I once had a teacher who, on the first day of class of a new school year, directed all of the students to take out a piece of paper and draw a pig. After exchanging a few puzzled looks, we began sketching.
Some drew pigs with large bodies, and placed them in the middle of the page. Others drew pigs with small bodies, and placed them at the top of the page. Some students’ pigs were detailed; featuring eyes that sparkled, tails that curled, and feet that pointed. Other students’ pigs were simple; featuring little more than a circular head on top of an oval body.
When all had finished, the teacher pulled out his own piece of paper and began to read from it. “If you placed your pig towards the top of the paper,” he said, “you are a positive and optimistic person. If you placed your pig towards the middle, you are a realist. If you placed your pig towards the bottom, you are pessimistic, and are apt to behave negatively.” He continued reading. “If your pig features many details, you are analytical, cautious, and distrustful. If your pig features few details, you are emotional, naive, and are apt to take risks.” And so he read, until the personality traits of every student in the room were revealed.
Though this exercise might not have been the most accurate personality test ever developed, the memory of it made be wonder if a similar test could be applied towards the discovery of an ideal lifestyle (whatever that may mean personally to you). After all, if nothing else, the “pig personality test” reveals one ultimate truth: every human being will approach a specific task in a unique manner. Likewise, every person must discover their ideal lifestyle in their own way. I hope this article will serve as a guide for experiencing life in a way that is congruent with your distinct personality.
Before you read any further, I want you to call your “inner artist” to action. Take out a piece of paper (or open up Microsoft Paint) and draw a picture of a house. Once you’re done, you may continue reading.
This drawing will serve as a metaphor for your ideal lifestyle, with each detail being a reflection of how you should life your life. It contains 4 elements that can be applied to the realization of your dreams: order, direction, repetition and detail.
When you began to draw the house, did you start by outlining its shape (the walls)? If so, this reveals that every important action in your life must first begin with an overarching objective in mind. After forming the house’s walls, everything from that point forward must have been adapted to fit them. For example, the door couldn’t have been made too large, and there needed to be a certain number of windows to fill the empty space.
Applying this to life, let’s assume that your goal is to save X amount of dollars by the end of this year. At the start of the challenge, you don’t need (or even want) to know how to accomplish this task. Yet, you will quickly find ways to modify your lifestyle (just as you modified the size of your doors and windows) to save money and thus meet your objective.
Summary: You should have a broad goal in mind, and then figure out what steps you need to take to accomplish it.
On the other hand, did you begin by drawing the house’s details (windows, doors, etc.)? If so, this means that you are most comfortable taking the skills and characteristics that you already possess and applying them to a larger goal. For example, let’s assume that you are looking for extra income, are good at math, and love kids. You can take those personal characteristics and decide, perhaps, that you should tutor children. Otherwise, if you pursue a larger goal that may be currently out of reach, you may feel overwhelmed and thus unsatisfied.
Summary: You should assess your current skill set, and then figure out which broader goal is attainable.
According to universally accepted principles of design, all lines have direction: horizontal and vertical. Horizontal suggests calmness, stability and tranquility. Vertical gives a feeling of balance, formality and alertness. Is your house tall, or is it short?
If your house is tall, you should strive to approach life in a balanced manner. On some days, you may want to hit the overdrive button and approach tasks with incredible enthusiasm. On other days, you may want to lounge on the sofa and watch repeats of old TV shows. This isn’t laziness. Rather, it’s all part of maintaining balance in your life.
Summary: Approach life in a balanced manner.
If your house is short, you should promote stability in your life. Work on getting into a daily routine that allows you to approach tasks in a calm manner; never feeling overwhelmed. Every day, try to set aside a short span of time to relax — watch the sunset, read a book, meditate, pray, exercise, etc.
Summary: Promote stability and tranquility. Set aside time to relax.
Does your house utilize the same exact shape for the door(s) as it does for the windows? Is your house composed simply of larger and smaller squares? If so, you are comfortable with repetition. As such, you should embrace routine. Just because a close acquaintance has a wide variety of hobbies doesn’t mean that you should be ashamed because you only enjoy one or two activities. Establish a routine in which you practice what you love, and you will achieve happiness.
Summary: Establish a daily routine.
On the other hand, repetition without variation can become monotonous for some. If your house features a variety of unique shapes, then you should feel free to embrace change in your life. Perhaps the “normal” 9-5 job is not for you. Allow yourself to indulge in [almost] anything your heart desires, and you will find satisfaction.
Summary: Embrace change in your life.
Does your house feature numerous details (window panes, shutters, lawn, chimney, etc.)? If so, this means that you are not afraid of conquering a large list of tasks in order to accomplish an overarching objective. If you seek to accomplish a goal, you would be best served by creating a list of to-do’s, or “next actions.” You will be most comfortable following this list with precision and working your way towards your objective.
Summary: Establish a list of “next actions” to accomplish a goal.
If your house is relatively barren, then you should try to take a few mini tasks (“next actions”) and make them into a “mini goal.” That way, you can take on several mini goals while trying to achieve the ultimate objective, rather than trying to approach dozens of tasks at once. You might be doing the same thing in the end, but it will seem much more organized and thus decrease your anxiety.
Summary: Create “mini goals” to organize an overwhelming list of tasks
The “ideal lifestyle” is a subjective term that is unique to each person’s individual personality. Some may envision themselves relaxing on a beach in South America; while others may find happiness climbing the corporate ladder; while still others dream about finding their “special someone” and starting a family. It’s clear to me that my definition of the “perfect” life is likely far different than yours. So, if you only remember one thing from this article, remember this:
The “ideal lifestyle” is NOT “one size fits all.” To find true happiness, discover the lifestyle that most appeals to your unique personality. Do not allow your life to be dictated by another person’s ideals. Instead, experience life in a way that is congruent with YOUR distinct personality.
My name is Bryan Esposito, I live outside of Washington, D.C., and I take on challenges six weeks at a time.
Six to Done is a blog that isn’t quite sure what it wants to be when it grows up: it’s partly a tracker of goals, partly a proponent of motivation; partly a builder of organization; partly an evaluator of technology and gadgetry; partly a producer of productivity; partly a promoter of health and wellness; partly an advocate of financial prosperity; partly a generator of challenges; and partly a promoter of humanity.