“When you live the life you were meant to live, doing the work you were meant to do, enjoying what pleases you, instead of collecting meaningless lifestyles trophies, you will be full of joy and energy. ”
Thomas Leonard, Coach University
Life or Lifestyle?
What is a lifestyle and how is that different from a life? A lifestyle is about brand names and buying identity or prestige. Lifestyle gives a false sense of peace and acceptability that comes from others recognizing what you’ve bought into (as well as bought). If your car, clothes, and home are expensive, you’re sophisticated and stylish. If you have the right kind of job or go to the right social gatherings, then you receive the superficial approval of others. This means that your self-esteem is always at the mercy of others, with no appreciation of you as an individual.
A life, on the other hand, is very different. A life is what you lead when you know what matters most to you. It is very simple and comes from being connected to what you know is important and being willing to put that first, not matter what others may think. When you create a life vs. a lifestyle, your self-esteem comes from what’s inside you, not what others think about you.
How many times have you seen someone (this used to be me!) work long hours in a job that they do not enjoy just to be able to maintain an expensive lifestyle? There was a recent commercial on TV that showed a man laughing in his yard saying: “I drive an expensive car, have a 5 bedroom home, a country club membership, a swimming pool and I’m in debt up to my eyeballs!” Every time I see this commercial I think about the book – The Millionaire Next Door. The book says that most of the people living in the largest homes are exactly like the man in the commercial and that the real millionaires are the ones you would never guess, because their focus is on creating a life vs. a lifestyle.
Lifestyle is expensive monetarily and personally, because it costs a great deal to keep up appearances and do what you think is socially acceptable. A Life is not expensive. Rather than draining personal or financial resources, a life generates energy and staying power. If we focus on what we wear, or what kind of car we drive, or where we live, then we are saying that how others see us is more important than what we think of ourselves. If we find out what our true beliefs and values are and choose to live by these, then the opinions of others don’t drive our lives. This is not an issue of avoiding luxury for its own sake; it’s about liberating yourself from the mindless consumption that society dictates. It is about making the choices that are in line with your values, instead of draining your bank account or energy for no heart-driven reason.
How can you make the change? Understand the difference between a Life (being directed from within) and a Lifestyle (being directed from outside). Analyze your current lifestyle to see what it is costing you in money, time, stress, and energy to maintain it. Let go and make room for what is really important to you, what sustains you and brings you joy. Remember that who you are comes from within, not what you own!
Copyright May 2004 by Vicki Miller