I love my life! It’s a lifestyle I’ve created by choice and through persistent hard work, creativity, a bit of luck, and a lot of help from others. Not everyone would enjoy living like I do. Some people don’t like to travel. Others prefer the comfort of a steady paycheck, or are satisfied enough with their life as it is. And that’s awesome!
But there are many people who don’t love their life. They feel stuck in a situation they don’t know how to change. Maybe they have a dream of something better, but they don’t know how to make it come true. Or they settle for “good enough” because they’re afraid to risk losing what’s already pretty good. Or maybe they’re focused on what they want so much that they can’t appreciate what they already have. I think Socrates was onto something when he said:
“He who is not contented with what he has would not be contented with what he would like to have.” — Socrates
Yet does this mean we cease dreaming and striving for better and more? I don’t think so. I think it just means that we don’t let those dreams overshadow our happiness in the present. I also love this quote from Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman
I believe that it is possible to create the life of your dreams. It’s what I’ve done. And I find the more I let go of expectations and fears, and embrace new experiences, change, and growth (which can sometimes be scary and painful), the more I do come alive, and the more in touch I feel with who I really am, what I need, and how I can give of myself. I still have so much to learn and so many ways to grow, but I’m trying to live my life fully and am thoroughly enjoying it.
So what kind of a life have I created?
This year, I’ve chosen to live in the tropical paradise of Bali, Indonesia, in a beautiful and spacious home with a pool and amazing nature views that feed my soul. I wake up each morning and spend 15-45 minutes doing stretching, Tai chi, Qi Gong, and meditating while basking in the sun and listening to the birds sing. There are staff at the house who take care of all the cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, home repairs, yard maintenance, and even babysitting. This frees up a lot of time! (Note: The salary for a full time cook in Bali is usually between USD $125-175 per month. You don’t have to make millions to live like this. I sure don’t.)
I’ve also automated or outsourced most aspects of my Internet business, so it requires very little of my time to run. Yet, I still spend 5-10 hours per week planning new features, strategies, and improvements, reviewing progress reports and statistics, dealing with problems that arise, hiring and firing, handling finances, and communicating with my teams. Sometimes I get excited about the new developments I’m working on and the positive feedback I receive, and sometimes I get a little burned out or stressed about the issues that come up. But the work I do provides income for my lifestyle, jobs to the people I’m employing, and a useful service to the customers I’m serving, so I’m glad I can do it.
I appreciate simplicity, and have simplified many aspects of my life. I don’t receive paper mail. I don’t even have a real street address or mailing address. I have no bills to pay (my landlord takes care of them). And everything I own can fit into one carry-on suitcase, so I have few material possessions to worry about, and am extremely mobile. This makes it easy to travel, which I do regularly, taking international trips every few months with my family to renew our visas. So far this year, we’ve been to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, and Vietnam. And we’ll visit Thailand in October/November.
While I’ve simplified and reduced many responsibilities in my life, it’s not what I’ve eliminated that makes life fulfilling. It’s what I fill my life up with. I could go back to working 50-70 hour work weeks at a desk job, spending time with my family on the weekends or an occasional evening (after mowing the lawn, paying bills, and taking care of other responsibilities, of course). I enjoyed that lifestyle well enough when I was living like that. But I also saw the potential to improve it.
So what do I fill my time with now? Well, what would you do all day long if your slate was wiped completely clean and you didn’t have work or any other responsibilities? And what if you had all the money you would ever need to fulfill those dreams? What would you do? These are questions I’ve asked myself regularly over the years to help identify and create my ideal lifestyle. I still don’t have unlimited time or money, but I’m trying to focus the time and money I do have on the things that are most meaningful to me. Of course, as I’ve gained new experiences, I’ve grown and changed. Many of the things I’m doing this month are different from what I did last month. And I have no idea what I’ll be doing two years from now!
Even with my best intentions and clearest vision, life usually doesn’t fall into place exactly as I envision it. Little daily tasks or email fill up my time, or I lose interest in what I had originally planned. New opportunities arise, strong and sometimes negative emotions surface, and urgent items flood my “todo list.” (Or items I treat as urgent.) I don’t know if I’ve ever had a week where I accomplished everything I wanted to do. Every moment of my life isn’t full of bliss and laughter. But I do have those moments regularly, and I feel pretty lucky. And little by little my life is becoming more full of joy, peace, and rich experiences.
Here are some things I’ve been enjoying lately.
Friends. We have some great friends here in Ubud. We share meals together regularly, hang out and talk into the evening while our kids play, and take day trips or overnighters to the beach together. It’s so nice to have good friends to share our lives and feelings with, and the people we’ve met here seem especially open and friendly.
Kids. My kids don’t go to school, and they have no homework, curriculum, or assignments. They learn like adults do in the real world, following their own interests and finding help when they get stuck. For example, this week, my 9 year old daughter published a book of poems, along with illustrations, began designing her own educational iPad app to make it more fun for kids to learn math and practice spelling, and researched how to work online both as an artist and how to sell products and services on the Internet. It’s been fun to see her enthusiasm and to be a resource for her as she’s come to me with questions. We certainly don’t need to tell her what to study. Having been given total freedom, she’s taking charge of her own education. I also play badminton, swim, and take motorbike rides together with my kids regularly.
Guitar. I recently started learning how to play the guitar. It’s a lot of fun for me, and after four lessons and many hours of practice, I’m almost able to play Bach’s Minuet in G at full tempo, some favorite Simon & Garfunkel and Beatles tunes, and many other songs. My barre chords are even starting to sound clearer! I’m still very much a beginner, but I’m loving playing the guitar! Now after dinner, we usually sing together as a family with the guitar, memorize some poetry, talk about our days, and meditate. One of our favorite songs to sing together is Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
Dreams. I’m fascinated by dreams. Almost every night for the past two years, I have written down my dreams, and through the emotions, themes, and patterns that emerge, I’ve gained many insights that have helped me identify and resolve hidden struggles that only my subconscious mind was aware of. This week, I’ve been designing an iPhone app to help track and organize my dreams better, and help identify patterns and common themes through reports in the software. I’m excited to see where this leads.
Garden. We’ve been thinking about starting our own vegetable and herb garden. We have a perfect place under the pool deck and want to learn more about the process of growing food. We visited a nearby permaculture farm, bought some seeds and ordered some seedlings. We know nothing about gardening, but are interested in learning, and may even take some permaculture workshops.
Tailor. We recently discovered a huge fabric market in Bali with beautiful patterns and a variety of materials. We’ve also discovered several tailors here in Ubud where we can get custom clothes made for very reasonable prices ($5 for a shirt or pants and $7-10 for a dress, for example). For a small person like me, I usually have trouble finding clothes from a store that fit me properly, so it’s exciting to realize we can get custom clothes for even cheaper. I think this is how we’ll buy our clothes from now on. I’m also having a few shirts I already purchased taken in (made smaller) for $2 each and some zipper pockets added to a pair of pants.
Business Owners Meetup. This week, our friends started an online business owners group here in Ubud, where we meet together to share ideas and help each other out. We’ve only had one meeting so far, but it proved helpful for everyone. Next time I’ve been asked to give a presentation on conversion optimization through split A/B testing (how to tweak your website to get more customers to buy). It’s been years since I’ve taught a group of people. I’m looking forward to it.
Meditation and Yoga. I’ve had a daily meditation practice for quite some time, and have found great clarity and peace from it, but I continue to discover more ways to make it effective and I want to continue improving. Jen and I also go to an intermediate yoga class twice a week and in a way, the entire practice is like a meditation. Yoga is so much more than physical exercise and a good stretch. Linda at Intuitive Flow helps us tune into our bodies and feel what’s going on inside so we can lovingly give ourselves just what we need. An amazing way to start the morning!
Consulting. I continue to get consulting requests from entrepreneurs wanting help with their businesses. It’s been enjoyable for me to see their enthusiasm and what they’re producing, and to share what I’ve learned in a way that can help them overcome the hurdles they’re facing. I’m also learning from my clients, both from their experience and from thinking twice about the advice I’m giving so I don’t send them in the wrong direction. I look forward to hearing the success stories of these businesses in the near future.
Indonesian. We’re continuing to take Indonesian lessons, although I admit that I haven’t been studying or practicing much, and we’ve done a lot of travel since moving here, so progress on the language has been slow. Most people here speak English pretty well, but there are always opportunities to practice Indonesian with the staff or people we meet.
Healing. As a family, we’ve started going regularly to a counselor and craniosacral therapist who is helping us each work through and let go of our own individual issues and negative ingrained patterns. It’s exciting to see the progress we’re making, and especially to feel more in tune with ourselves, our own needs and desires, and how to understand and interact with each other in more healthy ways.
Reading. I love to read books and learn new things. I have about nine books I’m in the process of reading right now. Books about dreams, psychology, personal development, spirituality, and more. Some titles I’m enjoying are “The Ethics of Trade and Aid: Charity or Waste?,” “The Highly Sensitive Person,” and “Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior.”
Computers. Despite my best intentions, I still somehow end up spending way too much time on the computer answering email, reading articles, writing my thoughts, checking Facebook, and planning my life. Computers are such useful tools and do so many things that it’s often difficult for me to disconnect. A technique I’ve been employing recently is that each time I sit down in front of my computer, I identify exactly what it is I plan to accomplish and how long I plan to do it, then set an alarm. When it goes off, I’m supposed to get off the computer and do something else. Yet I still sometimes have difficulty pulling away. I am getting better, though.
Looking over this list, what’s interesting is that most of these are pretty common things you could do anywhere. You don’t have to become an Internet entrepreneur or travel the world to enjoy your life! But if there’s something about your life that you want to change, think about what it would take to do so, and take the first step. By eliminating what you don’t want, and filling the space with things that are more important to you, it’s possible to move closer and closer to your ideal lifestyle, and to enjoy every step along the way.