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Is your career supporting your lifestyle or vice versa?

US-based coach Steve Schlafman recently posted on Twitter:


"I run a pretty f__king awesome one person lifestyle business. No shame in that. Enough income to support my family. Tons of balance. Low stress."

With his tweet, Steve linked a post in which he shares 13 highly useful tips on building a solo lifestyle business (make sure you check this out if you're venturing on the solopreneur path).


The basic idea of a lifestyle business is this: Make the lifestyle you truly desire to live the starting point. Then, build a business that optimally supports this lifestyle. Lifestyle comes first. Business is a means to an end. This doesn't mean that business can't be an important element of your life. But business forms part of a holistic view and is in service of how you want to live your life.


This idea strongly resonates with me. Building and running a lifestyle business is what I've been doing for the past eight years - without consciously being aware of the specific term. But I know that starting your own business isn't for everyone. There are many good reasons for people to remain in a salaried position. This made me wonder: Can the same thinking be applied by people who work for a company? Instead of building a lifestyle business, can you create a lifestyle career?


Pursuing a lifestyle career

Like a lifestyle business, a lifestyle career means putting your desired lifestyle first and then pursuing work and career opportunities that align with how you want to live your life. At first, this may sound trivial. But think about it. In reality, it's often the other way around. People follow pre-defined career paths and pursue related job opportunities, which, over time, shape their lifestyles. A series of promotions and a bigger paycheck have you eating out at fancy restaurants. And why not? You can afford it, and I'm sure you deserve it. You drive a certain brand and type of car because that's what people in your position do. You visit holiday destinations and stay at resorts recommended by your colleagues and peers. That's how, over time, you adopt a career lifestyle.


Why does it often play out this way? My guess is that many people haven't given much thought to what kind of lifestyle they truly want to live in the first place. There are so many expectations from family, friends and society at large that, although in many western countries, we have a lot of freedom in choosing how we want to live our lives, it's often easier to hop on a career and let lifestyle be the outcome rather than the starting point.


Here's why this can be problematic. If we let our career shape our lifestyle, it probably won't be aligned with our personal values. Instead, our lifestyle is aligned with other people's interests. That's an issue because living in line with our personal values is crucial to experience a sense of purpose and fulfilment in life. And that's what most people I know ultimately aspire to.


Moving from career lifestyle to lifestyle career

What are the steps to transition from a career lifestyle to a lifestyle career? It starts with reflecting on the way you live and becoming aware of the degree to which your lifestyle is shaped by your career - there's a good chance you're finding yourself somewhere in between a career lifestyle and a lifestyle career.


In the next step, you create an inventory of your personal values. What's really important to you in life? If you think you have found an answer, ask yourself, "Why is this important to me?" a few times in a row. Often, you will find your values buried under a layer of superficial wants and desires. You can do this exercise by simply sitting down with a piece of paper and a pencil. There are also online tools available to take you through a structured process if you prefer a more guided approach. Personalvalu.es is an example you can use for free.


Once you have gained more clarity on your personal values, ask yourself what they mean for your lifestyle. It's helpful to be as specific as possible in describing a lifestyle that directly reflects your values. Next, compare your authentic, values-based lifestyle with your current life. Where do you spot deviations?


When you have identified the gaps, you can start developing ideas and strategies that help to close them. You may find a way to reshape your current job, so it's starting to better support your desired lifestyle. Or maybe you first need to let go of some aspects of your current life that snuck in because of the career you chose but aren't part of the lifestyle you aspire to. It's also possible that you decide a different role or job is better suited to let you live your target lifestyle.


Finally, you turn your ideas into action and start building your lifestyle career. This will likely be a gradual process. Often, over time, seemingly small steps will help you transform your career lifestyle into a lifestyle career.

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