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A Concise Guide to Getting What You Want Out Of Life

Posted by on Aug 12, 2011 | 5 Comments

A few days ago, I went on a long trail run through the mountains of Colorado with Jesse Scott.  I like the runs with Jesse as they are always thought-provoking.  In this particular case, we were lamenting on where we were one year ago.  As we marveled at the natural beauty surrounding us, we began discussing how we got to this very moment.

A year ago Jesse was a college student just beginning to make serious in-roads to elite ultrarunning.  I was a high school history teacher with a serious case of burn-out.  Our path from those beginnings to our current location was… well, pretty simple.

Both of us decided to make a change, then set out to implement those changes.It really was that simple.  Jesse spent the summer training in the mountains of Colorado while doing an internship, and Shelly and I quit our jobs to become nomadic running bums.

I can’t speak for Jesse, but this is the process Shelly and I used to get to the point we’re at right now.

1. Decide what you truly value.  For us, it was running, travel, helping others, and spending time with our kids.  The order of those four change, but all three were important to us.  To figure this out, ask yourself what makes you happy.  Be honest… society has a tendency to put answers in our mouths.

2. Figure out what is trapping you in your current situation.  For us, it was a fear of the unknown and a misguided sense of priorities.  We had been following the “work to accumulate material goods while saving for retirement” lifestyle.  Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week helped change our perspective and realize we weren’t living a life either of us wanted.  For others, that “trap” could be a sense of duty to extended family, loyalty to a job, or a significant other that doesn’t share your outlook on life.

3.  Figure out what is required for your “dream” life.  With three kids and our niece joining us, we calculated what we would need and how much it would cost.  We then spent several months eliminating everything we didn’t need.  The funny thing- the more we eliminated, the more we realized we needed even less.  Even now after a month on the road, we’ve realized we need even less than we brought.  As far as money, we also realized we needed far less than we would have expected.  We quit fairly lucrative, secure teaching jobs.  That was only possible after we came to the realization that we needed far less material goods than what we originally thought.  Many people try to gain financial independence by making more money.  That’s a fool’s folly- you’ll always spend more as income increases.  The true secret isn’t to make more money; the secret is to make due with less.  It’s easy to make enough money to fund our current adventures.  Finding the inherent joy in simplified living is powerful.  Want freedom?  Simplify.

4. Deliver the goods.  This is the most difficult part- actually putting the plan in motion.  For us, starting the plan was easy.  Actually leaving our apartment and hitting the road was difficult.  We had set an absolute date several months before we left.  We pushed the trip back 18 days so I could make a tip to Germany.  In retrospect, I wish we would have kept our original date and worked around the Germany trip.  Delaying for whatever reason is very easy to do.  The timing never feels right.  You can always convince yourself that waiting will be advantageous.  My best advice- just do it.  Take the plunge.  If you’re not ready, you’ll adapt.  You may think you’re being prudent.  You’re not.  You’re just being a pussy.

That’s it.  That’s all it takes.  It’s far easier than most people imagine.

When I first started writing about my family’s plans, I was worried we’d be labeled as crazy hippies.  It wasn’t enough to stop me.  After all, I’ve had that label for years from running barefoot.

Much to my surprise, I’m finding A LOT of others that have done something similar.  Some may have been inspired by us, but most were probably doing their own thing anyway, then found us via our blogs.  Birds of a feather…

What do you think?  Do you have elements of your life you’d like to change?  What’s keeping you from making those changes?


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  1. Kim
    August 15, 2011

    Thanks for sharing this part of your story. I love hearing about how others make these kinds of changes — what was easy, what was hard, and how it worked.

    It felt good to hear how not only did you think about values and your “dream” life, but that you also sat down and went over the numbers of what you’d ACTUALLY need, and what it ACTUALLY cost. Being practical seems often overlooked in the “follow your bliss” advice.

  2. Rob
    August 15, 2011

    In our own way, my wife (another ultra runner like me) and I are “living the dream.” We made the decision long ago (over 12 years) that we wanted to enjoy life NOW and not wait like a lot of folks do for some mythical cay called RETIREMENT. To that end we decided to not have children and to not worry about tomorrow overly much. We save up our money and travel and do all kinds of races around the world now because you never know what tomorrow will hold. Sure I may have to keep working until I die and may never know what RETIREMENT is, but we don’t care. We’re enjoying the ride now while we are able to enjoy it! Carpe Diem!

  3. .:Ash:.
    August 12, 2011

    Well, since you asked, I’d say the main thing keeping me from making “those changes” is that I’m not certain what I want out of life. Thinking in terms of a life plan scares me a little, makes me want to browse for shoes on RunningWarehouse, or something. I love my family. I want what’s best for my family. I’d love doing what you’re doing. But, I don’t know if that’s what is best for my family. So, I dunno.

    That and the economy. Blame the economy, too. 😉

  4. Jesse
    August 12, 2011

    Right on! I hadn’t followed your blog for awhile only to come back and find that you’re living the dream…good on ya!

    I am in fact doing something similar, though my dream requires a couple of years worth of education before I can set off. I’ve left IT after nearly a decade in that world and am going for a B.S. in Exercise Science. Combine that with my B.A. in Anthropology that I thought I’d never use and I’m heading in the direction of movement coaching, wellness coaching…or some other as yet unnamed consulting-hood that looks at how we as the human species were meant to move through our surroundings and make the most of what’s there.

    In the meantime I think that having already Simplified most of my life means that when it comes time to repay the student loans that I see in my future, I’ll be able to do so rather quickly, as my living expenses are a fraction of most.

    I’ll just be re-adding you to my RSS feed and look forward to more posts like this…right on topic!


  5. The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy
    August 12, 2011

    I don’t know that I’m going to become a gypsy like yourself, but I am starting to develop a speaking and coaching gig here in Minnesota. Stay off my turf! *wink*

    Don’t know if it will go anywhere, but hey…it’s fun and it’s worth a try.