We are very much a product of our lifestyles. How we set up our lives, where we live, how we educate our children, the food we eat, the cars we drive, the debt we carry, the jobs we do, all of it significantly influences who we become (or not become). These days lifestyle has become synonymous with all sorts of design, decoration, diet and fashion sites, none of which have much to do with what we are talking about here.
Lifestyle for us goes much deeper. It’s the product of many dynamic decisions we make in an attempt to lead the most enriched life possible, given our time, resources, values and beliefs. So much of our way of life has followed the American status quo. Kelly and I worked hard in school, went to college, got good jobs, married, had a child, bought a house, and lived happily ever – uh, no. I wish I could say this path has been everything we dreamed, but honestly it has been challenging.
This is not to say we don’t have a lot to be grateful for, we do! At the same time, we are constantly questioning why we struggle in so many areas of our life when our culture says we should be healthy and happy. So we decided to go hunting for answers.
Perhaps the first thing we have discovered on our search for the truth is that we are not alone. There are real answers as to why we continue to feel the way we do. America – the land of the free – should really be rebranded as the land of the enslaved. We live our lives largely on autopilot. We are over scheduled, tech crazed, sleep deprived, and it’s no wonder we feel so much stress much of the time. We rarely take time away from our daily routines to examine what is really happening. To a large extent, this blog is about doing just that – seeing the big picture for what it is, and having the courage to step in and change for the better.
Most of our societal systems providing lifestyle support are badly broken. Healthcare, education, and politics have been in constant turmoil for years. We are among the wealthiest nations in the world, but have seen our riches end up in the pockets of a select few. Most Americans are heavily in debt. Far too many are hungry and homeless.
And for those with jobs, recent surveys suggest most are disengaged or hate their work. We jail or prison more people than any other country. And compared to our peer countries, we now live far shorter lives due to our poor health. Not surprisingly, the toll on our mental and emotional health has been staggering. We have some of the highest rates of addiction, suicide, and domestic violence. While there are many things Americans do quite well, prioritizing healthy lifestyles is not one of them.
Now that we know we are not alone, we are passionate about escaping our enslavement and seeking out a life of meaning, purpose and fulfillment. This site is dedicated to that journey! While lifestyle is the primary fabric that weaves our lives together, we very much know that travel is among the best educators in the world. Exploring other cultures, gaining a broader view of life, and learning what is truly important does not occur in classrooms and books.
While travel contributes greatly to our lifestyle, it’s faith that ties everything together. Awakening to our true nature is our primary purpose in life. For years our lifestyle impeded this journey, distracted us from what was truly important. Now we are on a different path as a family. While the American lifestyle is seductive, we now know anything is possible if you first point your compass in the right direction.
THE AMERICAN LIFESTYLE
In our search for understanding why life has been so challenging for years, we uncovered all kinds of interesting facts that opened our eyes to seeing the bigger picture. Here are some interesting reports to consider if you are questioning your own lifestyle.
- U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health
- Gallup State of the American Workplace
- OECD Better Life Index
- America’s Health Rankings
- 11 Facts About Education in America
8 WAYS TO WELLBEING
In reworking our lifestyle to get the most out of life, we have fully embraced the 8 Ways to Wellbeing. If you have never heard of this project, it’s the brainchild of Dr. Roger Walsh who has been on the forefront of examining what lifestyle practices lead to happy and healthy lives. He has identified 8 – what he calls Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLCs) – that have overwhelming scientific evidence for combating many of the challenges we face with our present lifestyles. Here is a quick summary of the 8 TLCs and how we have adopted them:
Trevor does Taekwondo, John is becoming a yogi, and Kelly does a variety of fitness classes and enjoys standup paddle boarding.
2) GIVING BACK
Volunteer our time to non-profit organizations, donate money to causes we believe in and do our best to align our lifestyle with what is best for society and the planet.
We bought a small forest service cabin in nearby and we try to spend most weekends relaxing at the cabin. It’s hard to put into words the overwhelming benefits we get as a family hanging out in nature on a regular basis.
As a family we have embraced a whole food plant based diet and discuss this in more detail below.
As a family we hike, ski, kayak, travel, attend plays and concerts, dine out and are always on the lookout for interesting things to do.
We know life has little meaning when we are disconnected from others. Sadly, most Americans have few close friends. Developing deep intimate relationships requires spending time together on a regular basis, sharing matters of deep importance, and a willingness to risk showing our real selves. This list of 8 things is alphabetized, but for us relationships are our top priority.
We all embrace meditation to some degree, but also believe many of the other activities on this list help us to relax as well.
Life is ultimately about awakening to our true nature, a task that for most is beyond challenging. As a family we are just slowly beginning to see what is possible if we reconfigure our lifestyle to support our individual spiritual growth.
FORKS OVER KNIVES
Central to any lifestyle is food. Soon after our son was born it was clear he was not so interested in eating. His lack of weight gain and growth led to why we now venture to New York City every quarter to see a specialist. Fortunately, not long after our visits he was eating and we couldn’t have been happier!
Last year we watched the documentary Forks Over Knives and realized that for all the effort we were putting into our son’s health, we were inadvertently shortchanging his future (and ours) by the foods we were eating. We immediately converted to a whole food, plant based diet and consider it one of our most important lifestyle decisions.
Research on Why We Changed
U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health This four-page summary published in January 2013 provides a nice snapshot of the big picture. It explains why Americans are so unhealthy, with one important contributing factor being diet. Forks Over Knives Documentary This one documentary, single-handedly awakened us to the realities of our diet. It’s brilliantly done and backs up its claims with evidence.
The supporting Forks Over Knives website and many books that have come after it all support how making this change has incredible health benefits, reversing many chronic illnesses. China Study The China Study is the largest study ever conducted on diet. If proof of the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet is what you are looking for, then look no further. Although hard to watch, Meat.org’s video presented by Sir Paul McCartney speaks volumes about the relationships between diet and animals.
Want to Make the Change Yourself?
- Watch Forks Over Knives
- Consult with your doctor
- Hire a dietician to help you make the transition
- Get Happy Cow app to find local plant based restaurants
THE MYTH OF LIFESTYLE DESIGN
Ever since Tim Ferris published his bestselling book The 4-Hour Workweek and popularized the term lifestyle design, the idea of building a profitable online business, dropping the day job, and traveling the world living the dream has become the obsession of many wannabe followers. I will admit being seduced by the idea. Who wouldn’t want a life of dreams, white beaches and minimal work!
But life does not work that way. In fact, I am surprised it took so long for many to realize the myth of lifestyle design. Peter Shallard and Alexander Heyne both have written wonderful blog posts on this topic that are well-worth reading. While all of the tenets of lifestyle design are possible, the idea that we can design a particular lifestyle to bring us eternal bliss and fulfillment is the myth.
Life is constantly changing, challenging, redirecting us, going left when we want to go right. Just when we get comfortable the apple cart topples over. We get thrown back into chaos to learn, grow, and uncover the meaning of life. You may quit your job, begin traveling the world in search of adventure, only to return home weeks later to spend months caring for a dying loved one. Add spouses and kids to the mix and the lifestyle design myth actually becomes laughable.
But all is not lost. There is something to be taken away from all the hype about lifestyle design. We do have choices about our lifestyle. Where we live, the work we do, who we hang out with, the daily behaviors we do (or don’t do).
As a family we are constantly weighing our options, asking ourselves whether our present lifestyle is optimizing our individual and collective growth needs. It’s one of the reasons we choose to spend most weekends at our cabin. Designing a life around family, community, spiritual growth, creativity and self-discovery is lifestyle design, just without the get-rich-quick hype and perpetual white beaches. Not that hanging out on a white beach from time to time is a bad thing!
TOP 10 BOOKS ON LIFESTYLE