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5 Keys to Discovering Your Ideal Life



5 Keys to Discovering Your Ideal Life

How often do you hear “If I was retired I would do X, but I’m not retired yet, so it’s back to work Monday”? I hear this way too often, and you know what? If that’s your thought process you’re keeping it much too narrow.

There is no reason you can’t be living that ideal life now, before retirement. It just takes some intentional work to make it happen.

Here are five keys to figuring out your ideal life and making it happen:

1. What is your ideal life?

The first thing you need to do is know what your ideal life will look like. You won’t get there if you figure you’ll just know it when you see it. But the definition doesn’t have to be long and complicated. For me it’s having a business that allows me to spend much of my time in the mountains with my family.

You’re probably not going to come up with a statement like that on your first attempt. Really figuring out what your ideal life looks like takes months. You’ll most likely try on a few statements about your ideal life that you throw out because they’re not quite right.

To start designing it you need to ask yourself three questions:

  • What is important to me?
  • What activity leaves me with more energy than it takes?
  • What is my purpose?

I knew that being a great father was important and that being out in the mountains gives me energy. Yesterday I spent nine hours hiking up a huge mountain and I have more energy for work today than I did any day last week. Once I really understood those two things I could start identifying the parts of my life that met my criteria for an ideal life.



2. What must be true for that to happen?

Once you know what your ideal life is like it’s time to figure out what needs to be true for that to happen. I know that to get to my ideal life I need a business model that’s one-to-many. I need to write a book or build a course and sell it to many people. Or I need to be doing more group coaching than one-on-one coaching. With a few truths about your business in hand you can evaluate your current business focus and decide what needs to get cut and what needs more time invested.


3. Define your systems

Systems are the lifeblood of any successful business. They’re the cleaning checklists or closing routines that ensure things happen at the right time and that you don’t forget anything. Most small business owners I talk to have no systems, and even if they do they often fail to use their systems. If you’re not using a system it may as well not exist.

The biggest net benefit in my business was building out my client vetting process. Having one standard email to send all prospects meant I had a simple, repeatable process that I could keep tweaking. When I hit a stumbling block in a project I could back track to my first emails and add in a question designed to tease out that stumble and either address it or ensure that I wouldn’t get that type of client again.

The second big benefit to systems is that you can get someone else to take them over. Once I had a defined email sequence for new clients and the answers I expected, I handed the initial few emails to my assistant which left me free to only deal with the prospects who were better qualified for my business.


4. Prepare for your season of hard work

It happens at every conference — someone asks me how I got my business to six figures in revenue. They ask because they want tips on how to get their business there as well. When I talk about making 10 contacts a day with new prospects, going to networking events, pitching other sites with content, working weekends and hard work in general, many tune out.

They didn’t really want to hear that reaching six figures required a bunch of work. They wanted some secret formula that would instantly produce success. They wanted the rewards without the work. That’s not how it works. If you want to get to your ideal life it’s likely going to take a season of hustle. You shouldn’t be working weekends for years, but doing so for six months, or even a year, as you get your ideal life business started is totally expected.

Even once you get going it’s likely you’ll have a few times when you’re going to need to hustle again to kick your business to the next level. Success is not effortless, it’s a product of hard work.

“When you live for a strong purpose, then hard work isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.” – Steve Pavlina

5. Take care of yourself and your relationships

As you’re on this journey and start to see some success it’s way too easy to just keep working harder. While it’s certainly true that hard work is the key to achieving your ideal life, doing so at the expense of your health or relationships with those around you yields a hollow success.

Those who fail to maintain a good balance risk looking back later at the aftermath of their success; children who won’t talk to them, a ruined marriage, poor health. They’re forced to ask themselves if all the money they’ve earned or ‘fame’ they’ve gained is really worth it.

It’s not! In the midst of working hard to design this ideal life and get it, make sure you take time out for the relationships you care about. Spend real time with your kids, without your phone to demand your attention. Date your partner. Take time to eat right and get some exercise.


You can have your ideal life. All you need to do is figure out what it is and then take intentional steps every day to get there.

What do you think is the most important key to discovering your ideal life?

Curtis McHale is a business coach and speaker. He mainly focuses on helping businesses build effective processes for vetting ideal clients and building a business that doesn’t take every hour of every day to run. A number of his clients have seen 30% jumps in income with no extra time needed.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mathew Page

    Nov 6, 2015 at 11:43 am

    This is absolutely true! Everybody focus on hopping to successtrain but success comes from successful daily routine. Then you can see how realistic and close your dreams have come.

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

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