by Niall Doherty

So it occurs to me that I’m well familiar with the concept of lifestyle design and I’m getting increasingly connected with the LD community online, but not many of my real-life friends actually know what the hell lifestyle design is all about. So this one’s for you guys.


The term lifestyle design was coined by Tim Ferriss in his bestselling 2007 book, The 4 Hour Workweek. Tim was describing the process of figuring out what you want your life to be like, and then actually going out and making it happen. So if, for example, you want to quit your soul-sucking 9-to-5 job, start a small business where you get paid to do work you’re passionate about, all while traveling the world, the advice in Tim’s book would help you do that.

Ferriss wasn’t the first guy to start living life on his own terms, but he deserves a lot of credit for opening people’s minds and showing them the possibilities. And for giving the movement a name.

What’s in it for me?

(And by me, I mean me, not you. But you’ll probably figure out what’s in it for you as I tell you what’s in it for me.)

So, what appeals to me about lifestyle design? In a word: freedom.

The 4 Hour Work Week helped me realize just how brainwashed I had been by modern society, where the priority is always work-work-work and spend-spend-spend. I was spending most of my time as an easily-replaceable cog in the machine, following orders, collecting my paycheck, waiting for the weekend. And I’m still doing that as I write this, but I’m awake at the wheel now, and I’ve set a new destination. I’ve decided to live on purpose, rather than accept the traditional lifestyle that most folks so easily fall into.

What is the traditional lifestyle?

It’s trading time for money instead of value for money. It’s having to ask permission to take a day off work. It’s someone else deciding what projects you do all day. It’s spending the healthiest years of your life in a cubicle, waiting until you’re old and retired to regain full control of your schedule. It’s buying lots of crap you don’t need in the name of entertainment, to compensate for the dullness of your day job. It’s spending eight hours in the office on a Tuesday, despite getting all your work done in the first two. It’s the long wait for Friday, starting on Monday. It’s pumping out work that countless other people could do, rather than expressing the unique art inside of you.

That lifestyle is no longer for me. I’ve decided to choose freedom instead, which is why I’m quitting my day job in November and moving back to Ireland to start my own location independent business.

Reality check

But of course such freedom comes with a sobering dose of responsibility. If you want to break free of the 9-to-5 and design your own life, you better get yourself some self-discipline and some big cojones, because I don’t believe it to be easy. For one thing, there’ll be no regular paycheck every week. For another, you have to make all the big decisions, take all the big risks. Oh, and if you get lazy and decide to spend all day on Facebook and Youtube, it’s not some big faceless corporation that loses a smidge of productivity; it’s you that might be living on nothing but noodles for the next week.

Is lifestyle design for you?

Lifestyle design is for everybody, but it might not be for you right now. I wasn’t anywhere near ready to embark on this journey two years ago, but I believe I am now. I believe I can make a living doing what I’m passionate about, and I’m willing to work hard and smart to make it happen. I know I can make the necessary sacrifices to achieve my goals, and I’m able to surround myself with a supportive group of people who will help and inspire me along the way. I know all this because I’ve set and worked towards lots of goals over the past few years, and I’ve learned what it takes to reach them.

Lifestyle design isn’t yet for you if you fear embarrassment or failure. It’s not yet for you if you fear change. It’s not yet for you if you’re unsure of your passions. It’s not yet for you if you care more about the destination than the journey. It’s not yet for you if you spend all day on Facebook. It’s not yet for you if you’re opposed to hard work and sacrifice.

Lifestyle design is for everyone who feels frustrated and trapped and knows there must be more to life than pushing buttons all day and collecting a check. There is more. You’ve just been led to believe that this is the right thing to do because the vast majority does it, too. But you don’t have to. You can choose different. You can design your own life.

There are no excuses. Lots of other people are already doing this. People with families, people young, people old, people rich, people poor, people in debt, people with much less intelligence and resources than you. It’s very possible. All it takes is hard work and discipline. Being honest and wanting to help people doesn’t hurt either.

What do I know?

Who am I to fill your head with all this stuff? I haven’t even done anything yet. I’m still here working 9-to-5. For all I know, the real world of entrepreneurship and location independence might be too much for me to handle. But hey, I don’t identify with where I am or where I’ve been. I identify with where I’m going. I know what I want, and I have a good idea of what it will take for me to get it.

I often look ahead several years from now, try to visualize what my life will be like. And I know that if I don’t take the plunge, I’ll still be in a cubicle in 2020, still pushing buttons and collecting a paycheck, missing out on so much of what life has to offer. And there’s no way I can let that happen. That’s the worst-case scenario for me. My own business might fail and I might end up in the gutter, but that wouldn’t be as bad. With that scenario, at least I’d have given it my best shot, chased my dream with everything I had. That’s far more acceptable to me than living life on the default setting.

Just think

I don’t expect you to quit your job tomorrow. I read the 4HWW two years ago, and it was only recently that I decided to take the plunge. I’m not trying to convince you to drop everything and embrace a life of change and uncertainty. But I would like you to start thinking about it, start considering the possibilities, start dreaming of how things could be, start looking around for opportunities, start believing that you could break free if you really wanted to.

An increasing amount of people are doing it. You can too.


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