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Is Lifestyle Design Real or Just on Instagram?

Common misconceptions about lifestyle design we've all accepted as truth

Have you ever scrolled through Instagram, seen a photo of a young couple on the beach in Thailand…

…and thought to yourself: “Man, I wish that I could live like that!”

There are about a million Instagram accounts featuring lifestyle designers. Every photo is of someone with a perfect bod, on a pristine beach, or strolling casually through a new foreign city. The owner of the account has designed their life to work remotely, travel for work, or run their own location-independent business…and their life looks PERFECT.

That’s all you see when you browse tags for #lifestyledesign and the #freedomlifestyle. So you’ve probably come to the conclusion that lifestyle design fits into a perfect box – the confines of an Instagram photo with hundreds of thousands of likes. And it remains nothing more than a constant dream to you.

My wife and I were in that same boat just a few years ago. We were shackled to jobs we didn’t love, yet sacrificed everything for our careers. In fact, we were so bogged down by this American-dream-gone-wrong lifestyle that we had BOTH developed chronic illnesses. It wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle. We were on the fast track to burnout.

So we switched gears. We took massive action to redesign our lives the way WE wanted to be living them: owning our own business, becoming location independent, and traveling the world full-time. Today, we live in Medellin, Colombia. We work 30 hours a week. We spend our time doing what we love and as little time as possible doing anything else.

Once in a blue moon, our life DOES look like those crazy popular accounts on Instagram. But most of the time, it looks like regular folks living unconventional lives. We’ve cultivated a life that works FOR us, and it was so much easier than we thought it would be.

Here are the top misconceptions about lifestyle design and how to avoid them.

#1: Lifestyle Design Does Not Equal Travel

The biggest misconception about lifestyle design is that you need to pack your bags and find the nearest yacht to pose on. That there’s only one correct way to go about designing your life, and it’s about capturing the perfect pic. Real lifestyle designers know this isn’t true.

The world’s leading Snapchat influencer and true lifestyle designer, Virginia Kastilio, says: “It’s not the boats or the pretty locations. It’s more: me getting to work on what I am obsessively curious about and picking the spot that excites me the most to be at that moment.”

At its core, lifestyle design is about freedom, not travel.

#2: Lifestyle Design Does Not Mean Quitting Your Job

The first step in designing a life you love isn’t quitting your job, buying a one-way ticket to tropical paradise, and hoping for the best.

It’s a mindset shift. Stop thinking about your life in terms of how much money you’re making, and start thinking about how much freedom you have.

Freedom means something different to everyone. Mark Shapiro, host of the acclaimed The One & Only Podcast, says: “There is no step-and-repeat formula for living your dream, but if there were, I’d bet that it wouldn’t be edited, superficial, or easily achieved in two payments of $997. Life design is as real as your willingness to get to the heart of your wants and desires, and to take courageous committed action to manifest the reality of your choice.”

I couldn’t agree more. I used to think, “If I can just get through today/this week/this year, then I’ll finally be happy.” But I never was. I realized that RIGHT NOW is the right time to start designing a life with yourself at the center. Not a month from now, not at the end of next quarter.

Ask yourself, how much longer am I willing to sacrifice my health, my relationships, and my happiness? When will enough be enough?

#3: Lifestyle Design Is Not Uncommon

When we were seriously considering taking the plunge into lifestyle design, our knee-jerk reaction was to feel very isolated. We were no longer pursuing the American dream in the traditional sense, and it felt terrifying to go against the grain.

But the truth was we weren’t reinventing the wheel. There are so many people out there who have already done it successfully. In reality, there are some key patterns (what we call lifehacks) successful lifestyle designers have implemented into their lifestyle. You just have to follow their lead.

Jules Schroeder, founder of Unconventional Life, shares this: “For me I am clear that I show up as my best when I get up at 8am, work out, have a casual breakfast and have the space in the morning for creative time. I don’t start work before 12pm and work a maximum of 4-6 hours a day. Lifestyle design is a system that gets implemented through experimentation and looking at what works and what doesn’t for YOU. I find I feel more alive, happier, and productive by optimizing my lifestyle.”

The results of lifestyle design manifest differently for everyone. We created a life filled with travel, salsa dancing, and plenty of time for our family. Others love to take 3-day weekends every week to go turkey hunting (true story).

Whatever that looks like for you, start embracing a life with yourself at the center and see what magic unfolds.

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