Why Lifestyle Design Alone Isn't The Key to Happiness

Guest post by David Croushore of 30 Days at A Time

I work typical 9 to 5 job in Washington, DC. I take a shuttle to work at the same time every day, follow a daily routine that involves my job, working out, and whatever side projects I’m pursuing at the moment. Every day, Monday to Friday, is similar if not exactly the same. This lifestyle makes me happy, but it also makes me curious.

When I read about lifestyle design, I hear about location independence, exotic travel, and a host of other concepts that are almost foreign to me. Could these lifestyles make me happy? Probably. Are they necessary? Not to me.

My inquiring mind ruminated on this idea for some time until I realized that the reason lifestyle design didn’t speak to me the way it does to so many others is because I have been focused for so long on its sister, self design (or personal development).

Lifestyle design, it seems to me, is about altering the external, changing the situation, and molding the world to your ideal. It sounds really cool, and I’m starting to explore it a bit.

Self design, by contrast, is about the internal. Shaping the way you respond to any situation, harnessing your emotional power, and developing the ability to be happy with a variety of lifestyles, even the non-ideal.

As I have thought more on this topic, it has occurred to me that these are not contrasting ideas, but complementary ones. With a balance of self design and lifestyle design, we can ensure that we will respond well to any external events beyond our control while establishing the lifestyle we choose. Yin and yang. Lifestyle design and self design. The idea seems simple, but allow me to explore some extreme examples to illustrate the point:

Lifestyle design without self design: the vagrant

By focusing only on lifestyle design and paying no heed to yourself, you run the risk of constantly chasing after an unattainable goal.

Part of self-design is developing, crafting, and defining your goals. Without spending lots of time considering the things that make you happy, you may end up chasing someone else’s dreams. It is not uncommon to see people chasing the “next big thing” without stopping to consider whether they are following their own dreams or someone else’s.

Living in Thailand sounds great, but I’m pretty sure I’d be happier in San Diego. Nothing against those of you who love living in Thailand: If it’s your dream, wonderful. It isn’t mine.

Self design without lifestyle design: the self-help addict

On the other hand, there are tons of people who spend loads of time and money studying self-help books, going to self-help seminars, and working on themselves.

They have self-design down, but somehow convince themselves that with enough self design, they can be happy in any situation. Ignore the fact that they have no passion for their job, they don’t communicate well with their spouse, and they live in a city where they hate the weather and the local culture.

They assume that it is a personal shortcoming that prevents them from being happy. By adding an element of lifestyle design, finding a new job, a new city, new friends, etc. they may find that their continuing self-help work is unnecessary. They are fine the way they are, but merely find themselves in the wrong situation.

Balance between the two leads to happiness

Now consider the people who find balance between lifestyle design and personal development. They work to understand themselves, address their shortcomings, understand their emotions, and define their goals. At the same time, they choose what external situation to put themselves in. They find the right job, live in the right place, and associate with the right people for them.

By balancing self design and lifestyle design, these people can handle small imperfections in their external environment but can still create the proper situation to promote their happiness, and know that the lifestyles they create are the right ones for them.

Could you benefit from more self design? More lifestyle design? You probably already know the answer deep down. Share it with us in the comments!

David Croushore writes about self-improvement through 30 day challenges at his blog 30 Days at A Time. He covers various topics including fitness, nutrition, goal setting, and social dynamics.

photo by greekadman

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