The 4 Phases of Lifestyle Design (and 13 Resources to Help)

Editor's note: the following is a guest post by Rob of The Life Design Project. Follow him on Twitter @robgranholm.

In light of the recently popular posts on what lifestyle design really means, its questioned death, and revived life, I was challenged with analyzing what actually goes on as one attempts to live life on their own terms.

You can call it whatever you like, but the concepts of the coined term, lifestyle design manifest themselves in a definite path. We all take different steps, from internalized thoughts to outward expression, but, living life your way certainly has phases. Let’s discuss them, and some great resources for finding out more.

The "aha" Moment: Conception.

Maybe this was when you first read the 4HWW, or maybe it was the first time someone gave you a few bucks to write a story, or build a website and it hit you. This is real. It’s possible to create a life out of work you enjoy (and that enables freedom) instead of flipping burgers or being a desk jockey.

You’re intrigued and need to figure out if it’s nonsense or reality enticing you. Your inner monologue kicks in on the possibilities of living an unconventional life that unlocks the lifestyle of the rich and retired now, while you’re still in your “working years.”


The 4 Hour Work Week: The popular manifesto on living life differently, covers a lot more than conception but is fitting in this phase.

The Middle Finger Project: Ashely Ambirge’s blog is filled with realizations that life doesn’t have to be cookie cutter.

Location 180: Sean Ogle’s recent post (the online world IS the real world) fits this well as his blog takes us on his journey with him.

Dreams on a Timeline

There aren’t any hard fast rules to lifestyle design, but there are broad agreed upon goals (at least I think so). If you take even just an hour to check out the blog echo chamber of lifestyle design you’ll notice that everyone is shooting for a few core things.

They want freedom of time to do what they love and the ability to move around. The specifics look different for everyone though. Mobility might mean living in the same city but the freedom to go to Starbucks whenever they want, or it might mean the freedom to take 3 month mini-retirements, or simply travel the globe constantly. You may free yourself to do that by working a job with a company, or creating your own income.

At this stage in the journey, how you want to be free takes hold and you plot out what dreams you’re going to start building a path toward.

The word “dreamlining” (another Ferriss term) comes into play here. Our dreams all look different. My ideal lifestyle isn’t going to look anything like yours, but the steps to get there start to look similar. Our word bank starts to include terms like passive income, effective productivity, minimalism, “Wordpress”, entrepreneur, location independent, the new rich and so on.


Free Pursuits: Obviously you know a bit about Corbett’s reflections if you’re here. I’ve put him in this phase because I identify with his reflections and questions in creating a future of your own making. (Editor’s note: and because you submitted this as a guest post here, Robert?)

The Art of Nonconformity: Although Chris focuses a bit on travel he constantly brings us to the reality that you can live how you want right now.

Elimination of Whatever is Weighing you Down

As lifestyle design grips you and starts to make outward appearances, things start to change. Your dreams have turned to real goals and because of that they are real things you can start reaching for.

The lesser things of life almost happily fall away. We don’t all turn into minimalist backpackers, but our materialism becomes apparent (and some actually do turn into minimalist backpackers). The elimination of unnecessary tasks and physical items becomes a passion for a short while.

This phase brings us to real changes in our day to day life, checking e-mail twice a day, eliminating useless meetings, singular focus, we start protecting our time ruthlessly because our dreams have become possibilities and we want them, bad. Automation, outsourcing and cutting out the minutia of life becomes a strong focus here both inwardly and outwardly.

I think this phase is most difficult for many who grapple with the lifestyle design concepts because they crystallize the pull between your semi-comfortable numbed life and real freedom, it’s scary.


LifeExcursion: Lifestyle Design, What is Right, What is Wrong, Guidance for Simplifying your Life, Financial Reform in Your Own Home. These are just a few post titles from Dave, he does a great job of awakening us to what we don’t need.

Slacker Reform/Drop of Change : Carl is another blogger who stays on top of perspective and constantly bring it to us. Always refreshing.

Muselife: David has a fierce commitment to practicality and not wasting time. His posts may be far between but they are all stacked with applicable eye opening information.

The Life Design Project: This is my blog, and I although I’m testing out lifestyle design in it’s entirety, I focus heavily on pragmatic testing which often comes down to how-to’s, examples, and cutting the fat.

Liberation To Do What You Love

For many of us, making our dreams a reality is going to take money. Plain and simple. Whether you want to travel the world, learn jujitsu, or run a business, living your dreams has a target monthly income.

Liberation from the drudgery of a 9-5, or the wrong 9-5 is required. It’s an argued point no doubt, whether to do what you love, or solve a pain. This phase is going to look different for some, but for most, you’ll be looking to make easily managed income so you can live out your dream while paying for food, bills, and funding that dream.

If your job is your dream, or some mixture thereof, awesome! But for most, it’s not. It’s important to note everyone’s dream is different and some will be way cheaper than others. Liberation is the toughest phase in my opinion because it requires a perseverance that’s difficult to develop towards running a business. It’s a shocker to some, but creating value, marketing it, and selling it is a definite phase.

Luckily in todays technology world, it’s completely possible to do gradually, with a full time job, and cheaply, $100 at a time. See that exemplified by Chris Guillebeau’s recent $100 business project.


The Virtual Business Lifestyle: Chris’s goal this year is to be a completely virtual CEO, he takes you through outsourcing and building business online.

Smart Passive Income with Patt Flynn: Pat has an awesome story, keeps it authentic and constantly focused on SOLID content for building passive income online, mostly with digital products. I really enjoy his content.

Under30CEO: This site and it’s creators are dedicated to young entrepreneurs and are openly and aggressively available for anyone to ask them any question on building business along with providing resources.

Rockstar Business Series: Created by Greg Rollett and team, this membership series site puts you with a small group of like minded individuals and a solid recently created and newly released video series for building followers and business online. I really like their “online office hours”.

Our lives are all different, you may have zoomed past one of these stages, skipped one, had all the benefit of one just handed to you, or maybe you’re struggling in one right now.

I’d like to know, what phase are you in? Please share in the comments!

Rob (@robgranholm) can be found helping entrepreneurs and lifestyle designers for free with their technology woes at IT Arsenal while taking a real-life “break down” approach to Lifestyle Design at The Life Design Project.

photo by Meanest Indian

Join My Email List

Hi, I’m Corbett Barr. I’ve been writing here since 2009. Join my email list for new articles about supporting yourself doing something you love: