Living by design: 2017 edition

2017 was the third year in a row that I used a comprehensive goal-setting system to increase my productivity and enjoyment in all areas of life. Some call this “living by design” or “life hacking.” To me, it’s about taking a more proactive approach to living, to treating life as a fun experiment, and to pursuing my dreams armed with a plan. You can read more about my system here.

Now that the year is over, I thought I would share my results.

So how did it go?

Overall, it was a good year. I was able to achieve (or come close to achieving) many of my goals for the year, as you can see in my ultra-nerdy graph below. Three big accomplishments this year were: traveling across the southern United States to patronize some of the jazz clubs in New Orleans’ French Quarter, the blues bars on Memphis’ Beale Street, and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville; watching a rocket launch live from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida; and raising over $10,000 for the Project Change Foundation. Also, I was able to achieve most of my professional and financial goals this year. This is reassuring as I continue to adopt a more location independent lifestyle.

On the flip side, I struggled with some of my health and romantic goals in 2017. For example, I didn’t make it to a single yoga class despite setting a goal to attend at least 30. Clearly, it’s time to shake things up. So, in 2018, I plan to focus more on my physical health and romantic life, create some new goals in these areas, and be more intentional about achieving them.

I truly hope that 2017 was a good year for you, and I wish you much fun, fulfillment and adventure in the year ahead. Happy New Year everyone!

Warmly, Joe

Notes: i) For privacy reasons, I have elected not to disclose my revenue and investment targets. ii) I did in fact set romantic goals, but I’m way too bashful to reveal them publicly. Ask me about it offline.

Create a dream list to visualize your ideal future

There are an almost unlimited number of things you can do over the span of a lifetime. This is exhilarating, but also intimidating. It’s easy to feel adrift and uncertain about which path to choose. Here’s where having a vision can help. A vision is like a beacon that guides your journey through life. It paints a picture of the future you wish to achieve — one that will bring you happiness and fulfillment.

A vision gives your life direction and keeps you focused on what is truly important. When visualizing the type of future you wish to attain, ask yourself: What do you want to create with your life? What impact do you want to make? What will your legacy be?

A fun way to document the key elements of your vision is to make a “dream list.” Some people keep a bucket list of things they want to do or see before they die. A dream list is similar, but whereas a bucket list tends to focus on once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as watching a rocket launch live or rafting through the Grand Canyon, a dream list is a more holistic and meaningful inventory of the life you wish to create. Here are a few examples from my own list:

  • Write and publish a book on how to discover your purpose
  • Build a charitable foundation that supports emerging change-makers
  • Do a speaking tour to inspire other people to pursue their dreams
  • Live in a foreign country for at least one year
  • Own a home in a warm climate

I keep a copy of my dream list on my computer and review it regularly. At the end of each year, I spend some time reflecting on my vision, values and priorities, and revise the list if necessary. For instance, one of my earlier aspirations was to own a Porsche 911. A few years ago I came to the realization that possessing an expensive sports car was not a big priority, and so I removed it from my list. Don’t get me wrong. I’d still love to drive a 911 someday, but being a proud Porsche owner isn’t important to me anymore.

If you are more visually oriented, you might consider creating a vision board to illustrate your ideal future. A vision board is a collage of images, pictures and affirmations taken from magazines, newspapers or the Internet, and artfully arranged on a poster-board or computer screen.

Whether you use a dream list, vision board, or some other tool to conceptualize your vision, the act of putting it down on paper can serve as a major source of inspiration as you work towards making your dreams come true. Remember, you are the creator of your own destiny. Rather than letting life happen arbitrarily, visualize the type of future you want, then get to work bringing your vision to life.

25 more books: An update on my daily reading practice

A few years ago, I wanted to see if I could adopt a new habit of reading more substantive literature. So beginning in 2012, I set a goal to read 100 books in four years. Three years and 301 days later, I finished my 100th book, Finding Your Element by Ken Robinson. I wrote a blog post about my experiences here (it includes a list of all 100 books).

It was satisfying to complete such a big goal and I was able to develop a desirable habit in the process. I’m happy to say that my ritual of reading for 20 minutes or more every morning has continued day in, day out. Pro tip: if you’re trying to form a new habit, it helps to link the desired behaviour (reading) with an ingrained habit that’s already on autopilot (in my case, a morning coffee).

Given that I just surpassed the 125-book milestone, I thought I’d share the most recent 25 entries from my reading list. Here are the books (those marked with an asterisk are personal favourites):

  1. Making Ideas Happen, by Scott Belsky
  2. Join Me, by Danny Wallace
  3. The Element, by Ken Robinson *
  4. City of Thieves, by David Benioff *
  5. The Force of Kindness, by Sharon Salzberg
  6. The $100 Startup, by Chris Guillebeau *
  7. Decisive, by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
  8. The Orenda, by Joseph Boyden *
  9. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion *
  10. The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx
  11. Born For This, by Chris Guillebeau
  12. Naked, by David Sedaris
  13. The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein *
  14. The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King
  15. The Art of Thinking Clearly, by Rolf Dobelli
  16. Buddhism: Ethics and the Path to Peace, by Phra Saneh Dhammavaro
  17. Burmese Days, by George Orwell
  18. The Personal MBA, by Josh Kaufman
  19. Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert
  20. The Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas Stanley & William Danko
  21. The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
  22. Peace Is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh *
  23. A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson *
  24. Talk Like Ted, by Carmine Gallo
  25. Walking to Japan, by Derek Youngs & Carolyn Affleck Youngs

Buy a book, make a difference

Are you looking to stock up on some new books for the summer? If you intend to use Amazon to buy books or other products, here’s an easy way to leverage your online purchase for a good cause – at absolutely no extra cost to you.

If you click on this link to Amazon or on the banner below, and then make a purchase, I will receive a small referral fee. Every year, I donate 100% of these referral fees to the Project Change Foundation to help support emerging Canadian charities in creating positive change in our communities.