
Another decision my wife made a number of years ago was to leave her job in the school district and join me as a co-founder of our company. This has given her the freedom to volunteer in a non-profit and travel to Uganda three times per year.
Taking the step to prioritize has served as a roadmap for us which then leads to certain decisions we make, all with our alignment list in mind. When you do the same, you will experience, like us, the benefits of your design as it is unfolding.
You do not need to wait to realize everything you want if you are aligned and have a clear picture of what takes priority as each decision gets you closer to your final destination.
Life would be much easier if we knew what was around the corner, but as we all know this is wishful thinking. One of the things that has served me well and I have to still work on is holding things loosely. Yes, we make plans and are working towards certain things, but we have also worked on being flexible and allowing our plans to change (insert global pandemic here).
This does not mean you have to walk away from the big picture, it does, however, mean that you may have to look at an alternative path to get there and be agile in your approach.
Being flexible and agile in your life design is one of the thighs that will serve you best. Design the plan and leave room to color outside the lines and know there will most likely be surprises along the way.
Remember That Patience Is Your Friend
Life has a lot of moving parts. Just thinking about designing your life and moving towards the kind of life you want to live does not mean it will happen instantaneously. Five years ago, I was not in the position to live what I am living now. I had personal debt I had to address and I was in a leadership role that offered my little wiggle room. Realizing this is not at all what I or my wife wanted, I began making changes. I finally paid off my debt, I left my company and decided to go back to working on my own. A change in spending habits followed by a host of other small shifts that began having a big impact.
The life you are living currently did not happen in an instant so you cannot expect that the one you want to live will magically happen. Patience and time are your friends, but don’t be surprised if you find things coming to fruition faster than you expected as you begin making some decisions that lead to changes.
Life design is a continual process, but an enjoyable one. We do not have to let life happen or settle for what others think we should be doing. You can design the life you want which may change over time, the key is to know it and begin sketching what your life should look like.