Lifestyle Design: How To Get Started With Lifestyle Design

How To Get Started With Lifestyle Design

Have you heard of the term ‘Lifestyle Design’?

What does it mean to you?

To some people it all sounds a bit fancy schmanzy, vague and fluffy. A gimmick, trend or buzzword (it’s certainly a term that’s bandied around quite a lot these days).

To others it’s something inspiring and aspirational – but that doesn’t mean it has to be out of reach.

Far from it in fact.

Anyone can ‘do’ lifestyle design.

Until fairly recently, I didn’t realize (until I got more and more feedback from people telling me that that’s what we’ve ‘done’, I’m in that category or with our life, health and wealth posts, that’s effectively what we’re writing about) just how much I’m actually into Lifestyle Design myself. In fact, I’ve been ‘doing it’ for a long, long time. Designing the life I want, that is (more specifically meaning designing the lifestyle I want for myself and my family).

So here I’d like to define exactly what I mean by Lifestyle Design (clue: it doesn’t necessarily involve flip-flops, sandy beaches and working in your pyjamas), why I think that matters and why you should start caring about it too.

Oh, and I’d like to help you get started right away as well.

What Is Lifestyle Design Exactly?

Well, I can give you my definition.

That’s what you really wanted, isn’t it?

The Usual View…

My take on Lifestyle Design (and my take on Wealth, for that matter) is possibly slightly different to the common view in that I don’t think Lifestyle Design needs to be being financially free (though it could and we do cover that too as a separate topic), being self-employed, location independent and living and working through your laptop.

These are the images that Lifestyle Design conjures up for a lot of people.

If you hear the words ‘Lifestyle Design’ you probably think of Tim Ferris or maybe you have a favorite digital nomad of your own who inspires you with their worldly travels and multi-million pound empire that they can run from their iphone.

“Quit your job”, “work from anywhere”, “leave work behind”, “live life on your terms” etc etc etc.

Live Life On Your Terms

In fact the only one of those that I think really matches what I consider a good definition of lifestyle design is ‘live life on your terms’.

When you look at it, live life on your terms could mean anything (just as ‘Lifestyle Design’ could). Live life on your terms could mean you’re perfectly happy with your job so you don’t need to quit your job, you don’t need to be location independent, you don’t even need to be financially free.

If you have a good job and you depend on that job… you depend on that job… but you have a decent income, you live within your means, you have a happy family life, a good work/life balance. If you understand the risk that if you lose that job, you’re going to have to get another job, but you are highly employable, you’ve got skills that are very sought after in your market and above anything you’re happy to accept that risk because in reality that risk is very low given your skills, your reputation, your network, your place in your market…

…then, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a perfectly good lifestyle design. Assuming you have not become a slave to your work and you enjoy your work, then that’s a good position to be in.

So one thing I think is important when we’re considering lifestyle design, is not to dismiss the job because when we live life on our terms we suddenly have to take off and live on a beach somewhere (beaches aren’t for everybody – some people hate beaches).

Living life on your terms means getting what you want out of life as far as you can.

Beaches aren’t for everyone – some people hate beaches.

Lifestyle Design simply means what it says: Design the lifestyle YOU want. Not what some book or guru tells you.

Design the life that you want and then remove all of the pieces that don’t fit.

Have A Vision Or Blueprint

I think lifestyle design therefore involves having some kind of vision and some kind of visualization of where you want to get to. I think it incorporates true wealth, meaning getting the value that you want to get out of life which may or may not be money. It may be time (personally I think time is far more important than money – for me that’s time with my family and being able to choose to do what I want with every minute of every day).

Design the life that you want and then remove all the pieces that don’t fit.

It might also be worth pointing out here that for a long time I was happily employed, very employable and that’s all I wanted, particularly before getting married and before having children – my life had the perfect ‘shape’ for where I was at that time. Now of course that ‘shape’ is different. But back then if you’d asked me to design a better life for myself, I certainly wouldn’t have quit my job. I might have had a look for a different job just because there’s always room for improvement, but I wouldn’t have just quit or ‘fired my boss’ at that time. I certainly didn’t want to be self-employed at the time (though I am very happy to be so now).

A Step-By-Step Approach To Lifestyle Design

So how can we get started with Lifestyle Design?

I thought you might ask that ;-).

So, let’s have a go at putting together something step by step that you can follow to get your own Lifestyle Design on track…

Step 1: Initial Design

Start sketching out the Lifestyle that you want by answering questions such as the following:

  • What are my priorities in life?
  • Do I have enough money?
  • Do I enjoy my work / how I currently spend my time?
  • Do I know where I want to get to / where I want to be (either with or without a timescale)?

your initial sketch doesn’t have to be anything precise and you don’t have to have all the answers right now – think brainstorming.

Allow those creative juices to flow!

Step 2: Define Your Version of Wealth

What does ‘Wealth’ mean to you?

Take some time to get clear on this.

Examine your core values – what is important to you – money, time, freedom, helping people, learning things, living more in the moment, travel, invention, innovation, working with people, working alone …

Take a good amount of time to get as clear as you can on what wealth means to you – because getting clear on this is going to help you tremendously both consciously and sub-consciously move towards the life you want.

Step 3: Ensure You’re Looking After Your Health

Take a moment to think about your health.

A healthy body helps you to have a healthy mind, so take some time to review your diet and exercise practices. Look at your activity and your commitments to make sure you are not asking too much of yourself either now, in the recent past or in the future due to commitments you have made or are making.

There is no point in going all-out gung-ho for an exciting plan of action if it’s going to stress you out or if you’re not physically capable of whatever goals you have set yourself.

Bear in mind also that your health, whilst always important is different and needs to be looked at differently for different stages of your life.

There’s no point in choosing a path that is going to make you unhealthy, even if you think that you can do it all.

If you do plan for something that is unhealthy, unrealistic or unsustainable then just make sure you have an exit strategy in place so you’re not committing yourself to something that is going to be bad for your health.

For example: If you’re a 20-something party animal with a great corporate career and a great salary, this may not make much sense to you right now, just like when somebody talks to you about pensions – it’s so far off that even though you know it’s something you should spend more time thinking about, you spend zero time thinking about it! Just make sure when it comes to long term planning and lifestyle design you at least remain flexible and leave room for some decisions and changes based on looking after your health.

Step 4: Design The Career, Business or Activity You Want

So what is it that you want to be doing?

What skills do you want to use?

What is out there and what opportunities do you have?

This can get really interesting – because when you have a rough outline of what you want from life (Step 1) and you know what your priorities and values are (Step 2), i.e. what Wealth means to you and bearing in mind your health and taking care of that (Step 3) – then it becomes much easier to explore and define the kind of career (if you want to be employed), business (if you want to be self-employed) or activity (if you don’t want any kind of employment, you are a person of means and just want something to do with your time ;-)) you want to pursue.

These days more than ever, when it comes to designing the career, business or activity you want, the possibilities are endless.

Designing the business you want could be choosing the career you want and planning out that career. You might be happy enough in your job but you also know that ultimately that’s not the kind of job you want to be in. When you do know the kind of job you ultimately want to be in, then you can plan the transition to get there. Take time to look at not just the salary that each step and each decision gives you. It’s far, far more important to work on what a job, project or activity gives you in terms of personal growth and in terms of giving you the skills, experience and education to get you closer to your ultimate lifestyle design, faster, whatever that may be.

For example: If you’re working in a job and you ultimately want to be self-employed you’ll need to develop skills around marketing, influence, resource management, networking, consistency, tenacity… you’ll need to learn about all of these things and more in one way or another to prepare you for being self employed. You may be able to seek out some of this experience within your current role – knowing what it is you are aiming for, you can take more opportunities. If you have a choice between two roles with similar salaries, one of which is more challenging but offers more learning opportunities, you should seriously consider going for the more challenging role simply because it helps you on your path towards the life you want.

Step 5: Create Your Lifestyle Design Blueprint

Now it’s time to put it all together.

Having gone through steps 1-4 we should now have all the information we need to create a pretty good first version of your lifestyle design blueprint.

Take the sketched outline you created in Step 1 and tighten it up using the information and decisions you made in steps 2-4. Putting all of this together in one place gives us context.

Again, the format of your blueprint is not important, what is important is that it clearly shows everything that is important to you. It can be a document with sections, a spreadsheet, a map or a picture, but it’s YOUR blueprint, your document and needs to be something that makes sense to you.

It doesn’t matter either if it’s comprehensive and complex. Don’t worry about the complexity because in the next step we’re going to look at a way of making sense of it all. In fact the more complex the better – we want to make sure you have got everything in there, even incomplete thoughts about stuff. If they’re thoughts at all, they should be in this document. Questions? Throw them in there too. They’ll never get answered if we forget about them.

Step 6: Conceptualize Your Lifestyle Design

Once we know that we have our lifestyle design look for key messages within that.

This is really important.

The four things I’ve just told you about can get really complex. Particularly if you’re the sort of person that makes things really complex.

The next really important step is to understand the concepts and key aspects of your lifestyle design that are important to you. By attaching these key concepts to larger parts of your blueprint, you will easily be able to recall the more detailed information when you need to.

By focusing on the key concepts that are important to you and looking at the whole, complex picture of your lifestyle design through these simplified lenses, you will be further cementing the analysis you have done in steps 1-5 in coming up with your lifestyle design in the first place.

These small messages then give you a quick frame of reference which achieves much more than their small existence. They punch above their weight. These small concepts, words, phrases or philosophies act as markers which will effectively guide you toward the lifestyle design you have decided for yourself, time and time again.

These are the things that drive you. They should be tiny, you can say them in 10 seconds but each is a distinct concept that is a fundamental part of your lifestyle design. Some of mine are: Wealth is about much more than money, live within your means, financial freedom, that i can do what i want with my life every minute of every day (this one is an important criteria of mine, if it stopped then I would go back and revise my plans to try and re-align myself to this idea), location independence (which does happen to be one of my drivers, I want to be able to do whatever I do from anywhere), flexibility, projects, experiments, simplicity, mindfulness, cicero’s 6 mistakes…

Think of these in terms of what are the things you find yourself repeating, what do you keep coming back to, what do you admire and what gets you really interested or ignites a spark within you.

If you want to you can also use the most important of these together in some kind of vision of where you want to be – this vision is then basically a highly summarized version of your blueprint. You don’t have to use all of your key concepts in this vision, some can just remain as markers that you use along the way.

These markers will help you align back to your blueprint and most importantly help you to quickly and effectively make decisions along the way.

Having these for example might help you choose your next job, your next location, your next holiday…

Step 7: Celebrate

Celebrate that you have this understanding, you have a lifestyle design, you have something that you can work on and make small changes to.

Celebrate that you now know what it is that you want and even if you don’t you have a great start and somewhere to put it when you do know (after getting this far you will at least know some of it).

Step 8: Continual Improvement: Iterate with Small Changes

Now that you have designed the lifestyle that you want, you have something you can work with which you can refine whenever you want.

If you have done this properly – i.e. it’s full of the things that are really important to you, there’s not a chance in the world that it;s going to become shelfware. Wherever you’ve completed these exercises, in a document, a spreadsheet, on your computer or in your head, you’re not going to want to put it down – because every time you refine this thing from here on in, you are improving your life.

So here’s what to do next…

Your Lifestyle Design is your map for what you want your life to look like.


This has two tremendous advantages:

  1. You can use it to make decisions and have amazing clarity day to day and when planning for the future
  2. It should never be complete, you can and should refine it and improve it as you live and learn more

So think about making small changes in your life to align yourself more to the lifestyle design you want or about making small changes to your lifestyle design to make it even better!

Final Thought

As if that’s not enough, guess what…?

We have tonnes of amazing articles right here on this site which can help you with all kinds of aspects of Lifestyle Design, (just check in the Lifestyle Design section) – all completely free.

I know, I know, I think it’s crazy too…

If you do follow the above process (or perhaps you even have your own), let me know in the comments – maybe even send me your Lifestyle Design blueprint if you like and I’ll take a look and let you know what I think…

in any case, I hope you found this useful.


Lifestyle Design: How To Get Started With Lifestyle Design — 16 Comments

  1. Alan, nice breakdown of thinking through our own personal lifestyle design. There are so many different ways to approach it. I think something that gets missed with a lot of the gurus is just how hard they had to work to make them location independent, able to travel on a whim, etc. They may have the 4 hour work week now, but there were probably a ton of 80 hour weeks to get them to their successful place.

    Once you have the blueprint, work hard to build skills that can make you location independent. Or work hard to transform your finances so they are not limiting your dreams/goals.

    • Thanks for a great comment Andy,

      it’s a good point – it’s like when people look at ‘overnight’ successes – often those successes were actually 2 years overnight (not really overnight at all – 2 years of hard work then suddenly they seemed to pop up overnight).

      But that being said, Lifestyle Design doesn’t have to be complicated at all, it can be as simple as deciding what you want from life (so that you can then start working towards that) – most people don’t even do that.

  2. I like how you say to ‘design your version of wealth’, as what is important for some people may not be what is important for others. I think its important to be clear about what YOU want in life, and not simply get swept up in the thoughts and goals of others. I’ve only heard about the term lifestyle design recently, its an interesting concept.

    • Hey Ally,

      thanks for your kind comment & I’m glad you liked the article. I really believe that Lifestyle Design is a very personal thing. Somebody asked me to recommend a ‘Lifestyle Design’ book today and I really tried but I just couldn’t, the subject is too broad and personal. Tim Ferris’ book is the obvious example but as I say in the article, that’s only one ‘brand’ of Lifestyle Design, there’s so much more to it and your version may be different.

      You & me both! Whether it’s called lifestyle design or anything else, it’s definitely worth thinking about,

      thanks again for the comment Ally,


  3. It is truly good and very inspiring. It is a great feeling for me to learn from other person. For this year we are going to start a happy lifestyle and that is definitely I want to have this year.

  4. I, like most people, first heard of Lifestyle Design from our friend Tim. I think his version also got a lot of people in trouble as the dream of quitting your job and giving surfing lessons in Hawaii to support yourself, doesn’t always pan out. Especially if you don’t plan out goals and how you will achieve them first. Like you mention, you don’t have to quit your job to have a happy lifestyle, it all depends on finding balance and purpose, at least in my opinion. Great article Alan, lets catch up soon!

    • Hi Gary,

      yep – I reckon if I tried surfing I’d soon be giving up that lifestyle for sure!!

      Now skiing – that’s a different story altogether (different climate too). Too much of this ends up being clichés and people lose the point and just try and copy the ‘famous’ people.

      On that note – I take Annie’s point (below) but I do think there’s something to be said for Lifestyle Design if done the right way – i.e. they are the right words to describe exactly what it is – designing the lifestyle you want – and that’s different for everybody.

      It would be great to catch up, I’m about to duck out of contact for a few weeks though (skiing for 3 weeks in Feb) so hopefully soon after that?

  5. Ugh! the dreaded term lifestyle design. I remember back in 2011 when I first heard this term and learned of Tim Ferris, i thought it was a joke. I dislike this term but i understand the importance of putting labels on things. I like the other term you use better. “live life on your own terms”.

    I digress…………

    These are all great steps to lifestyle design. The thing is, sometimes we don’t know what we want until some switch gets flipped.

    I remember working in corporate. I loved working. my job was like a puzzle. Taking numbers and making sense out of them. I went home and worked and dreamt of work. I thought how lucky i was to love my work and get paid lots of money to do something I loved. After a while though something felt like it was missing. I had no clue though..

    It wasn’t until I was laid off and had time away from work. almost a full year later, I discovered I had undeveloped interested in other areas of my life that i had been ignoring. My point is, i think a lot of people are stuck in this situation. It’s easier when you have a job you hate “i think”. The demarcation is more clear. you hate your job and instinctufully look for something better.

    Your steps outlined above are a good step to designing that idea life. Especially number 8. Keep changing small iterations and adjusting. Don’t just stick with something because you thought it was right to do. If it feels wrong try something new, different.

    • p.s. I also like ‘live life on your own terms’ better too – but if everybody else is calling it Lifestyle Design and those two words describe the concept very accurately then what’s a guy to do?

      I agree also with your point that often people don’t know what they want – they think they know what they want but they don’t always actually know what they want. That’s usually the difference between what surveys tell us and what real data (e.g. sales figures) tell us.

      People give you very different feedback when they have to put their hands in their pockets vs when they don’t. Just like playing a free poker game isn’t really playing poker at all – you’re only really playing if you put real money down, because then you have something to lose.

      So the best way to find out is to try / experiment…

      …and the best way to do it is to do it.


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