Collecting the tools of a sustainable, self-directed life

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23- Three Tools to Start Your New Life

I shared before that my journey to the Hudson Valley started in 2013. But now I realize that it started years before when I invested in the first three tools I used to design this new life:

1. A convicting belief

2005 was a tumultuous year of loss for my family. Supporting my mother, who had been debilitated by grief, as she recovered, I realized that life was going to happen. But, if I hoped to get anything I wanted out of my experience on earth, then I needed to plan in, to create it.

In 2007, at that end of my contracted position, I rented out my condo in Dallas, packed my belongings in my father’s SUV and moved to New York City—with no job, no permanent place to live and no prospects for either. All I had was a mission to write and the convicting belief that I had to direct my own life.

2. A life vision

If I could learn to write well, I knew that it would be amongst New York’s imaginative, skillful, striving people. I envisioned days at a sunlit desk, late lunch meetings with editors and evenings with other creatives. I saw a life lubricated with art of all kinds.

Five years later, I had slipped into an existence much different than the one I’d left Dallas for. It came with a one-bedroom rental in Manhattan, a full-time (non-writing) job, lots of friends and even some semblance of financial security. But it wasn’t satisfying. I wasn’t improving my community or growing in the ways that I wanted. And I was only eking out my writing in the nooks and crannies between everything else. But, it was in one of those crannies that I found the work of famed psychologist Abraham Maslow in 2012.

3. A framework to organize it

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is the set of human requirements, ranging from physical needs to transcendent ones, that motivate us all. Seeing (what I had considered) my personal desires on his list explained why I pursued and guarded them so fiercely. His framework inspired me to become strategic—not just passionate—about my self-directed approach to fulfilling my potential.

It was the very next year—in 2013—that I saw Kirsten Dirksen’s video on the Life Edited Apartment. And recognizing the simple models of satisfying physical needs, I immediately fell into the tiny house rabbit hole.

Since quitting my last job in 2015, I have made more progress on his hierarchy than ever before. I have experimented with living tiny and simply, tested the portability of my safety and love and proved my independence, strength and accomplishment to myself. And I’ve grown more confident, consistent, efficient and purposeful in my writing and my overall health. Maslow’s hierarchy helped me address and track my successes and weaknesses and create systems to help me stay the course. Through it, I can clearly see my simple, sustainable vision coming to fruition.

Whether you’re in a time of transition or not, a convicting belief, life vision and organizing framework have already been a part of your journey. Take some time today to think about what those have been for you. As you envision the life you want to build, which of your current beliefs or frameworks can help you get there? Which others might you need to abandon, foster, or adopt?