6 Stages to Successfully Design Your Lifestyle

Posted in: Blog

by Carmen

Since getting back into the blogging world in the last several months I’ve been doing a lot of reading of other blogs on location independence and lifestyle design.  Our blog here at NuNomad has always focused primarily on how to become location independent, the logistics, the destinations, interviews with nomads, etc..  We’ll most likely continue to do so.  However, I’ve noticed a lot of our peers writing great stuff about following passions, achieving goals and other personal growth topics.  Funny thing is – I’m a coach.  I’ve been a professional personal/business coach for 10 years with my business Dr. Coach.  In fact, that’s how I derive my income while on the road.  I’ve actually trained hundreds of other people how to coach and before that I was a psychologist in private practice. So, I finally had to ask myself, “why am I not writing about coaching topics?”  Since, I dont’ have any good answer to this and since I’ve been inspired by other posts I’ve been reading, I’ve decided to begin a blog category on this topic as well.  You’ll find this and future coaching posts under the category Lifestyle Design.

Why People Don’t Achieve Their Goals and Get on a Personal Merry-Go-Round

This week, Corbett Barr of Free Pursuits published a great blog on the disconnect he has noticed people having betwen the goals they state and the actions they take to get them there.  What he has noticed is that many people say they want to achieve something but then never take the actions to make it happen.  I have also noticed that at times.  I think this can be caused by a number of things:

  1. The person has a disconnect between what they say they want to do and a deeper personal value.  For instance, they may say, “I want to be location independent and live in eastern Europe”, but inside they have a strong personal value to take care of their elderly parent.  The stated goal is in conflict with this value and they may not even be conscious of this.
  2. The person may be disorganized and lack a coherent plan.  Lots of people suffer from disorganization or a bit of ADHD which keeps them from maintaining their concentration long enough to create and follow a coherent plan.  So – the wish is there but the steps never happen.
  3. The goal or time-line may be unreasonable so the person fails and becomes discouraged.  You may be able to create a location independent lifestyle but you may not be able to do it in 6 months.  It’s easy to get discouraged and give up when you see your set goal date sliding into the past.

These are just a few of the many reasons people may not take actions to achieve their goals.

However, another dynamic I see occur many times is when people take actions, the actions don’t get them the results they want or perhaps don’t get the results as quickly as they want, the person changes directions and begins again on a new or altered goal.  It’s like being on a personal merry-go-round – a frustrating cycle that depletes you of motivation and makes you feel like a failure over time.  In this instance, lack of action is not the problem.  No – in fact, the poor soul is acting all over the place but with no satisfactory result.  So – how can you prevent this from happening to you?

If you are serious about designing your lifestyle and want to make sure you don’t fall in to one of these categories, it can be helpful to understand the stages of change.

6 Stages to Successfully Design Your Lifestyle

James Prochaska, the author of Changing for Good, described 6 stages of change that people go through whenever they are trying to make a shift in their lives.  Let’s take a look at them.

  1. Pre-contemplation

    – if you’re reading this blog you’ve already passed this stage.  Pre-contemplation is the stage before you even realize you want to make a change.  Think back to the days before Tim Ferriss, when you had never heard of lifestyle design or perhaps you had never even thought of world travel.  You were unaware of this possibility and had no feeling of need about it.  This was the stage of pre-contemplation.

  2. Contemplation

    – you may be here now.  Contemplation is the stage when you have heard about or acknowledged that there is a change you’d like to make in your life.  You are thinking about the possibility of making this change but have not done any formal planning.  Maybe you’re reading lifestyle design blogs?

  3. Planning

    – In this stage you have made a decision that you want to move towards a change.  You are making plans about how that is going to happen.  You may have created lists, set a time-line, talked with others about what you plan to do, etc.

  4. Action

    – This stage is exactly what it is called.  You have begun to take actions towards your goal.  Perhaps you have discussed how to telecommute with your boss, started your own mobile business, purchased a travel worthy laptop, or even made plan reservations. You are actually doing the steps needed to reach your goal.

  5. Maintenance

    – In this stage you have achieved your goal and you are now trying to sustain it over time.  Perhaps you have been settled in your cool Prague apartment for the 3 months that were to be covered by your initial savings and now you will have to maintain yourself solely via your mobile income.  This is maintenance.

  6. Termination

    – when we hear the word “termination” it doesn’t conjure up many positive images but in Prochaska’s model, termination is actually your success point.  In termination you have achieved your change and maintained it over time.  In fact, it is so much a part of your life you don’t even think twice about the fact that you’re doing it.  You’ve been out in the world for years now.  Your clients love you and you continue to grow your income living from where you want.  Feels like a piece of cake – what was so hard about it?

Understanding the Stages of Change can help you locate where you are in the process of designing your lifestyle.  But I want to share with you one of the most important discoveries that can keep you moving towards your goal and keep you off of that personal merry-go-round.

The Secret Key to Staying Off the Merry-Go-Round

What Prochaska found was that the people who moved too quickly from contemplation to action were the people who were unable to achieve and maintain their goal over time.  Those people who spent more time in Contemplation and Planning were the people who moved deliberately and successfully through the Action phase and were able to Maintain their goal.

How often I’ve gotten calls from excited people that sound something like, “I’m calling you for coaching because I’ve got this really great business idea and I’m going to quit my job next week and throw in all my savings to start it up.”  What I’m thinking on the other end sounds something like, “Whoa buddy!!!! Are you serious? You’re about to majorly screw yourself over!”

Enthusiasm and optimism are wonderful things but can also be dangerous if they lead you to taking actions that aren’t well planned.  When you’re reading stuff that makes it sound like you just have to set up a web-site, hire virtual assistants to run it and then chuck your job and get on an airplane to the nearest sandy beach that kind of portrayal can make you feel justified to make some seriously stupid moves.

Be smart.  Take your time.  Make your plan and follow it.  You can design your lifestyle.  With the right balance of positive action and patience you’ll find yourself on that beach one day, staying as long as you like.

If you’re interested to know more about the personal aspects of becoming location independent I encourage you to consider purchasing our upcoming book, the NuNomad.  We spend a lot of time in there going through exercises on how to get your mind and life in the right place to make your dream happen.  Ricardo tells me he has received the sample copy so I know it will be out soon.  You can order yours in advance at a discount here

photo by Anirudh Koul

20 responses to “6 Stages to Successfully Design Your Lifestyle”

  1. laptophobo says:


    I'm reminded by your article about how often people share with me their frustrations with not being able to nail-down their dreams and personal desires. The obvious one, as a fellow Nu Nomad, usually goes something like: "Wow, I would love to do what you're doing–get to live wherever you want and still keep your profession and American income." Before, I used to perk up to the challenge and immediately tell them about how I arrived at being a Nu Nomad and that it was quite possible for them to do what I'm doing. (There are resources available now.) Or I'll hear the even more familiar "I wish I could" story about wanting to go to University, getting a foot-into-door of a specific career–whatever. At the end though, very few follow-through on their dreams. I think a lot of this sort of inaction has to do with what you said, "Enthusiasm and optimism are wonderful things but can also be dangerous if they lead you to taking actions that aren’t well planned." Either they get bummed-out after not seeing tangible results within a too-short of time period, or they allow themselves to get placated with such things as buying stuff they don't need (to feel temporarily comfortable), delve deeper into relationships that sniffle more than they are nurturing, or, they land into such a funk, a depression, that no dream could escape the rut they've created. But for those that I feel really do want to make that big break, to reinvent themselves, or to live a location independent life–and are demonstrating a discipline to do what it will take to get there–I now advise them to approach the challenge with a strategic plan. It's the same as if one wants to make a new business, they need to develop a business plan. So, if one wants to achieve something else in their life–something that will take a lot of time and commitment then say landing a new job that requires nothing more than on-the-job training–then they need to glimpse the future a bit. A personal strategic plan will allow for that.

    Before I started Nomading around the world (which required a lot of planning), I used to be a special events organizer. And before we (committee or partners) could invest funds and time into a prospective project or event, we'd flesh it out on paper first. We'd identify what our goal was for the endeavor (Was it really what we wanted?), estimate the costs and time it would take to achieve that goal, then we'd develop the steps. From point A (now) to point X (reaching the goal). In the long run, it was the only way to really make my projects–and my dreams–happen.

    I don't think anything that I've commented on here is new stuff. What is new is that there are now social networks and blogs to shepherd those toward the next step. What used to take weeks and months of research now takes hours. And the feedback from so many with differing perspectives can really help to initiate ones dream.

    • NuNomad says:

      Well said, Ricardo. Certainly there is so much more support available to everyone now who would like to take on this challenge. Back when you started there was very little. You were a pioneer of sorts. It's great that now more people are able to consider the possibility of a location independent lifestyle for themselves.

  2. Great article, Carmen. I'm really glad you've decided to start using your knowledge and experience as a coach on the blog. I love how you broke things down here into the various stages. I've found recently that it *really* helps when people connect with peers and mentors and openly discuss their progress. If you operate completely alone, it's easy to become discouraged because when there is little measurable progress.

    • admin says:

      Hey Corbett, I agree with you that it’s invaluable to connect with others about what you’re trying to do. Some people can get this support from friends or family, others do better hiring a professional. Sometimes I think the most important thing I do for clients is to hold them accountable week after week.

    • NuNomad says:

      Hey Corbett, I agree with you that it's invaluable to connect with others about what you're trying to do. Some people can get this support from friends or family, others do better hiring a professional. Sometimes I think the most important thing I do for clients is to hold them accountable week after week.

  3. Robyn says:

    There is so much hoopla (and often good, inspiring hoopla) going around about LD but this is the first article I've seen that really breaks it down to what's needed to make a big change happen. Maybe some of these successful folks have done that, but on this side it looks easy – I'm just going to do this and wa-la, I too am a a lifestyle design expert.
    I think your article helps people to see the difference between unrealistic enthusiasm and necessary steps to get where they need/want to go.
    Thanks for such a well written explanation.

    • admin says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Robyn. I worry sometimes that if I don’t sound as enthusiastic and paint as rosy a picture as the next guy that people won’t want to read our stuff. It’s always a risk to be the person out there saying, “now – wait a minute…” so it’s really helpful to hear from you that you resonated with the post. Hope you’ll return!

    • NuNomad says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Robyn. I worry sometimes that if I don't sound as enthusiastic and paint as rosy a picture as the next guy that people won't want to read our stuff. It's always a risk to be the person out there saying, "now – wait a minute…" so it's really helpful to hear from you that you resonated with the post. Hope you'll return!

  4. "Enthusiasm and optimism are wonderful things but can also be dangerous if they lead you to taking actions that aren’t well planned". ABSOLUTELY!

    I adore enthusiasm and optimism, but if planning, reality, and thorough research are not added to the picture, one is often asking for trouble. I am often amazed at some of the things I read about lifestyle design and how many even writing about it, have very little actual experience doing it! I was heartsick for a few days recently, reading about a digital nomad who was broke and in debt by making poor plans.

    I am amazed at how many writing about or considering a traveling lifestyle, don't even think long term or deal with the realities of this new economy. Perhaps it is because we have been living this world traveling lifestyle into our 4th year now, in our 50's and educating our child as we go as well as increasing our nest egg/net worth that we value deep planning and awareness.

    I love the American Indian idea of thinking ahead 7 generations and teach that kind of thinking to my child. There is much to consider when planning or maintaining a dream lifestyle, but continually being aware of future trends, while also dealing with the nitty gritty every day stuff, is do diligence that will pay off.

    Thanks for contributing solid advice!

    • NuNomad says:

      Soultravelers – you are so right and I am very thankful for the links you have recently been sharing via Twitter on the world financial situation and the ever shrinking dollar. I have forwarded many to my family members. Certainly we have experienced that even in our 5 months in Brazil. We were at a ration of 2/1 on arrival and now at 1.69/1. It makes a big difference especially in the larger ticket items like rent. We still live much more economically here than we would at home but the situation is a difficult one. Time to invest in some foreign currency I believe.

  5. Great advice.

    Solid planning and action towards those plans are often lacking. We all want the glamorous lifestyles of jet setters, rock stars or actors but very few are willing to put in the work.

    In my view, there are two kinds of people successful at "lifestyle design." There are the Gary Vaynerchuks and Chris Brogans that are putting in phenomenal effort to be at the top of their fields. And there are a lot of others that just work the minimum to exist so that they maximize their free time. There are merits to both sides.

    However, many people seem to be deluding themselves into believing that they will be the superstar blogger, consultant, entrepreneur, etc. without putting in the effort. You can choose an easy work life or you can strive to be great. You can't be both. People at the top of their fields didn't get there from working 4 hour workweeks.

    • NuNomad says:

      Hear hear! And some who put in 4 hour work weeks put in plenty of 60 hour work weeks for years to get there. As Bob Dylan said, "we all have to serve somebody".

  6. Ash says:

    "In this instance, lack of action is not the problem. No – in fact, the poor soul is acting all over the place but with no satisfactory result. So – how can you prevent this from happening to you?"

    For a long time, when I was younger, this was constantly my problem – I was so enthusiastic about so many things that I would haphazardly jump into all of them, just excited to get involved and see where those paths would take me, but ultimately functioning in that manner would lead to frustration or burnout from managing so many things at once, and then you throw your hands up in disgust because you've not successfully attained any of the goals, let alone all 5.

    Great post – I'm going to print it. 🙂

    • NuNomad says:

      I can relate, Ash. And the end result of this is a major feeling of failure. You wonder, "I'm doing everything I can, why am I not succeeding at anything?" However, for a lot of us with enthusiasm for many things, actually sticking it out with one idea even when the enthusiasm has subsided a bit is really really difficult. Once the shine wears off it's easy to get lured by the next shiny thing. Jumping from one great idea to another can keep the adrenaline up but lead to huge crashes when we realize what's happening and that we're not getting anywhere. That's when it's great to have someone to be accountable to who understands the cycle we're in and doesn't let us repeat it.

  7. My husband and I fell into being nomads due to the nature of his chosen profession. It just did not make sense to buy a home only to shutter it when he gets a new contract. I could have stayed home and tended the fire, so to speak, but I got married to spend my life with my husband, not without. So I would not go nuts in the various locations we were in, I decided to venture into the creative world to help with our finances. The decision was the right one, as I do my art on the road alongside with him while he does his left brained work, and we are immensely happy. I think it just comes down to choosing and then acting on your choice. So many people do not recognize they have alternative choices to lifestyle. Sites like this make bring the possibilities to the surface. Our lifestyle is not glamorous. We continue to work, cook dinner, watch television, read books and play with the dog, only we have different things to see when the weekends come around. But the most important thing, I think is that we have much more time to be together and experience life and the thrill of a new location. We do not spend our free time mowing the lawn or taking care of the albatross of a permanent home. There are trade-offs!

    • NuNomad says:

      What a happy lifestyle you seem to have designed! It's great when two people are so compatible in their life interests. And the fact that you were willing to be flexible enough to move with him even though the moves are centered around his profession has allowed you both to remain together and explore the world at the same time. Great thing for you that your work can be done mobiley so that you have been able to continue to develop while traveling. I once had a friend whose husband was asked to move to Germany and she refused to go because she thought it would stifle her own career. He refused to stay. So he left and she stayed. A year later they were divorced. It doesn't always happen this way but I can't help but wonder what might have been if one of them had been willing to compromise.

  8. Jaybot7 says:

    Great post. Personally, I think skipping straight to D,E,F and then do B,C (and a little bit of A) on the way has always been the best route for me. Taking that action is such an important step.
    My recent post Arvale: Treasure of Memory Update, Almost Done

    • NuNomad says:

      You know, everyone has their way of doing things that works best for them. I have coached a lot of people through the writing of books and dissertations and it's amazing to me how each person has a very individual way of writing that works for them. You certainly can't pin one template on a lot of people and expect it to work!

  9. ADHD Children says:

    My son has ADHD and I know how frustrating it can be to get
    help and support.Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is becoming one of
    the most diagnosed disorders among children and even adults these days. 

    • FACE says:

      Try stopping ALL vaccines (despite what the gov’t is telling you – they have a vested financial interest in distributing as many vaccines as possible!), and avoiding foods with GMO’s – (that means GMO grown plants, as well as plants sprayed with Glyphosate a.k.a. Round-Up), and not eating any animals which are fed foods grown with the aforementioned…
      Oh…and animals which are given anti-biotics as a preventative measure” – a completely unnecessary and damaging practice, to the animals, as well as us.
      Ditto for fast food, junk foods, sodas…

      HEY…either try to go back to what we were supposed to be eating before big business started controlling or food supply…
      Or be a slave to the pharmaceutical industry for the rest of your life – because to them, it’s not about finding a cure (EVER!!!)..it’s about “managing your discomfort” – (i.e., them having a customer for the rest of your life, or their life…whichever ends first).
      Think about it….it’s YOUR choice.

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