Everyone is searching or at least hoping for a great lifestyle, but what is a great life and where did we get the idea from?
The Perfect Lifestyle Design
If your idea of a perfect life is living on a private island with naked models rubbing coconut oil on your… body, while your outsourced staff handle all your work leaving you to manage those naked models, then we have the same dream. I mean, perhaps you have set your expectations a little high and you are bound for a lot of disappointment regardless of how much you accomplish in life.
The Perfect Spouse
In an advertising dominated world of impossibly beautiful celebrities, read that as Photoshopped, it is easy to set completely unrealistic expectations for what we expect from life. If you are waiting for a spouse that is always happy, never complains, loves to go for long walks, listens to all of your problems and licks you all over, you may want to consider a companion of the canine persuasion. Ruff!
The Perfect Career
The same is true of a career. If you demand a high salary for easy work with lots of vacations allowing you to work from home doing fun creative things all the time, it might be a good idea to brace for a long bout of unemployment. Allan Bacon of Avocationist offers a good related article called The Myth of the Perfect Job. In the post he compares a friend’s high expectations, “Top 10 list of requirements for any prospective girlfriend” to that of looking for the perfect job. If you are not happy being unemployed and single, it might be beneficial to be a little more accommodating in what you demand from life.
Is a Perfect Life a Fairy Tale Story?
Carlos Miceli of OwlSparks inspired this article with the following quote from Kurt Vonnegut.
“People have been hearing fantastic stories since time began. The problem is, they think life is supposed to be like the stories.”
Carlos’ blog post also links to a longer article by Derek Sivers that provides some more background for that quote. It is a great read but don’t go away until you have subscribed to my newsletter.
Good! You are still reading.
Sivers’ article is about a presentation by Vonnegut in New York City. Vonnegut explains that stories are dramatic; they have have big downs, followed by big ups leaving the heroin better for the experience. Stories have to be exciting or no one would care. The problem is that real life is not a novel or Hollywood movie.
We watch movies about finding the perfect love or the lifestyles of the rich and famous and we think that is what we are entitled to. It is the American Way! When reality doesn’t turn out so glamorous we dump our spouse, job or business and try again. Real life is not quite that exciting. I don’t care what color your underwear is, you are not superman.
My Life is Exactly Like Cinderella, Only Different
Reality is more like getting up in the morning, going to work, coming home, spending time with family and then doing it again the next day. Even if you own your own business doing work you love, it is still a relatively flat existence compared to the emotional roller coaster of a good story.
Here is another Vonnegut quote from that Sivers’ article;
“But because we grew up surrounded by big dramatic story arcs in books and movies, we think our lives are supposed to be filled with huge ups and downs! So people pretend there is drama where there is none.”
We spend our lives jumping from one story to the next. Perhaps we wanted to be a rock star, then maybe we wanted the Snow White love story, after that we jumped to Tim Ferriss’ idea of the Four Hour Workweek. (Corbett Barr has a great article called, The 4-Hour Workweek is Full of Hype, But That’s Not the Point. Okay, go and read the article but come back quick.)
Chasing impossibly perfect goals only sets us up for disappointment. Life is not a car chase in an expensive automobile with a beautiful model that worships you. Reality has us taking out the garbage, trimming our toe nails and going to the doctor to get that rash checked out; not exactly the script for the next Hollywood block buster.
I am a huge fan of lifestyle design. We owe it to ourselves and the world to create challenging and rewarding lives for ourselves. However, I think it is more important to focus on the journey and take satisfaction in the daily work on our life paths. Goals are great to accomplish, but that satisfaction is momentary and fleeting. Real happiness comes from the striving, not the attaining. Don’t wait until you have the perfect lifestyle design, to enjoy your life. Find meaning in the process, search for the satisfaction in everything you do and find the good in the people around you. You might actually discover that you already have the perfect lifestyle design.
What is the perfect lifestyle design to you? And better yet, is it what you really want for yourself, or are you just following someone else’s story line?