Beautiful view of New Port RI

This is where I grew up...It is possible to live and work in beautiful places.

It’s difficult to imagine our perfect life. It is surprisingly harder than one would think at first. If you had the chance, could you do it? Could you design your perfect life? Lifestyle Design is a term created by Tim Ferris in his wildly popular The 4 Hour Work Week. I had never actually heard any about the Lifestyle Design World when I started blogging here at Todd’s Wanderings, even though I had already Designed my perfect life. The funny thing about designing your perfect life, is that it’s a non stop process, you are never done.

Freedom of  Time and Freedom of Location

I came to the conclusion during my Shikoku Pilgrimage that my ideal life was one of freedom, where I was free to engage in my passions, and following my interests. That led me to San Francisco, then Timor-Leste, Sri Lanka and currently Kosovo. I love my job as a conflict resolution and development worker. But I’m also now finding my passion in writing, blogging, and general entrepreneurship. I’ve decided that I want an even higher level of freedom than I currently have. I want to keep working in development but I want to be free to choose the projects and my hours. I had a taste of this before I took my current job, when I was consulting. I’ve also decided that I want freedom of location. I want to be free to live anywhere I want, to reside in Bali, visit my wife’s family in Japan, and spend extended amounts of time with my family in the US.

My Perfect Home

I could live here a few months every year!

Impossible you say? Only the rich could afford such a life? I disagree. True, it takes more financial freedom than most people enjoy, but it’s not impossible. Nothing is impossible. Well that’s not true, it would be impossible for me to listen to Lady Gaga for 24 hours straight.

Do What you Love

Many people assume that my current lifestyle is impossible. It’s not, and I’m living proof. I also like to take my own advice that we should Do What we Love and Love What we Do. I’m planning a manifesto on this concept that I will share with you in the near future. The overriding message is that you should be doing things in life that energize you and that fulfill you. But at times, on our road to our perfect life, we are sometimes forced to spend time doing things that are less than ideal. Even when were a this stage we can find something to love about our work and thus learn to be happy no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

My Secret Logical Weapon in Lifestyle Design

Last week my wife and I were dreaming about where we would go after Kosovo. This got us thinking about our perfect life, where we would like to live and  what we would like to do. Defining your ideal life is a powerful thing, because once you glimpse it, its difficult to let it go. As I thought more and more about my ideal life (yes, I will tell you what it is soon), I realized I had the tool to plan it all out.

In International Development we plan programs to change the way society interacts, to increase employment, to bolster the rule of law, and to convince waring parties to move to peace. This requires not only sophisticated levels of planning, but also ways to measure the impact of our work, or how we can prove that we were successful. To plan, and to evaluate we use something called a logical framework (one of the most hated and misunderstood tools in development!).

I’m a program designer and manager, it should be easy to use the same skills in designing my own ideal life.

Logical Frameworks and Designing your Life

Numerous books have been written on logical frameworks and how to use them correctly in development. However, I may be the first person to adapt this tool to the planning of our own lives (no, I have not even tried to research if I am or not). The concept is straight forward and the framework helps us to break down complex social engineering into…well…logical steps that are connected to each other. The progression builds from Actions (the things we do) to Outcomes (the things that result from the actions) to Goals (the ultimate thing we want). Each step is verifiable by Indicators that help us to know when we have achieved something.

Step 1- Define your ultimate Goal. What do you want to achieve? What is your perfect life?

Step 2- Define the Outcomes that allow you to reach your goal. What are the components in your life that will let you live the life you set out in the Goal above.

Step 3- Define the Actions needed to achieve each Outcome.

The important thing about planning with the Logical Framework is that you start from the top, from your ultimate goal, and then design the steps that lead there. Often in life we start at the actions, doing something just because it’s what we know, or is easy. By flipping the design process around we can more clearly see the steps we need to take.

Step 4- Include Indicators that prove you accomplished each step above. For the actions, it is a simple as where they done or not. For Outcomes it is a bit more tricky. If your Outcome is “work for myself” the indicator might be “Business registered, and earning x% of income per year.” The indicators for your ultimate Goal can be even more difficult to measure. But if your Goal is to Travel the World you indicator might be “X number of countries visited”.

So What is my Perfect Lifestyle?

If you read the first few paragraphs, and didn’t just skip down to the pretty diagram you’ll know that I want freedom of time and freedom of location that involves the ability to write, blog, be an unconventional businessman, and to continue with my development and conflict resolution career. Sounds greedy doesn’t it :)

Here is a simplified version of what I created for myself. The Goals and Outcomes are the originals but the Actions have been simplified to fit into the post!

How to Design your Perfect Lifestyle with Logical Frameworks

This is a simplified version of a Logical Framework. But this is exactly what I have design for myself.

If you want to design your own Lifestyle you can download my Lifestyle Design Logical Framework Template. If you like this approach or find it useful, a huge thanks in advance for sharing, linking on facebook, tweeting or applying any other type of social media magic.

These are my plans. Want to bet if I will make them happen? Uh? I’m confident that I can. The hardest step in determining your perfect life is not designing the actions. It’s finding out where you want to end up, and knowing that once you get there you might like to walk someplace else  in the future.

What are your goals? Where do you want to be? Let us know what your plans are!

Photo Credit 1, 2

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28 Responses to “Lifestyle Design the Logical Way”

  1. Todd,

    Wonderful blog and a good life coaching tool. I hope you wouldn’t mind me including it on my professional website. I can either link it directly to this page or add it with a credit to you and the blog. However you wish. I think it is a great multi-step method for my clients who are going through a lot of the same life-transition awakenings that your readers are considering or are on the verge of endeavoring. I look forward to reading more and more about your life design.

    Warm regards,

  2. TheodoraNo Gravatar says:

    Todd, this is an interesting take on fulfilling the dream — sort of a hybrid of visualisation and management theory. I’ll be fascinated to see how it tracks.
    Theodora´s recent [type] ..The Sunday Six- Melbourne Bars

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Theodra, thanks. I hope it tracks well :) I have to admit that it is tough because I really do feel fulfilled in my current work. So I’m not looking to escape the development field, just to give me a bit more cushioning to protect my butt during the hard falls between jobs. Unlike living in the US, when I lose my job I have no safety net other than the one I create for myself.

  3. KristyNo Gravatar says:


    Been thinking about this for quite a while. One of these days would love to also pick your brains on development work, but thanks for sharing this!

    Kristy´s recent [type] ..Green Family Travel in Asia- What’s your Impact

  4. AndrewNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve had this post in my browser for a while now, never really finding a time to read it completely. I finally did, but will still keep it in my browser tabs for a while yet. I really need to take time and mediate about what I want and build such a graph. I have always resisted writing down things thinking I know what I want, why do I need to write it down. Except that a few times I have been so desperate that I write things down or make posters and it really has worked.

    I like that you are using tools from international development. I have a degree in Intl Studies and learned the very basics of negotiation. Enough to realize that I don’t want to do that. It is neat that such macro ideas can scale downwards as well as up. Thanks for sharing.
    Andrew´s recent [type] ..Ode to the Pretzel

    • ToddNo Gravatar says:

      Hey Andrew. I have also wrestled with the idea of writing down an “ideal” life. In many ways I don’t think it is possible to capture such a thing fully on paper (or on computer). But like the log frame, visualizing where we want to be is just a tool. It becomes a hindrance the moment we start living for what we wrote down rather than for the quality of life we are seeking.

      I have always gone with the flow, and followed opportunities as they presented themselves, But I have also realized that without putting what we want out there, we will never get it. I’m convinced that the more we focus on our ideal, talk about, put it out into the universe, the more our subconscious will find a way to make it happen.

  5. SageNo Gravatar says:

    This is a great reminder of the all important first step: Visualize and narrate what our ideal day is from beginning to end. Too often, blind pursuit of more money or generic “freedom” is the only identified goal. Your “large wooden desk facing the ocean” is exactly the kind of tactile, visceral item that sets the gears of your own subconscious and the universes wheels in motion.
    Sage´s recent [type] ..“In the World of the Food Pilgrim- There are no Strangers- only Food Lovers Waiting to be Inspired”

  6. Hi Todd,

    I really like this post because you’ve set out the direct goals, actions and indicators you need to achieve. I just might have to fill out a framework for myself :) Cheers and best of luck.
    Brooke vs. the World´s recent [type] ..Day 39- Six Degrees of Separation in a Small- Small World

  7. crisnikiNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Todd :)
    I found out about your blog from Twitter.
    What you write is interesting and I found myself in some of the things written on your website, very inspiring and useful .I studied tourism and I love traveling, discovering new wonderful places, people and traditions.

    Here are two of my favorite quotes:

    “Success is the freedom to do what you want, with whom you want, when you want, wherever you want” – Conan Stevens

    “Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have” – Zig Ziglar

    I think that’s what you should do to succeed in life and help others do the same thing. You have a great life and made a good decision living life just the way you want it.

    Good luck with your plans for a perfect lifestyle…I’m sure you will succeed :)

  8. This is a great post to let guys to do what they really love. Personally am enjoying every second of what am doing, i never see it as work. I see everyday as a having fun every day

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      That’s great Zablon. I am the same way and would not trade my current life for anything. I’m actually just looking to upgrade a bit to even out the periods of unemployment that come with my current work style.

  9. AnthonyNo Gravatar says:

    Great Post and thank you for the template. We are currently in redesign mode at the moment too! We are putting together a plan to achieve all our goals for 2011 and redesign our lives to do the things that we are passionate about. Thank for spurring me on!

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks Anthony. When you done share the results. I’d love to do a compilation of how people have used the tool and the different ideas of “ideal”

  10. BryanNo Gravatar says:

    Hey Todd,

    Another great lifestyle post with another fantastic tool. I check in with your “Are you happy?” decision tree everyday.

    I once saw a bumper sticker that read: “My Life Is Better Than Your Vacation” and I was immediately struck with two thoughts 1) that guy seems angry, what does he know about my life? and 2) I want to be more like that guy!

    While I wouldn’t express it in quite the same language, I too have desired to live a vacation lifestyle. That doesn’t mean lazing around not contributing to the greater good of humanity. More and more, my vacations involve some amount of volunteer labor and/or teaching kids something about hiking or history or humanity. To me it means spending my time living in a way that most people reserve for just a precious few weeks a year. I can’t say I’m fully there yet but, like you, I have a goal in mind and recognize the steps I’m taking to get there. And, I seem to find myself on vacation more and more often these days.


    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hey Bry,

      I’d heard a bit about your plans but I’d love to hear more. I’d hate to be on “vacation” the whole time as I get bored easily. I really just want the time to be able to run after all the things that get me excited :) In some ways I have that now, or at least I have more flexibility than the average person, but I want more…I know, greedy.

      I think we will have to make t-shirts and beer cozys with your slogan on it.Maybe I should change the tag line here on Todd’s Wanderings :)

  11. I really like your ability to put something complex as life into an analytical format, but (yes there is a but), I wonder if setting your goal to your ideal life doesn’t narrow your future possibilities. Our life is mostly formed by actions on which we don’t have control: you meet someone, you get hired by a certain company,…
    By planning everything until your “perfect” life, you might not be open for those impulses. For example you meet someone you really like, but you choose not to start a relationship because according to your planning you should be able to move to Japan in 9 months.

    Also, what if you change your mind along the way? What if writing isn’t that good as you thought it would be? Or what if tropical paradises have mosquitos to which you’re allergic? These may be silly examples, but I think you see what I mean. I don’t think you want to work really hard for something that’s not perfect after all.

    I think that instead of picturing what your ideal life would look like, it might be better to work one step at a time and think “what would improve my current way of living?” For me it would be more holidays so I can travel more. Once I get a job which offers me that, I think about a next step (which will probably be more money to pay for all that traveling).
    This way you’re not stuck to some pattern, you’re open for changes and most important I think you will be happier with your life as it is than when you’re constantly thinking about your perfect life.
    Nicolas De Corte´s recent [type] ..Story behind the Photo- El Salvadorian Iguanas

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hey Nicholas,

      Good points. I have to say that I never meant to imply that we have one perfect life, or that we will even be happy with it when we achieve a goal. I have worked, one step at a time towards having a life that makes me happy. I have am at a certain step at the moment and my next step is outlined above. But I fully expect that one I have achieved it there will be a lot more to develop about myself, my life, and my relationships.

      Up to this point I have really enjoyed being buffeted by the winds of fate. Seeing opportunities and taking then has gotten me to where I am. But, yes I have a but too, if can’t understand what makes us happy, or the type of lifestyle we want we could make decisions that blow us way off course. All of the above, and my current life is dictated by my realization of what I wanted to be when I grew up: the ability to indulge my passions, whatever they might be. Sounds broad, I know, but it’s the secret that I always knew but didn’t realize about myself.

      And just like how we use Logical Frameworks in development, the end result is not what you put in the boxes. It is just a tool to make sure your actions are leading in the direction you intend. We often stop our work and reevaluate the situations to make sure the Goal is still necessary or realistic. I think this applies to our lives as well. We need frequent moment so introspection to make sure we are happy with where we are and were we are headed.

      Wow, this is really bringing out a lot of long comments by everyone :) This topic happens to be one of my major passions.

  12. CatNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Todd. My husband (TheAlexLop) and I are big fans of your blog. I think your concept of designing a lifestyle focused framework is really unique. I know so many friends that are talking about including more ‘lifestyle’ related themes into their next 5 year plan, so this is a really current topic today. I wanted to see if you’ve given any thought to going into more depth with each step. Your formula is very methodical and makes perfection seem achievable. However, I think most people do not know how to define perfection. Many people do not know what they want. Defining the goal might be the most difficult step of them all, and without step 1, the rest are impossible. I am interested to see if you have any insight as how to define a SMART goal for a ‘perfect life’ or a ‘perfect lifestyle’. What kinds of questions should we be asking ourself, how should we compartmentalize our values and prioritize internal and external factors? Is there a scale you used to define this lifestyle – how did you determine location and time as most valuable to you? THAT’s the process I think most people need guidance on. I will be definitely looking forward to more innovative posts like this from you!! Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    • ToddNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Cat, nice to meet you! I’m sorry that we missed each other in Japan :) I think you are right that defining the Goal is the most difficult part, and it is one that i have been on a long journey to find. I’m planning to write my manifesto where I lay out all of the questions you have above, and how I was able to come to my own understanding. BUT as the Manifesto (which will be called; Do What you Love-Love What you Do, well maybe) will take some time to write I will try to put together another post to answer your questions.

      But I don’t leave with you with nothing, I have decided that freedom of location and time are my next steps in my perfect lifestyle based on my ultimate lifestyle goal to Do What I Love. I realized that it was not a specific thing but the ability to follow the things I am passionate about at the moment. Right now it’s helping people, traveling and being about to live anywhere. But as you can see from my chart I am now have added new passions and I want to the ability (time and location) to do them as well.

      My chart can get really complicated, and we normally add in Means of Verification, and Assumptions and Risks. I hope this answers some of your questions :) I’ll do my best to lay things out even further in future posts. But I have written some on this in the Lifestyle Strategies section. Tell your Friends ;)
      Todd´s recent [type] ..When to Bribe- How to Bribe- Do you Bribe

      • CatNo Gravatar says:

        Thanks for the response! Can’t wait to read your Manifesto. Just FB’ed it so my friends can plan their dream too. Next time we’re both in Japan, we have to get the families together :) Cheers!

  13. Nice to read a bit about you and your plan for ideal lifestyle design. Very interesting. Every day feels like Saturday is a great goal, along with passion and desired location. I think I will spend some time with this process and see where it takes me. Thx.
    Charles McCool´s recent [type] ..McCool Travel Week in Review – Feb 1 – 4- 2011

  14. RoxanneNo Gravatar says:

    Conflict resolution 101 applied to life decisions. I love it, and I love the photo too.
    Roxanne´s recent [type] ..An American girl in Cairo or- where I find hope

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