Yesterday, one of my younger sisters described my current life as “really easy”—relaxed, flexible, and unstressed, resembling a retiree’s lifestyle rather than the usual up-and-coming 20-something’s.
Her comment made my mom laugh, as a “retirement lifestyle” is something she and I have discussed before.
(Short version of said discussion: She doesn’t want me to be snacking and watching kung-fu TV shows all day even if my passive income streams bring in $100K each month. All the while I’m proving I could “make it” without a job-job, filling my days with experimentation, learning, and creation guided by my interests.)
What my sister doesn’t yet realize—and what I hope Mom will understand soon—is that this relaxed lifestyle is intentional.
I live easily by design, not because I don’t do things, don’t work, or don’t have responsibilities. I choose to live without hurry, stress, or pressure, as much as is possible. What pressures and stressors—including type, intensity, and timing—I have in my life are ones I decide to invite into my life and maintain.
Want examples? I’d give you two.
- I swapped my Pixel 4a for a flip phone in 2023. I choose not to have to constantly respond to notifications, texts, and app updates. (For similar reasons, I don’t have social media.) I have less than 10 contacts on my phone, making organization unnecessary. The phone only has call or text, and is for one function only: to serve as a back-up communication channel if I meet with trouble on the road.
- I choose to work as a contractor/freelancer because it affords me to freedom to accept and turn down projects according to my schedule and values. Most of my work is online, which affords flexibility of location; but because I strongly dislike virtual meetings, the types of online work I engage in are ones where there is little to no need for calls.
Do these things come with drawbacks? Yes. Lots.
Would I change my mind about them one day? Perhaps.
I have a project in the works that require me to better understand mobile apps and the needs of high-performers who want to be more intentional in how they’re living (including use of phone). I sometimes wish I have a solid, practical, normal “I-spend-8-hours-a-day-on-this” answer to give to the “So, what do you do?” question.
But here’s what I’d like to drive home: The discomforts, limitations, stresses, and structure of life is largely up to us. You can design the way you live your life.
That’s why I intentionally customize different aspects, tools, and structures of my daily life to guide my lifestyle toward the big-picture flow I’d like to have in my life.
My mom’s concern is valid, however. Would I optimize my life to the point I become overly self-focused, lazy, and pleasure-pursuing? Is it possible to make my life so easy that internal, personal degeneration is being supported by an efficient and well-developed external system?
Here is where the final twist comes in.
I’m also a full-throttle, give-it-all-you’ve-got type of person when it comes to doing things. There is a lot I’d like to do at a high level, more than I’d be able to complete in a normal lifetime; thus, moments when I’m “doing nothing” are actually quite rare.
That is why I experiment with living both sides of the same life. At the beginning of January 2024, I had a thought: What if I could consistently increase my capacity for intensity and focus in daily work/practices, without tiring myself?
I’ve spent the past three weeks experimenting with exactly this outlook. As of today, results suggest that it’s more than possible, providing frameworks and regular adjustments are made.
For example, once I’m giving my 80% to something, both effort and quality, that becomes the new 30%—ensuring that my output and abilities increase over time without my ever reaching 100% and burning out.
All the while living as if what I’m doing is easy, and being relaxed as I go from one thing to another.
I’m finding that I’m the easiest person for me to fool. If I tell myself something is easy and live as if it is, more often than not that’s what it would seem to me.
Does this mean the little mindgame I’ve been playing with myself is becoming real to others looking in?
If so, reality and the way we interact with it must be even more plastic than I’d thought at the beginning of this year.
That’s enough of an exciting note to end on, so I’d wrap it up here.
Mom and sister, thank you for helping me make more sense to myself. I’m enjoying the journey, and I hope I don’t drive you too crazy in the process. 🙂