4 min read

I Underestimated Lifestyle Design

I Underestimated Lifestyle Design
Photo by Domenico Loia / Unsplash

And it's all Instagram's fault.

See, I've been on Instagram for a while (this is my account), and I'm familiar with the term "lifestyle influencer". And I've seen lifestyle blogs. These are random people posting about their daily life, showing off their way of living – and often faking it because their life isn't that interesting at all. And honestly I don't care about a random strangers' morning matcha ritual, so I avoided all of that like the plague.

Then I heard the term "lifestyle design" and I automatically thought it wasn't something to pay attention to because it was in the same category of superficial, useless stuff.

Spoiler alert: it is not.

What is lifestyle design?

It's the action of designing your life in a way that is aligned with your nature, your values, your strengths, dreams, passions, and purpose. Word is the term became more popular after Tim Ferris wrote the book The 4-Hour Workweek, although a quick search on Google Trends doesn't corroborate that hypothesis.

Lifestyle design - interest over time

Lifestyle design, in essence, is figuring out what you like to do and how much of it you want to do. It means approaching life in a more intentional and mindful way, trying to optimise for the right things.

That requires knowing what you want.

And once you have that figured out, you can start designing your life around your goals and cutting off what doesn't make you happy.

There are a couple of things to be aware of when trying to design your lifestyle, and I'm going to mention them next.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is what pushes you to do something because it is inherently interesting and/or enjoyable. Extrinsic motivation instead is what pushes you to do do something because it leads to a positive outcome – you care about the outcome, not the action.

That novel you are reading because it's a captivating story? That's intrinsic motivation. You read it for the sake of reading it. Do you enjoy sailing, slowly cruising around and having fun with your friends on the weekend? Do you like to spend weekends on the slopes, skiing or snowboarding? These are all examples of extrinsic motivation.

Training to win a race is an example of extrinsic motivation, so is reading a book purely to improve your career or investment skills. You do it for the expected outcome, not because you enjoy doing it.

Your 9-to-5 job? For most people that is an example of extrinsic motivation at play. You do it for the money, not because it's fun.

Things can shift too: sometimes we start doing something while driven by intrinsic motivation, then we get good at it and it becomes a job. Now extrinsic motivation can become the driving factor – and you might end up unhappy, questioning why you now dread the same thing you once loved. I experienced this first hand.

Extrinsic motivation is useful, but sometimes dangerous.

How much is too much?

One (but not the only) reason people start hating their hobby when it becomes a job has to do with the concept of dose-response relationship.

From wikipedia:

The dose–response relationship, or exposure–response relationship, describes the magnitude of the response of an organism, as a function of exposure (or doses) to a stimulus or stressor (usually a chemical) after a certain exposure time.

When you take a medicine there is always a recommended strength and dosage. Take too little of it and you get no effect, take too much and the same thing that can cure you now becomes harmful to your system. You need the right amount to experience the positive effects.

The same is true for the things you like.

When you spend too much time doing something you like, it becomes less enjoyable – and this is even more true if then you continue to do it ad infinitum because your motivation has shifted from intrinsic to extrinsic factors.

It is akin to the law of diminishing returns: the amount of joy you get from something starts decreasing after a point. What you once loved can even become detrimental to your happiness.

The law of Diminishing Returns - too much becomes detrimental

Working as a programmer gives much less satisfaction than tinkering with things for "fun" (if you like programming). The usual 9-5 grind can destroy your passion and productivity.

Live an intentional life

The takeaway? You should sit down and figure out what you like doing, and how much time you want to spend doing it every day/week/month/year.

Then you should design your life around that.

And try to look at intrinsic motivation first.

That's what lifestyle design is about.

If you do that, you might discover that maybe you do not need that high paying job. Maybe what you need is more time to dedicate to something else. Maybe you should move to a different neighbour. Maybe you should move to Europe.

Or maybe that high paying job is exactly the right thing for you right now – because yes, things change over time and you should repeat this design process about every year.

For me, stopping and taking time to think about what I do and why, and what I like and how much of it I want to do, turned out to be an interesting process. It gave me a different perspective on the activities I'm involved in.

All it took was an hour of solitude reflecting on myself.

You should try it.

It's great.