Patty and me quit Microsoft to homeschool Trevor. At the age of five, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We decided that Trevor would require more support than his public school. He was in public school for nine years, and I was his science and math teacher for two more. After my time homeschooling, I began to concentrate on writing and consulting. Later, Patty and me started a publishing company. Since then, I have been frequently asked if “retired” and I still answer the question. I initially answered “no” because I believe that retired people spend most of their time playing bridge or on the golf course. However, I realized that I needed to be more specific about what I do as my profession. It is not something you can choose to do on the 9-to-5 grind or on the golf course. It’s what I call sustained living.
What is a sustained lifestyle? Let’s start with the definition. Then we’ll break it down.
A sustained lifestyle is one that has a high level of achievement and low levels of stress. It’s something you can maintain for a long period of time.
Let’s start with achievement. It’s about doing something meaningful that achieves a desired outcome which brings you joy. This could include delivering a project on-time, helping others in need, and coaching less experienced professionals. It’s about achieving something that is important to you and seeing the results of your work.
Next comes stress. Stress is defined as the amount of mental, emotional or physical strain required to achieve the desired outcome. It is more difficult to deliver a project on schedule when there are high-pressure executive meetings and project team infighting. Also, dealing with unreasonable customers and cooperative execs can be more challenging than working with project team members and customers. Although the project was completed, execution was like pedaling uphill at tenth gear.
One of the four outcomes is achieved when achievement and stress are combined within the context of a lifestyle:
High stress and low achievement can lead to a frustration lifestyle. You can think of burning your midnight oil on projects that are never completed or cancelled.
Boredom is caused by low levels of achievement and low stress. Imagine getting up in the morning and having nothing to do.
High levels of stress and high achievement can lead to a burnout lifestyle. Consider successive strategic projects that have demanding customers and dysfunctional teams, as well as irrational management.
Low stress and high achievement are the keys to a healthy lifestyle. Consider volunteering on your own terms for a cause that you are passionate about.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe a healthy lifestyle is the best way to avoid stress. There are certain things that can cause stress in your life. A sustained lifestyle allows you to manage unexpected stress better than if you had it all.
These are eight ways to live a satisfying and enjoyable life.
- Find your vocation Creating a sustainable lifestyle requires you to have a plan for the future that you follow after you leave your job. You could use the plan to find your sustainable lifestyle vocation, or, if that’s what you are already passionate about, to figure out how to make it a reality. To get excited about giving life to it, you can paint a picture of it in your mind.
- Clear your decision criteria Having a clear vision of your lifestyle is key. Do you need a steady income? Is it important to have a steady income? Do you value the ability to say no? There are no right or wrong answers to the criteria. However, it is important to be clear about how you define them. This Excel-based assessment tool can help you to think about your criteria by using nine key contentment elements.
- Make every day purposeful – Each weekday has a theme that highlights a different aspect of my vocation. Monday is Amazon book ads day. Tuesday is article writing day. Yes, this article is being written on Tuesday. Wednesday is mentoring day. Although I might change things based on my schedules, I know exactly what my core activities are for each day.
- You and your partner Patty and I agree on the guiding principles for our sustainable lifestyle. The most important is the freedom to do whatever we want, wherever we want. We love to travel and often take winter trips to warmer climates. I am able to write no matter where I’m located. We can keep publishing books. To have a happy and sustained lifestyle, it is essential to reach an agreement with your partner/spouse about what is most important to you.
- Set at least one goal. After my father-in law sold his locksmith business, he pursued other hobbies that kept him learning, including photography. Setting goals will not only keep you motivated but it also helps to feel accomplished.
- Take responsibility – I’m a member of a men’s business group that meets twice per month. We all want to lose some weight so we decided that we would share our current weights before every meeting. It’s amazing to see how much I pay attention to what I eat because I don’t want to make poor progress public to my coworkers. Being accountable to another person helps you stay focused on your goal and pushes you to reach it.
- Be aware of what stress you out Keeping achievement and stress at bay means being open with yourself and setting up things to reduce stress. Keep your stress levels under control by knowing your stressors.
- Create a relaxing space – We have a standing desk with three monitors in our den. There is also a large-screen TV mounted on the wall. After I have had my first cup, I head to my desk and use it all day. It’s a comfortable place that I love and where I don’t mind spending my time.