5 Steps to Life Your Life by Design

Many years ago, I wrote a blog about going shopping to buy a leather jacket on Boxing Day. I told the story of finding two jackets I liked and how my wife pointed out that the black leather jacket was more ‘timeless’ and would not become dated while the more fashionable tan jacket may be out of style in ten years or so. Well. I bought the fashionable tan jacket and ten years later I thought I would give you an update on the story. 

Back when I bought my jacket, my wife said something that blew my mind. She said, “well, in ten to fifteen years you’ll be looking at retirement!” Retirement, I thought? Not a chance! I love what I do and plan to work for a long time.

Well, it happened just as she said it would. This last year we have been making a major shift and have begun to fantasize about when, how, and where to retire. We talked about what we want to do to keep busy, what’s on our bucket list, and how we will give back to the world.

Time Stands Still For No One

The truth is time stands still for no one! Often, we get wrapped up in the day-to- day of our life and complacency sets in as we focus on our busy schedules and everyday life. It may start with a lack of focus or intensity, then progresses to a sense of coasting, and followed by all out lethargy. That’s hard on you mentally. In fact, if you’re not careful you might find yourself feeling down or stuck not able to get going. In the end we wake up one morning wondering where all the time went. That’s when it can feel like the wind is gone from our sails and our life has passed us by and that’s draining. To fully live our lives, we must master the mindset skills of visioning and continual focus. That’s when you vision and plan out your life as a whole based on what major events may happen in the different seasons of your life

For example, the year I bought my leather jacket I had set out my plans. Some things were easy to plan for and others were non-planned opportunities that popped up. When you look at a timeline you can get an idea of what may happen. We planned for the kids growing up, graduating school and knew that post-secondary education was a possibility for them; and it happened. Our youngest just went to school recently. Now were empty nesters – we knew that was coming too, although we didn’t know how that would feel. We planned to help aging parents, but it happened later than expected, and we’re still healthy. We planned to move 32 hours across the country to be closer to family and made that trip 5 years ago. We set business goals, savings goals and mapped out what we wanted our life to feel like and re-evaluated or course corrected along the way. Along the way opportunities became available and we jumped on a few of those. We bought a 5th wheel, travelled to Huston Texas for a winter. We thought we would travel for 2 or 3 years while the kids were younger. We lasted for 6 months and moved the camper to a yearly camping site just outside of our town – not in the plan. Then we decided to build our dream home on a lot when an opportunity to by a lot where the existing house burnt down, and I spent the next 5 years building everything myself – not in the plan. 

On the business side things evolved and we developed a world class leadership program, multiple brands, and several other high-level programs. The leadership program wasn’t in the plan. It happened when and international training company contracted us to present to their business leaders. Although that wasn’t planned the 3 revisions and evolution of the program after that were. 

Living according to plan with flexibility

The point I’m making is you need to plan, then be flexible and open to what opportunities come your way. When we seized the opportunity to build, we did so because the lot was much bigger in a small hamlet a few miles from our suburb. By building on that lot at that time and using the existing foundation prior to building fee increases, we saved close to half the construction cost. Later we sold that home at the top of a booming market and moved across the country. That set us up for retirement. The interesting part is there was no way for us to plan for such a blessing. What we did correctly was seize the opportunity when it was available and then made it work. And yes, we made a pile of mistakes that I’ll have to cover in another blog. Regardless, the blessing was greater than any of the failures along the way.

Here’s how you can get started

  1. Start with a map

Take a timeline and place everyone and everything that is important on it. Place your age, and others who are important to you. Place any schooling or programs you want to take on there as well. This will help you understand how life naturally changes as time goes by. Find big themes by the dates such as raising kids, finished school, and parents aging

  1. Start to imagine the possibilities

Imagining the possibilities that could be available will help you get clear on the vision you’re creating. Stretch your imagination and stay away from judgment. Feel free to do all kinds of research online and in person. Research what others have done in this season of life, imagine what it would be like, decide what you like or dislike, and if needed, talk with others. Make plans to see areas you would like to move or look at things you’re considering. The purpose is to try out things you would like in your future. There’s no point in dreaming for a luxury home if you move into one and find that the upkeep doesn’t match your lifestyle or that it takes so much of your finances to manage that you can’t travel like you wanted. 

  1. Write out your vision and plan

Writing out the plan and even speaking it out gives it power and energy. You’ll notice that the more you share it the more concise it becomes. Remember to only share it with those close to you that you can trust. Sometimes people you know will be uncomfortable if they hear what you’re contemplating and will see like that their negative towards your dream. More than likely they’re not negative but uncomfortable because they haven’t dreamed like you have. Take time to write out you plan, put in some dates that are important and schedule time to review your progress. 

Once your plan is written out, you’ll find that there may be areas that you can’t complete yet. Like a trip across the country, you know where you want to go but have no way to plan for extreme weather, vehicle breakdowns or detours. When those happen, you need to embrace the situation and look for the hidden gifts in it. Sometimes you’ll be prepared for the unexpected and other times, not as much. Either way, make the best of the journey because you may be able to watch an overwhelming situation turn into a major course correction in your vision.

  1. Choose opportunities carefully

Not every opportunity is the right opportunity for you, your life, or your business. The best way to know is to be clear of what you want to create in your life by having your vision and then seeing if this opportunity will take you closer to it. If it doesn’t, it could be the wrong opportunity at the right time so keep looking. Sometimes opportunities come and we are not ready for them, this is the right opportunity at the wrong time. Jumping at an opportunity at the wrong time can slow you down or even push you backwards.

  1. Embrace the Moment

If you’re living your whole life focused on tomorrow, you miss the opportunity to live today. I’ve seen people that just exist every day and plan all their fun, excitement and dream chasing for when they retire. Unfortunately for some, this mindset causes their time to run out on their dreams as they struggle with failing health or other detours that show up. Embrace the treasures you have today and live in the moment.

The power of living by design is all about taking advantage of the moment and the right opportunities when they match up to your vision. Life needs to be lived today in view of tomorrow. If you think on this every day, you will be where you want to be today and in the future by design!


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