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Living the life you dream for yourself

Tim Ferriss may be known as one of the first to write about lifestyle design but I think Ralph Waldo Emerson already had the corner on that market.

As the story is told, Emerson was determined to build a life around the things he loved: creativity, community, nature, and friendship.

He built his home with a guest wing and a garden to be a place to host friends. He served his community by joining the volunteer fire department and chairing the school committee.

He spent his evenings reading, writing in journals, and in grand discussion about literature, theology, self-reliance, and freedom. This built the foundation of his career in writing and speaking.

Mr. Emerson determined his passions first and then built his lifestyle around them.

Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

If the premise of lifestyle design is to build your life around your passions and values, we need to know what lights our fire.

For my family, this looks like plenty of time to play in the outdoors and travel. We value quality education and lifelong learning for our children and ourselves. We also want to engage in our local community through our neighbors, friends, and church.  How we spend our time and our money is generally built around these pursuits.

We’re a work in progress but we’ve come a long way since we pursued this path three years ago.  If you have a family, might I suggest starting to design your own lifestyle with a family purpose (mission) statement? Tsh wrote a how-to here and we used this one, as well. It was some of the best time we ever spent, years into our marriage.

Remember that your lifestyle should be built around your own dreams. Not the American dream or the Jones’ dream. Not the dream your parents have for you or even the one  you’ve been educated for. It’s the one that you dream for yourself.

There is nothing more inspiring than to see others living a life of their own dreams. How are you taking a step toward that today?

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Marla Taviano

    Getting out of debt and saving up $ so we can go back to Cambodia as a family.

    • Tiffany

      Marla – we started by tackling our debt, as well.

  2. Traci

    Emerson’s values and ideals are mine. I’d like to sculpt that kind of life for myself! It sounds grand! I’m taking lots of steps toward getting there, big and little. That’s the good news.

  3. Amy

    We’ve have recently decided to homeschool, allowing us more time and flexibility to travel, explore each of our interests and spend time together. It’s a great feeling- living our own, authentic life and not someone else’s!

    • Tiffany

      An authentic life. Yes, I like that Amy!

  4. Naomi Liz

    I love this! The story about Emerson is really inspiring. I feel like I’ve been finding more clarity around my passions recently, and I feel so ready to just go after things and take steps toward those things. For now, I’m writing and photographing things that inspire me every day, but I’ve got some bigger things planned in the near future as well. Thanks for the reminder and the inspiration! 🙂
    “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”

  5. Amy

    I love the idea of a family mission statement! I tend to be the type of person who tries to do every single thing everyone else is doing, and I’ve found months or seasons when I hone in on a specific goal or two, and allow myself to let everything else go undone if need be, that I experience a lot more freedom and joy. I’m definitely going to be working through some of the how-tos you linked to in the next few days. Thanks!

  6. Lauren Hanson

    I heard about writing a purpose statement in Tsh’s book. I immediately made my husband and myself think through a statement. I think it really increases intimacy in your marriage when you are both so on board about what you want your life to look like together. Now that we have our statement I just need to put it up somewhere so we can remember it our day to day life.

    • Naomi Liz

      I love that idea, Lauren! I think sometimes when I hear “family mission statement” that it somehow only applies if you have kids. But I love that you and your husband did it with just the two of you, as a couple (I guess I’m assuming a little bit here but that’s what it sounded like 🙂 ). I also love the idea of putting it up somewhere to be seen!

  7. Jamie

    Today, literally, we are moving two states away to begin a year of training in camping ministry. My husband and I have both served in youth ministry at our church for the past 15+ years, but for the past 5 we’ve been asking God to lead us into camping ministry, where we can combine our love for Him, teenagers, and camp, while living more of life with our 4 boys. We are leaving behind something for which we have a passion to pursue something that encompasses those same passions in a way that is more “us.” It’s a little scary but very exciting!

    • Tiffany

      Jamie, that sounds amazing! Safe travels today 🙂

  8. Sharon Holbrook

    Ah, the dream “you were educated for.” I went to law school, loved it. Worked as a lawyer, hated it. Stayed at home with kids, loved it (mostly!). Now, I write, and love it. Don’t be afraid to let your dreams change and to unshackle yourself from outgrown dreams.

  9. Sara Hicks

    My husband and I started an organization, Unearth and Empower Communities (UEC) for the youth in our community of Compton, CA! We took a leap of faith and left our stable jobs to become missionaries/organization starters focusing on training up our youth in literacy, arts education, mentorship and entrepreneurship! We now say daily that “We’re living the Dream!” This is the hardest dream we’ve lived but we wouldn’t change it for anything! We just celebrated UEC’s 1st anniversary this month along with a bunch of “Most Improved” educational awards for our after-school kids! Dream Big! Breathe Deep.

  10. Deborah

    We took a long, hard look at our family priorities (missions, travel, living internationally, giving, quality family time) and now live in the Middle East, where my husband works for a national oil company.

    • jill britz

      deborah, that’s super inspiring!! thanks for living a life of courage. it spurs me on, too.

  11. Thomas Matty

    I agree wholeheartedly. I’m trying to get out of the “rat race” and do work that really matters. That’s one of the reasons I started my blog. I really hope to help people through it which is much more rewarding than a paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, getting paid is good because as Zig Ziglar says “Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen on the ‘gotta have it’ scale.”

  12. jill britz

    a few years ago, in spite of our values (homeschooling, travel, adventure), we realized we’d never taken a family trip, with our oldest turning 8.

    so, my husband quit his youth pastoring position, delved into his own screen printing business, &, on a bitty shoestring, we began exploring, kids in tow. in january, we roadtripped to NYC from WI, with 4 kids, the youngest a toddler.

    now we’re selling off all we can & minimalizing so we can take our adventuring to the next level, in a bus, & then on to build our own small dream on a piece of land in the woods.

    yes, you have to see it before you can be it. (that is SO lame.)

  13. Yanic A.

    I’ve just prompted my husband to read your post and for us to sit down and write up our statement. We are on the verge of major changes in our lives and this will help solidify our resolve and get us moving in the right direction.

  14. Katie Harding

    I love the idea of a Family Mission Statement, it gives us something to work towards. We are trying as a family to spend more quality time together, whether its a weekend bike ride or just a family dinner where we all sit down and actually talk about our days, sometimes we just need a reminder of how blessed we all are to have our family!

  15. Rachy

    My husband and I decided that it is time for me to leave my job to simplify our life.

  16. Jenny

    LOVE this post!! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Eric West | Rethinking the Dream

    We have been actively designing our life for the past few years. We decided that the “templated” life of buying a home and living in the suburbs wasn’t living up to the hype. We decluttered and downsized from a 4 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom apartment. This freed up much time from home maintenance and improvement so that we could do more of the things we wanted, like fun activities with the family.

    It is possible to have the life you want, even if the change is a bit scary. We made the jump and now we are happier with the quality of our day to day life.

  18. Michelle

    love this article! I enjoyed it so much, I forwarded to family and shared it on facebook. Then I printed it out so I could reread it again!

  19. Trish

    Ralph Emerson is a very wise man. We moved to a 1000acre farm to build a new lifestyle 2.5yrs ago.

  20. Andrew Burgon

    I set my sights on creating a friendship blog that would help load people up with empowering strategies, tools and ideas that will help them live on a higher strata of satisfying and rewarding friendships.

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