What is Lifestyle Design? How to Engineer the Life You Want

Living the life you want to live and enjoying every moment of it. Sounds like an unreachable dream, right?

For some people, it falls in their lap. And they’re the rare few out of millions.

For others, it’s the most difficult thing.

Tim Ferriss popularized the idea of lifestyle design about a decade ago in his book The Four Hour Work Week. While the book didn’t impact me as much as it has others, I read it a few times and came away with some useful points.

The most useful was that you don’t just have to wish, hope, and dream that your life of living by the beach or having a mansion (or having a perfect family) just comes to you. Because it won’t. Instead, engineer it.

Map out the math of how much that would cost you. Chances are the cost is a lot less than you imagine it to be. Now, you have an income goal.

Here are some things to consider, having studied thousands of successful people as it relates to lifestyle design.

Make Sure You Choose the Right Lifestyle, Because You Just Might Get It

Mansion, lambos, and pool tables. That’s the dream, right? Or will you still be feeling not that much happier? I’ve read a ton of books on the science of happiness and the bang for your buck on the lasting happiness you get from more money really flatlines quickly, unless you’re spending that on charity and helping others.

Here’s 3 big celebrities admitting it:

Visualize Your Environment

Geographically and climate-wise, where do you want to be?

Where are you most at peace and calm?

For me, it’s somewhere tropical, with very occasional trips to cold destinations to play with snow.

Many people worship vacation-time because it’s their escape to their dream environment.

They save up and get 2 weeks per year to travel to an island.

Recently, I’m seeing a lot of travel bloggers, innovative companies, and travel hackers make a living in exotic places or let their employees live where they want.

This may have been an impossibility in the past, but now it’s more possible.

If your employees are living 365 days a year somewhere they love, they will be more productive and happier.

2 things to note:

Not everyone’s dream environment is a beach. I’ve noticed this after hearing it brought up by many people. Some prefer cold, luxurious places like Paris.

Also, for most of human civilization, we were chained down to a geographical location more or less. Don’t let the fact that you’re not working at a beach make you a spoiled brat who can never be happy unless he lives in a tropical place.

You can still be happy living in a moderately nice location. Plus, others say it wears off quickly.

Relationships Are Important

Don’t forget about family time and time with your spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend.

Most people overlook this and sacrifice it in their pursuit of money and regret it.

How Hectic Is Your Dream Life?

How much do you want to work and how much free time do you want?

Some people LOVE being super busy.

From my personal research into the cultures of the towns with the longest living people, a stress-free slower lifestyle is best.

That’s my own personal preference too.

Having grown up most of my life always busy and trying to over-achieve to perform well, I value one day having a lifestyle where I can spend a couple hours on a weekday doing what I want: yoga or video games, without it causing me anxiety.

One thing people can do, and should do, is get a career they love. That way, they can be like Richard Branson, who cannot distinguish between work and play. And it won’t feel like working anymore or “free time to escape work.”

Again, this is one thing that perplexes me and is more difficult than it may seem. What if you find fun (hitting on girls at beaches) simply does not pay?

Perhaps, you need to be really entrepreneurial and creative to design a new job or business.. or open your mind to more realistic jobs that pay.

Personal Growth and An Upward Trajectory

This is optional but important if you want to constantly be increasing how much you make, your impact, your influence, your skillset, and so on.

I value these things so I constantly improve and enjoy improving my knowledge and skills everyday.

At the gym, in a line, whenever I have free time, I’ll be listening to audiobooks, watching speeches/interviews, reading books, or taking courses.

Spending Money on Experiences, Not Things

There’s a lot of articles and science on this.

It’s true.

I combine it with the great investor John Templeton’s advice of doing something brand new every day.

How can you have one brand, new experience every day?

You can even add it to science that shows that spending on others and volunteering increases happiness:

How can you have one brand, new volunteering or charity experience every week?

Usually, I don’t go overboard like this but I might start..

My current baby-steps goal is to do one new activity or hobby I’ve never tried every 2 weeks: maybe it’s acroyoga this week and then high-intensity interval training the next… and then MMA.

These are all things I literally have never tried.

Some people like to go very adventurous, but having seen a TON of people in real life and who are quite successful die recently, I advice you to avoid these things for your own safety:

  • any extreme rock climbing
  • any fast driving

The point is:

Spend on others! Maybe that means taking your father out to dinner. Or reconnecting with an old childhood friend (there’s a lot of magic and science in this one. There’s a great bond we forge with long-term friends).

Telling someone you haven’t met in a LONG time that you appreciate what they did or what they’re doing has huge effects on happiness as well.

What Type of People Do You Want Around You?

Who do you NOT want around you?

Here’s a sample list:

  1. toxic people
  2. small-minded gossiping people obsessed with pop culture
  3. unproductive people
  4. people who complain or make excuses or blame others
  5. people who are a complete mess
  6. bad managers or bosses
  7. hypocrites

Defining clearly your relationships can help you clearly filter out and look for the right people.

According to the book Social, we are social creatures by design. Our well-being depends on the right friends.

Create Your Ideal Day In Detail

Only do this after the “superficial stuff” has been fully understood.

Many naive people believe things like a fancy car or mansion will bring them happiness. That’s what I call superficial stuff.

Having studied tons of science on happiness and heard thousands of interviews of rich people admit that the materialistic stuff isn’t what you should chase, I have now realized it’s not a major priority.

Only after realizing that can you construct a true picture of your ideal day. (The other way is learning the hard way by chasing the money, getting it, and then realizing that the supercar you bought isn’t really making you 10x more happy)

I tried to be fairly detailed but still loose enough to add in things I might discover I like later on:

  • 10 hours of sleep a day
  • Daily exercise
  • Great, nutritious but delicious food (blueberries, oatmeal, all sorts of great stuff)
  • free time to read or write
  • free time to do a new activity every day
  • tropical climate
  • no anxiety of losing my money; financial security
  • a job I absolutely love
  • more money than I’ll ever need and enough to fund my lifestyle ($20k a month net, after tax)

Drugs Come In All Forms

Drugs come in all forms: Netflix, television, Youtube, internet, video games, actual drugs, partying, or alcohol.

Not always, but sometimes people who fail at lifestyle design or resign themselves to bad life unconsciously resort to the drugs I just mentioned to get addicted to when they get home.

Because they don’t like their life, they look forward to the only things they can, which are mediocre at best and dull your life.

There was a reddit thread I read years ago about a man who was completely sick of his life because he had a 9 to 5 office job he hated and went home everyday to eat a frozen dinner and watch tv. His soul was sucked out of him and he had no idea what to do.

There was a point where my future looked very rigid and grim. I pictured myself living that future for 40 years in an industry I found boring. I told myself that I would change my life and find a way to be someone amazing and actually live a fun life no matter what.

At the time, it was a bold statement because from my perspective, it looked like there was no other options but to resign myself. But I was so moved by that grim future that I told myself I had to find a way. There had to be a way.

So, there you have it. Best of luck! Design your life and leave a comment letting me know your plan.

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By Will Chou

I am the the founder of this site and I am grateful you are here to be part of this awesome community. I help hard-working Asian American Millennials get rich doing work they love.

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