It’s Never Too Early to Think About Lifestyle Design
Lifestyle design has taken off in popularity in recent years, in many cases moving our culture away from materialism and so-called “traditional” ideas of happiness and the American Dream. Much of that is propagated due to the difficulties that millennials and younger generations face.
The harsh economic reality of the last eight years has been that unemployment is up, wages are down, and the cost of everything is through the roof. While the current state of the economy has shown signs of improvement, wages haven’t quite recovered enough to matter, and things like gas, healthcare, and food are still way too expensive.
They tax our ability to buy stuff. As a result, priorities have started to shift, and we’re redesigning the way we live. While all of this may seem somewhat bleak, we actually think it’s a good thing because it’s leading to a great awakening in regards to life priorities.
The Educational Reality
Younger generations are leading the charge on lifestyle design, but they’re still susceptible to certain pitfalls that have much to do with the education system. While higher education is perhaps more important now than at any point in American history, the cost of getting it and the diminishing returns of certain degrees are setting back many current and future college students.
Before getting into the realities of why lifestyle design is important, we should address the need for a marketable major. It’s important students divorce themselves from the romanticism of education and instead of “following their passion,” find majors that can land them well-paying and dependable jobs that will stand up to technological changes over the coming decades.
It’s a good idea to study the trends. Look for things like “future-proof jobs” online. Articles like this one cite nine such positions that are likely to be in demand indefinitely, but they’re hardly exhaustive, so keep your eyes peeled. Conference with your high school counselor or college advisor.
Once you find a promising area, bring your passion to it instead of following a passion with no future. With a marketable target within your reach, you can start thinking about the even more important matter of lifestyle design.
Why Is Lifestyle Design Important?
Lifestyle design is important because it’s where you find the balance between your profession, your wants, and your needs. Previous generations may have obsessed over “stuff,” but the current trend is away from this and more towards “experiences.”
That’s a good thing. It’s been helped along, of course, by our changes in technology. Instead of needing an entire wall of shelves to hold your music collection, you can now access a lifetime of music for free on services like Pandora, Spotify, and Amazon Music. You no longer need the physical space or the $15-$20 a pop that it cost to purchase and own a CD.
The same also could be said for movies and books, though Blu-ray and print industries seem to be hanging in there. Even so, the space they take up has shrunken with thinner packaging on movies and fewer 1,000-page tomes than the Stephen King novels of yore. By the same token, for the cost of two Blu-ray movies a month, you can watch hundreds of thousands of shows and movies just by subscribing to multiple streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.
In short, many of the everyday wants we used to have to shell out a lot of money for having been democratized where we get a lot more access for a much smaller fee even as the cost of staying healthy and nourished goes up.
We’ve said all this to say, you have more freedom to control the clutter (and its once-astronomical) costs. With less space needed for our “wants,” we have more room for “needs.” And with more room for needs, we get to exercise more control over what is truly important and how much money we’re willing or able to invest towards it.
So What Should My Life Design Look Like?
A good lifestyle design will start by asking the following questions:
- Who are the people in my life that matter? This doesn’t mean you have to shut yourself off to large groups of people or great causes worth supporting. But you should be honest about the people who deserve most of your time.
- What is the living situation I would most enjoy? Some people like small, close-knit communities. Others are drawn to the city. Still, others change their allegiances along the way through the transitions of life. Perhaps they don’t even like to settle at all. It’s okay if you don’t know the answer yet. The important thing is to experiment and find out what works for you by trying out a number of different living arrangements through college and young adulthood.
- How big of a home do I want to stay/raise a family in? Homeownership comes with its share of costs and responsibilities you may not realize. It’s easy to drop a couple of grand on a problem, and the responsibility to do it is all yours. When you rent, that pressure doesn’t exist. But you won’t own your home, and all the money you pay will make someone else richer. There are definitely pros and cons to both. Because homeownership is such a major responsibility, you really need to do the math before locking yourself into a 15- or 30-year mortgage.
- Do I want a family? Well, of course, you want a family. But who do you want those family members to be? Wife and kids, close-knit friends, your cocker spaniel only? You name it. It’s yours to decide.
- What kind of person would I like to marry? The answer here goes beyond sexual orientation to the heart of what makes that person tick. First, you have to know what makes you tick. When you know that, you can consider whether you want someone of the same disposition or a complete opposite.
- Do I want to be the sole breadwinner, full-time caregiver, or share in financial expenses and personal responsibilities 50/50? Money is one of the biggest drivers of happiness and divorce. If neither of you sees eye-to-eye financially, then you’re going to have a lot of turmoil. One of you will feel like you’re doing everything and the other is doing nothing, while the other will feel underappreciated for their non-monetary contributions. Give this serious consideration before you marry/move in with anyone.
- How much of a role do I want technology to play in my life outside of school or work? We’re in a culture where we’re so addicted to our phones and social media that we forget to live in the real world. But this is your lifestyle design. Maybe that’s your thing. Just make sure everyone is on the same page regarding the household tech policy.
What If the Game Changes?
If the game changes on you — i.e., you change your mind or find out the best-laid plans were not to be — embrace it. Life doesn’t always go the way you want it to. You have to be adaptable. Don’t feel like you’re not being true to yourself. Play the hands you’re dealt whatever they are. Or reshuffle the deck until you get a hand you like. (Sorry for the poker references, card sharks.)
What If I Run Into Roadblocks, Setbacks, or Failures?
It’s bound to happen, and you do have to go into survival mode every now and then. But don’t think that’s the only thing setbacks and failures bring. They also bring with them a whole slew of new opportunities. The more you look for those opportunities in the face of the negative, the more you’ll find them.
The Importance of a Network
To enact the lifestyle design that you want, you’ll need a career that helps you earn enough to take care of the basics. To cultivate that career, you’ll need to focus more on network and less on job applications. Attend events in the industry of your choosing. Meet people face-to-face. Make them remember you. Stay in touch with good friends from high school and college. You never know which connection will be the one to pay dividends.
Life is what you make of it. Fortunately, we live in a time where you can make it whatever you want it to be through the education you choose, the personal connections you forge, and designing the personal and private life that you want to live. How do you want your lifestyle design to look? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by PxHere]