It's almost the Easter Bank Holiday Weekend! Yipee! Finally a moment to take a break, sleep in late or if you are very virtuous, get up early for that jog around the park you've been promising to do for the last few weeks.
All of that is all well and good but for me, a bank holiday weekend is the ideal time to indulge in one of my guilty pleasures. Like a child before Christmas Day, I excitedly wait for Saturday to arrive. I jump in the car, I head eastward down the A13. I drive for about 30 minutes, navigate a rather perplexing system of roundabouts and voila! There it is - a massive blue and yellow playground for grown-ups. 100's of square footage of sofas, tables, lamps, desks, bedroom cabinets, carpets, plants, glassware, odd and interesting gadgets that you didn't know existed but now you've found them, it is suddenly impossible to imagine another moment of your life without them.
Yes, you've guessed it. I am at that well known home design store or should I say oasis. Now, I know this is not everyone's idea of a treat but for me wondering around the vast showroom floors, trying out sofas, chairs and the fabric hall is a slice of home design heaven. But the best thing about this place, are the mock rooms they set up so you can get ideas of how to arrange their furniture in your home - genius. After all, anyone can show you a sofa, but if you show it in a room with matching accessories, the right carpet, nice lighting and a cute little cactus in the corner - well, that's what I call marketing!
So on my last trip, whilst I was comtemplating a rather gorgeous coffee table (white, glass top, display compartments underneath) that a thought occurred to me.
Why, on leaving university or even school are we not offered the same kind of life design options? This TED video on redesigning your life gave me a great start in thinking about how I could redesign my life.
So think back when you left school, what options were presented to you? Was it more study, A levels, degree or career path? On leaving University was it internships, apprenticeships or graduate programmes? When I left school, I wasn't offered much in the way of advice or options. My 'career counsellor' was the mechanics teacher who had been drafted in at the last minute to do the 'career talk' and he was clearly none too enthused by the task before him.
To be honest, looking back I can't blame him. We were extremely rowdy with the kind of attitude problems that only 15/16 years olds bored to tears after 5 years of secondary school can display. We had no idea of what awaited us in the 'real world'. School had not prepared us for life outside the school gate. Pythagorus theorem is quite lovely, I suppose, if you are going to be a maths major at some university. But quite frankly, I would have appreciated some advice on how to open a bank account, avoid credit card debt and a 5 minute briefing on how to navigate the London Underground. You know - useful information. Hopefully, things are better now for school leavers.
Career advice is, of course, useful but wouldn't it be great if on leaving school or university instead of asking what career are you interested in, we were encouraged to ask ourselves what kind of life do I want to live? What do you want your life to look like? What are the things you want in it? And 'things', I don't mean stuff like a car, house, holidays etc. No, I mean real things, like flexibility, freedom, autonomy, empowerment, even joy or the ability to wake up every day loving what we do.
I've realised that a career might be able to take care of physical things but it does not necessarily deliver the real things in life that matter. Indeed, if your career path takes you high up the organisational ladder you may have the nice car, house, holidays or even a healthy amount of money etc but have very little freedom, flexibility, autonomy or empowerment. And what about having happiness and joy - is that just something for the fortunate few?
I'd like to suggest that we need to rethink the options were given when on leaving school or university. That we are doing life wrong and we should redesign the concepts of career, work, retirement basically redesign life itself. Ideally, we should start as early as possible. We need to include the idea of life design at school so we can begin to rethink all the old norms and lifepath expectations e.g study, work, marry, mortgage, retire. But is is never too late to start a redesign.
So here are a few of my thoughts on life design:
Yes, absolutely. I am a huge believer in education but I question whether it always needs to be formal education. Or rather maybe our education system should include some more real life applications. Learning about the rice fields in India was vaguely interesting but I can't honestly say I've ever needed that knowledge in the 30+ years since I left school. I have studied at school, college, university and post-graduate level and these were all helpful to some measure. But I think you need to go further and read good books which can help develop strong mental skills and teach you how to think. Here's a few I found useful that helped me in my attempt to redesign my life - the slight edge, miracle morning, think and grow rich.
You should love what you do. Don't choose a career just because of its high salary potential. Eventually, no matter how high the salary is, if you don't love it, you will struggle to get out of bed every morning. Don't choose a career just because it's what your parents think you should do (with the greatest respect to them, it's not their life, it's yours and it is you who will be depressed when your stuck in an uninspiring career). Someone recently said, that at the end of the day when your head touches the pillow, you should be able to look back on the day and feel a sense of pride and satisfaction with how you've spent your time - I think that's a pretty good yardstick.
On this subject I would not dare to give any advice. Whether you marry or not it is completely up to you. But ok, two quick things - for your own sanity's sake make sure you marry someone intelligent and cheerful. Intelligent because life is too short and precious to spend it with a dull and boring person. Cheerful because life is too hard to spend it with a miserable or negative person.
Perhaps I'm being controversial here but is a mortgage necessary? Don't get me wrong, I believe in home ownership but I don't think we should spend our lives enslaved to a job (that we may not necessarily love) just to pay a mortgage. Isn't life just too precious and isn't your life too important for that? I don't know about you but I'd rather have a life than have a mortgage. There I said it!
My question is why? Why do I have to retire at some pre-ordained age? No-one asked me when I wanted to retire. No-one has even asked me 'if' I want to retire - and the answer is no, I don't want to retire. Not in the traditional sense. Sure I want to give up the 9 to 5 - absolutely - as soon as possible. But should that mean my life as a productive member of society is over? No, it should not and it does not.
However, I want to pose a bigger question - do I want to work until retirement age? Absolutely not. In my life redesign, I will not be working in the traditional economy until I reach retirement age. I want to retire from the traditional 9 to 5 economy but I want to continue working. On my terms, when, where and how I want.
I'm working on my exit strategy now. As I said, I a huge believer in education, so I have decided to reskill. Learn some new skills and equip myself with tools which will enable me to operate successfully in the economy of the future. The digital economy. The robots and AI are coming! Hallelujah! I say let's embrace the future rather than be afraid of it.
So what did I do to begin to resdesign my life? First, I stopped all my busyness and thought about what I really wanted from life. I wrote it down and then I thought about what small steps I could take to start to implement my life redesign. For example, to enjoy this new redesigned life, I need to be healthier so I have started to take regular walks. Small steps? Maybe, baby steps but at least it's a few steps closer to my goal than I would otherwise have been if I had stayed on my old path.
I thought about what kind of work I wanted to do. I didn't know at first exactly what I wanted to do but I knew what I didn't want to do. I didn't want to do cold calling or anything that involved hard selling or anything ethically suspect. I also didn't want to do it alone. I needed a business mentor, someone who had done it before and suceeded. Someone I could learn from.
There's a saying that 'chance favours the prepared mind'. I think it's true because once I had a clear idea of my redesigned life, the elements began to appear. I came across a video on YouTube which told me about a group of mentors - the Six Figure Mentors - who were willing to train others to do what they had done and build a successful online business. It wasn't a get rich quick scheme but a real opportunity to build my own dreams instead of someone else's.
All the elements I was looking for were there. 1) Freedom and flexibility - I could do this from anywhere all I needed was a laptop and an internet connection. 2) Positive values that were aligned with my personal values as I would also be helping people to redesign their lives as well. 3) Support and mentorship - they have a wonderful community of like-minded people from all backgrounds who had succeeded in building online businesses and where willing to share that knowledge with me. I didn't hesitate, I immediately choose to invest in myself and become a student so I could empower myself to redesign my life.
So I don't know what your vision of a redesigned life would include but no matter where you are on the traditional life plan, if you want to escape the 9 to 5, if working another 10, 20 etc years until retirement in the traditional economy doesn't appeal, or if you simply want more time and space to live life on your terms, I would encourage you to check them out now. It's not for everyone but it's definitely a life design option you should at least look into - go on walk in, try out the empowerment sofas, the bed of flexibility, or the chair of freedom and after a while you never know, you might discover a cute little cactus of joy in the corner.
What would your redesigned life look like. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.