Step off the beaten path and into the promised land.
Right now, at the beginning of our journey together, you are likely following in the footsteps of your parents and peers on a path well worn. The view is familiar. The walk is comfortable, sometimes painful, but predictable. You are hiking toward the trail’s end—the promised land—only, it’s never reached. What if I told you the bounty that is pledged as earned payment for a lifetime of sacrificing today for tomorrow never comes and it’s just more of the same until you die? Stop hiking up this trail. Part the foliage, and step off it altogether. There is hidden fertile soil all around you and it contains a shortcut to the promised land: grow it yourself.
What is your bliss?
If you stepped off that path, through the trees, and out into the open potential of the world, what would you hope to see? What does your bliss look like? What do you hear? Smell? Feel? Close your eyes and go there. You are bound only by the laws of nature. Life is a blank canvas for you to paint to your heart’s content. Do not yet limit any of your dreaming with practical concerns. Before you can move toward your bliss, you have to know what it is.
Who is your bliss?
The most important element of our bliss is our relationships. This includes our relationship with ourselves. Who are you in this new chapter of your story? You get to choose to be whoever you feel is an authentic expression of your true self. Who is there with you to share in this new season of your life? Connection gives our existence meaning. What does that connection look like between your loved ones, the natural world, and those still on the path of inheritance and expectation?
Where is your bliss?
What is the setting for your story? Where will be home? What plot of Earth and assemblage of her gifts will house your next adventures? Is it a stable backdrop into which you gratifyingly invest your sweat and years or a nomadic state of changing scenery and background characters?
When is your bliss?
You have all the time in the world. It is the ultimate gift for you to spend with the greatest of intention. “I don’t have time,” becomes, “I choose to,” based on your priorities. When will you rise? What will you consciously choose to do with your gifts? How will you live your life learning in integrated connection daily?
How do you get your bliss?
With your compass now set, how do you break through and build the life you see? More importantly, how do you sustain it? How can you provide for your needs and support a family in a way that is compatible with your bliss? No longer willing to trade the best years of your life for hollow success defined by someone far away and long ago, leading to a future that may never come, how can you harvest?
Lifestyle Design in Action
As I’m sure you have surmised, there is no one right path of success I can lay before you as that would undermine the entire notion of forging your own around your personal (and shared) bliss. Success is now yours to define. But theory and philosophy won’t evolve your life on their own. To that end, here are some steps that have been taken by lifestyle designers before you:
I realized that our bliss was incompatible with our current city. It was home and I harbored no ill will toward it. My roots were deep but I mustered the bravery to fly. It was time to make a new home where we could grow into our bliss more fully.
Home prices and climate are beyond your control. The city in which you choose to live is within your control.
There were precious people in my life who added to my joy and inspired my growth. There were also people in my life who weighed down my soul. ‘Family of choice’ is a mantra I added to my lexicon to remind me to nurture relationships that are reciprocal.
You cannot control other people. You can control into what relationships you invest yourself.
My bliss was not in an office building, giving the best of myself to a cause that I didn’t understand and that didn’t matter, no matter how many accolades I received. I was a cog in a disloyal machine. I was winning a game I didn’t want to play. So I went back to my passions. I dove deep, learning, studying, researching, and growing in areas through which I could contribute to the world that were compatible with the new life I was creating. I sowed seeds, investing in my potential. Those seeds blossomed into what I needed to live on my terms, which required so much less stuff than winning at the game ever did.
The culture of your corporate overlord is beyond your control. You can control where you invest your time and how you earn the money you need to support the life you want.
We jumped ship. We dove head first into a life of living and learning with our children. We took back their childhood and they pay it forward in wholeness and self-driven passion for learning.
You cannot control the educational complex. You can control where and how you and your children learn.
We entered parenthood with a formula for raising “nice” people and living a “nice” life. It revolved around obeying: We obey people with authority over us and our children obey their parents. Shut up, keep your head down, and you’ll be “good.” Then we questioned everything. We replaced obedience with freedom and respect, and wow, it changed everything. My children won’t have the same issues I did when they exit childhood. What a gift.
You cannot control your past. The way you raise your children in the present and future is absolutely within your control.
Lifestyle Designer Themes
Everyone who forges their own path of bliss is special and unique. Their lives look immeasurably different, yet there are reoccurring themes, strands of commonality that are woven in the fabric of their families and lives: integration, connection, freedom, and parenting style.
Modern society is pathologically compartmentalized. You work in this box. You learn in that box. You play in this box. You socialize in that box. You parent in this box. You love in that box. The problem is that humans cannot thrive when the various parts of their selves must be separate and different. Neglect and inauthenticity plague those who are successful in that system and divorce and depression run rampant.
Lifestyle designers tend to be more fully integrated. They don’t try to be an employee from 9 to 5, a wife one Saturday evening a month, an athlete each morning, and a parent at dinner. They strive to be their best, whole selves every moment of life. They hike a mountain with their children while taking photos for their photography business. They pursue their interests and hone their crafts, nourishing their full selves. They don’t wear masks. They are fully integrated and whole.
They are all working, learning, and playing together. Through this integration the children are passively provided the opportunity to grow in ways so commonly denied mainstream children shoved in the box of the American childhood.
Individual success is the driving force in modern society, and connection is perceived as valueless weakness. The problem is that humans do not thrive with an absence of meaningful, trust-based connection. Addiction and anxiety plague those who live on relational leftovers.
It’s no surprise to me that the people who are living lives of fulfillment are doing so in connection, as that is the human happiness and healthfulness common denominator. Lifestyle designers tend to prioritize connection as the foundation for happiness and fulfillment: connection with nature; connection with fellow humanity around the world or purposeful connection in their own neighborhoods; joy-filled and meaningful connection with their partners; and respectful and deep bonding with their children. They don’t invest in shiny things and external goals over the people that matter most. As my father once said, “I chose to invest in my people.” They are comfortably and securely connected with presence and gratitude.
The adults have a reverence for each other and their children that springs from a life of being planted in the enriching soil of togetherness. They genuinely like, respect, enjoy, and appreciate each other. This shouldn’t be radical, but, sadly, it is. It leaves a chicken or egg debate rolling around in my mind: which came first? Do families who really love each other fully choose these lives of integration or does a life of integration lead to loving relationships? I’m sure the answer lies in both. The parents are not desperate to escape the bonds and burdens of their relationships but celebrate the joy that springs from them. So often it is the stress of an unhappy life that gets in between relationships, not the people themselves, and when you strip away all the undesired bullshit, what remains is love.
A perceived lack of choice and autonomous power inherent on the mainstream path leaves so many feeling trapped in debt, unhealthy bodies and relationships, jobs, and educational institutions. Your time, your movement, and your direction don’t feel like your own. Disempowerment, shorter life spans, and a lack of fulfillment plague those who have surrendered their freedom to modern society.
Lifestyle designers tend to fully embrace their choice and power and live more fully in freedom. They learn from life, every step along the way of their journeys, rejecting the notion that knowledge is disseminated only through gatekeepers (homeschool (traditional public school is the assembly line for the path the family stepped away from) and a lifelong pursuit of growth). They earn what they need in ways that feel balanced and meaningful (entrepreneurs or employees with a keen sense of movement). They are not slaves to the endless pursuit of meaningless “more” (minimalists and intentional consumers of what they bring into their lives and put into their bodies). They value the uniqueness of their true selves. Their wings are not clipped. They feel free.
Lifestyle designers tend to parent consciously and with intention. Sage parents do their research to make informed choices and listen to their intuition; surrender to the natural child and the bond they share; treat their children as human beings deserving of respect, compassion, and freedom; and they are self-aware, always seeking growth (and deal with their own shit enough to not let it poison their child’s place in this world).
This isn’t a “bootstrapping” lecture. This isn’t a “make 6 figures in 6 months” gimmick. I want you to be empowered by the fact that you always have a choice. You may not always see it – you might presently be making it through inaction or unconscious, inherited priorities – but it is there. What if your happiness wasn’t under a pile of a million dollars or in the honeymoon suite after a royal wedding? What if it was right at your fingertips? I’m not suggesting that everyone can have the castle. I’m suggesting that perhaps your happiness isn’t in the castle. You don’t need to “have it all” to be “successful,” you just need to have what most nourishes your soul. To open your mind to this hidden choice, everytime you are about to say, “I can’t,” reframe it to, “I choose not to.” “Stop complaining about things you’re not willing to change.” In taking responsibility for your choices, you also gain peace around them. Own your choices, adjust your priorities, and step into your bliss.
I hope you are beginning to feel emboldened. It takes a maverick to step out of the strong, swift, pervasive mainstream current of traditional parenting based in control and premature independence. I promise you the sweet warmth of the sunshine outside that stream is worth every ounce of bravery and effort.