How Do You Want to Feel Today?

When we think of lifestyle design, our minds tend to jump to 4-hour workweeks, location independence somewhere in the Caribbean, and those clichéd shots of someone’s laptop on their legs as they sit on a beach as the rest of us wilt away in cube-land.

And I’m not saying that doesn’t sound hella lovely.

But it’s a bit misleading.

Because whether your goal is to jetset off to St. Lucia one day and never come back, or simply to stay put in your current location and love the heck out of every minute of your day, this image of lifestyle design is awfully limiting. It leaves a lot of people behind, and it leaves out a lot of what “lifestyle design” really, at root, means.

As the Year of Intentional Living decrees, lifestyle design is about creating a life that makes you happy. And that encompasses a lot more than just where you’d like to live or what job you’d rather be doing. A life is made up of days and moments. And if you’re not “designing” those days and moments just like you’re designing all the big-picture stuff, you’re not really creating your happiest life.

Let’s explore…

 

Lifestyle Design on the Micro Level

As I’ve been working on this month’s Quit, I’ve come to realize that the environment I live in — the environment that influences how nice or yucky my days are — consists of a lot more than just my physical surroundings.

How I feel throughout the day is, in part, affected by how neat and orderly the physical world around me is. Dish-piled sinks and dusty surfaces make my day feel off. But you know what else has the potential to my day feel off? The mental and emotional environments I set up for myself.

To whit:

If my ultimate goal is to design a day that gives me the optimal chance of being happy, useful, and creative, I can either:

 

Sleep in till 9:00 because I despise the alarm more than I despise the dishes

OR

Get up on time so I don’t feel rushed and harried and overbooked all day long
Stay in my PJs ad nauseam because no one but the husband will see me all day

OR

Shower and at least put on yoga pants and sweats so a) I feel more like a human, and b) I won’t have to hide my hideous self from spontaneous Skype calls
Wolf down… something… at my computer mid-afternoon to get a precious 20 mins. extra of work time

OR

Take a break to watch a show with the husband and enjoy something made of veggies and whole grains that will make the rest of the afternoon more energetic
Schedule every minute of my day silly in the hopes of being mega-productive

OR

Leave myself plenty of breathing space to either a) handle the inevitable interruptions that will come up, or b) once in a while enjoy a little something called “life.”

And so on.

Each of these choices sets up the rest of my day to be one of two things: stressed, icky, and poo-feeling or productive, peaceful, and enjoyable.

Each choice, in and of itself, could be made in a void. Technically, sleeping in feels freakin’ amazing at the time I decide to choose to ignore my alarm. (In fact, it feels like literally the only thing my body is capable of doing at that time why is the world so cruel aaaaaaah!) In that moment, with no other factors considered, sleeping in until my little body decides it’s had enough is the hands-down choice. But it has a lasting, nasty affect on how the rest of my day will go. Pretending every day is the weekend means I’ll have less time to work on my must-dos, no time to work on my like-to-dos, and I’ll spend the day feeling rushed and behind.

The “lifestyle designer” in me says, “Hell yeah no one tells you when to wake up!” The smart Cordelia in me says, “Actually, you tell you when to wake up, and you know full well how many hours you need to have a successful day.”

See how this works?

Just like I owe it to myself to create a physical environment that sets me up for happiness, I owe it to myself to create a day that sets me up for happiness. And that means making smart choices that, sometimes, feel a little intrusive to my immediate small-child happiness but will make long-term me-in-reality happier.

 

It’s Up to You

Just like no moment is a throwaway, no decision is a throwaway. You know what you need to create a day in which you’ll be happy, relaxed, awesome-feeling and productive. And you know what you can do to create a day I which you’ll be the opposite of those.

The choice is yours, my friends.

How do YOU want to feel today?

 

Image:  Alexandra Bellink

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  • Love this, Kelly! It’s all about choices, isn’t it?

    Something simple but powerful happened to me today in the same guise.

    I made a decision a few weeks ago to cut out eating crap (the usual – sugars, bad carbs, etc) and today I craved chocolate. On impulse, I made plans to go and buy some, then felt guilty for wanting it, and then felt like I was sacrificing when I decided it wasn’t a good idea.

    And then it struck me – it isn’t a sacrifice, it’s making the smarter choice. The little things I do today will make me feel happier, and hence live the life I designed.

    – Razwana

  • Kelli

    Ah, the age-old dilema of Instant Gratification over Delayed Gratification. This post reminded me of the TED talk by Daniel Goldstein titled ‘The Battle Between Your Present and Future Self’. The trick, as you pointed out, is making the commitment to follow through with the more difficult choice in the moment (like getting up early) to reap the rewards of that effort later on.

    • I am so bookmarking that talk to view later. 🙂

  • Monique Muro

    I agree, lifestyle design is rarely kicking your feet up at a beach with a laptop. (I don’t think I’d ever want to have my laptop in front of me at the beach cause…the beach!). It’s funny though because when you think of lifestyle design you always think these grand thoughts, and you never really consider each moment in your life that contributes to this grand, lifestyle design. Great post, I’m a new reader and love your message!

    • Welcome! Make yourself at home! 🙂

  • I’m making the decision (yep – every day!) to live healthier, too.
    More veggies, fruit, whole grains, green, real fats… No pop, very little added sugar or salt, no anti-nutrients or GMO if I can help it… (That last is more difficult, though, because they’re still mostly hidden.)

    And – I just discovered the concept of “thoughtmares” yesterday (don’t remember where – dang it!) – as a way to get at my tendency to overthink myself into a tangle. I can calm my brain by reminding it that “thoughts aren’t real” – they may have a message, just like dreams, but they won’t kill me! 😉

    And training myself to get up *before the alarm* – because nuthin’ is more start-the-day-bad than that raucous noise!

    • If you’re all about better eating, stay put for one of the upcoming months’ Quits!

      I love that “thoughtmares” concept. I am a firm believer in the idea that you are not your thoughts (or your emotions); they are things that happen to you, and you don’t have to judge yourself or base your life around them. In fact, it’s an upcoming post later this month.

      You’re just all sorts of ahead of the ball. 😀

  • Shanna Mann

    I love this! I call them *katas*, these small decision that you make right, for yourself, in the moment. It doesn’t matter if you did them well or poorly yesterday. You have to do them again today, and every day is a new opportunity to do them well.

    • Just looked up the Wiki for “katas” — small, choreographed patterns of movement. Love it! I think I’ve just added a new term to the Quitterly dictionary. (Or, rather, you have!)

      • I like that term, too, Shanna – “kata” instead of “routine” or even “ritual” – for all the little set-pieces that collectively make up big chunks of a typical day – making coffee; getting dressed; the drive to work…

        So, Cordelia – where can we find this “Quitterly Dictionary”?? 😉

        • Currently, in my panda-hatted mind. 😛 Some day, some day…

    • I love calling them katas. It makes the small rituals and regular actions I perform throughout the day seem special somehow, almost sacred. Like they are The Things I Choose To Do instead of the minutiae I force myself through on a daily basis. It’s nobler, somehow, and that shoos away some of the resistance 🙂

  • Maggie Prater

    Great points! I will try to remember this in the morning when my alarm is cheerfully telling me to get up and meditate before starting my day. It’s easier to hit snooze….but I will try to keep your advice in mind and think about how much greater my entire day will be just because of that one decision. I think I can! Thank you!