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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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How many times did you wake up feeling like you could conquer the world? You set ambitious goals for the day, you put on your best attire and walked out the door with a big smile on your face but eventually, life took over. Traffic, emails, work, family, and everything else you have around slowly but steadily started to drain your energy and made you feel exhausted.

You run out of battery, and the only solution that seemed viable was to rely on more caffeine. When that stopped working, all the temptations around you started to look much more appealing, and that sense of drive and commitment you had before slowly faded away. This is you running out of willpower.

Willpower: what is it? Why is it limited?

The American Psychology Association describes willpower as “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.” In the book “The Willpower Instinct”, Dr. Kelly McGonigal, explains how every person’s willpower is limited, and slowly depletes throughout the day. The more “willpower challenges” you face, the quicker your reserve drains. Dr. McGonigal divided the different types of willpower challenges you might encounter in three categories:

  • I will: We face this type of challenge whenever we should do something, but we simply don’t feel like getting it done right now.
  • I won’t: We face this challenge when we try to resist temptation, or we try to keep cool in stressful situations.
  • I want: This is a particular type of challenge where we keep track of our long term goals, dreams, and desires. In this instance, we feel like we should take action right now to come one step closer to the goal. 

It’s easy to recognize it when you face a willpower challenge because you literally “feel it in your body.” Imagine being really hungry and walking in front of a bakery. The sight and the smell of pastries quickly triggers an “I won’t” type of challenge, and it takes a severe amount of effort and energy to walk away.

Every time you manage to win one of those challenges, a little bit of your willpower reserve gets used. The more challenges you face daily, the harder it will be to stay true to your goals.

Can you train or recharge your willpower?

A growing body of research suggests that willpower should be considered a muscle. To strengthen it, you should exercise it regularly, but you should not overwork it. Therefore, we shouldn’t try to “be good” at all times. Instead, we should learn how to relax and recharge our willpower.

The general advice on how to improve willpower involves sleep, proper nutrition, and regular exercise. This broad and general recommendation is often not downright applicable by most, because it consists of changing various daily habits. Luckily, three very effective hacks have been discovered, that have an immediate effect on our willpower and take just a few minutes to apply.

Here are the 3 ways to refill your willpower reserves:

1. Focused breathing

Breathing, when done correctly, can stimulate the release of calming hormones while reducing the release of stress hormones like cortisol and catecholamines. To make this effective, you should deeply and slowly inhale through the nose for at least five seconds. Fill your belly with air first, then your chest, and when there’s no more space for air, still try to do tiny inhalations through the nose.

You should feel a pulling sensation around your neck and trapezius muscles. Once your lungs are full, try to hold the breath for five seconds, then slowly exhale through the mouth for at least five seconds. If you repeat this process ten to twenty times, you should feel dramatically more relaxed. Use this method several times a day, especially when you’re experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety.

2. Reward yourself when you accomplish a micro goal

According to a recent study, frequent instant rewards can boost motivation, and therefore, willpower. Creating your own reward system can help you to accomplish your to-do list, and also resist temptations. Since every individual has different tastes, you should come up with creative ideas about the small and frequent rewards you will give yourself upon winning any willpower challenge.

You can see this hack in practice in Apps like the popular Duolinguo, where after completing each lesson you get presented with a chance to open a treasure chest. This rewarding system seems to keep the users much more likely to keep learning new lessons.

3. Taking cold showers

Your body has an autonomic response to cold water. Getting into a cold shower is a difficult (but minor) willpower challenge on its own. As I previously mentioned, winning a willpower challenge strengthens your willpower muscle. Having a morning cold shower, on top of having multiple health benefits, will set you up for a positive winning streak of further challenges.

High performance is the sum of many small habits. Successful people don’t have an unlimited reserve of willpower, but they do have a set of daily rituals that made them succeed. These three hacks are some of the most effective techniques to develop willpower, but some of them may not fit every individual. You should try to find the perfect mix of daily practices that best fits your lifestyle and likes, so that you can strengthen your willpower muscle and perform better at work.

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