The Hidden Saboteurs of Lifestyle Design

Conscious lifestyle design sounds wonderful in principle. It involves creating a lifestyle that you love and a sustainable income source to fund it. But what many people don’t realize is just how many hidden traps there beneath the surface that can easily sabotage your transition. Let’s cover some of them.


If you’re transitioning from a routine, humdrum lifestyle to a much richer one, especially in terms of seeking out new experiences, then your pre-existing routines will need to be broken. Your old routine can no longer be your friend.

By default you’re going to catch yourself falling back into old routines that no longer serve you. You’ll stay home when you’d rather be traveling because staying home is what you’ve always done. You’ll socialize with the same people who reinforce your old routine even though you know deep down that they won’t follow you into your new lifestyle.

Even before you transition, it’s good to start breaking your old routine now and then. Begin shifting away from old patterns, and tackle new experiences when you can. Embrace the new.

Incompatible Friends

You may have friends that are compatible with your old lifestyle, but are they compatible with your desired direction? Could they handle you on the other side? If not, then you can expect to transition out of those relationships, and the sooner you do, the less social drag you’ll experience as you transition.

If you see yourself as a loyal person, then make sure your loyalty isn’t misplaced. Be loyal to your true self. Be loyal to your path of growth. Be loyal to the richly compatible new relationships that await you. Don’t confuse loyalty with stubbornness or fear.

Being loyal to dysfunctional relationships that hold you back isn’t true loyalty. Admit the truth that you’re afraid to move on into uncharted territory, and you cling to old relationships to give yourself an excuse to avoid taking the next step. Once you’re honest with yourself, it will be easier to move forward.

You don’t necessarily have to break up with your old friends deliberately. Just shamelessly embrace your new path, and let them react as they will. If they can be happy and supportive, great. If not, let your transition rattle them, and see if they come around. If they don’t come around and keep resisting, let go. Engaging with such resistance is a waste of life. Trying to convince someone who doesn’t want to be convinced is a delay tactic, so don’t get caught up in such nonsense.

I’ve gone through several big lifestyle transitions. Each time I did so, I lost old friends and gained new ones. Some friends have been able to follow me through multiple transitions. These friends tend to be the most compatible because they’re able to embrace growth-oriented people, and they expect change rather than perpetual sameness.

If you have people in your life who expect you to remain stuck, those people are not your friends. Don’t let their neediness drag you down. That doesn’t serve you, and it doesn’t serve the world.

Incompatible Relationship Partners

A partner that can’t handle your lifestyle transition is one of the greatest saboteurs of all. Transitioning out of an incompatible relationship can be one of the most gut-wrenching challenges of lifestyle design. I’ve been through it, as have many of my readers. But to really create a fulfilling life, it’s often necessary to go through it.

You can’t settle. You can’t drag a partner with you who doesn’t want to go. And there’s no need to do that anyway. There are amazingly compatible new partners waiting for you, but they’ll never recognize you as a match while you remain stuck in your old relationship.

Read the article How to Decide When to End a Long-Term Relationship to see where you currently stand. I also highly recommend the book Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum. It’s probably the best book I’ve ever read about relationships, and it’s a delightful, eye-opening read that will forever change how you view intimate relationships.

You may also enjoy reading the article 4D Relationships if you want a simple model for checking how empowering your relationships are across the four key relationship dimensions.


Creating an amazing lifestyle sounds like a lot of fun, but it also takes dedication, self-discipline, and patience. If you have any addictions – and most people do – they’ll sabotage your ability to stay on track.

All addictions weaken the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain responsible for planning and self-regulation. Addictions are insidious because they lower your ability to think rationally and to discipline yourself, thereby making it even harder to overcome the addiction.

It’s fair to say the the more addictions you have, and the more frequently you exercise them, the weaker your self-discipline will be. How can you undergo a major lifestyle transition if you can’t even get yourself to take action consistently? It’s extremely difficult. Most likely you’ll just succumb to endless delays.

If you want to create an amazing lifestyle, make overcoming addictions a serious priority, no matter how challenging it is. This includes alcohol and other drugs; smoking; porn; gambling; excessive Internet, cell phone, or social media usage; unhealthy foods; sex; shopping; video games; and overworking yourself.

The more addictions you drag into your new lifestyle, the more they’ll sabotage your enjoyment of life. When you think about your new lifestyle, cultivate a vision of yourself as an addiction-free person. Positive addictions like exercise are fine, but envision yourself being free of negative, self-sabotaging rituals.

If you’ve had a long-term relationship with an addiction that’s slowing you down, stop trying to negotiate a moderate relationship with it. Your true decision is either to marry that addiction till death do you part, or break it off forever and never see each other again. If you’re not willing to do the latter, then you’re married by default, and you’ll probably have that addiction for the rest of your life. Are you willing to drag it forward decade after decade?

For any kind of addiction you might have, there are countless support groups that can help you. Just do a Google search on “overcoming [addiction type] addiction,” such as “overcoming Internet porn addiction,” and you’ll find abundant resources. Start reading, and open your eyes to how the addiction is hurting you and how to overcome it. You may find a lot of inspiration in reading people’s stories.


When you embark on a new lifestyle, you’re going to be uncomfortable. If your new lifestyle involves lots of growth and change, such as frequent traveling, then you’re going to be uncomfortable a lot too.

In your old lifestyle, you may have felt pretty comfortable. Most days seemed normal and met your expectations, even if your expectations were low. You were in your comfort zone most of the time.

That type of experience has to be thrown out the window, at least for a while. When you transition (and perhaps long afterwards), you’ll be outside your comfort zone. As odd as it may sound, you’ll need to develop the ability to be comfortable with discomfort.

You can’t let discomfort stop you because discomfort will be common in your new reality. Travel to a new country where you don’t speak the language, and you’ll be uncomfortable. Do your first coaching session, speech, or interview, and you’ll be uncomfortable. Tell other people about your transition, and you’ll be uncomfortable. It’s all part of the growth experience. If you weren’t uncomfortable, you wouldn’t be growing much.

The more you welcome discomfort, little by little, the easier it gets. Many experiences that used to make me uncomfortable now seem like fun. Next week I’m heading to the UK and then to Italy the following week. I’ve never been to Italy before, and I don’t speak any Italian, so I can expect some awkwardness here and there, but I’ve had enough of these experiences that this doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m now comfortable with this level of discomfort. Years ago this discomfort would have been enough to make me avoid such traveling unless I did tons of advance preparation or played it safe by going with a group.


Our final saboteur is one of the most common among my readers. If your new lifestyle is all about me, me, me, then you’ll probably find it difficult to sustain your journey.

There needs to be some kind of value proposition to your new lifestyle. What are you giving in exchange for all that you’ll receive? How are you including other people in your journey? Why should anyone bother to care or to help you?

Without some positive social support on your path, you’ll have to go it alone, and that’s pretty difficult. It also tends to be demotivating. I’ve seen people give up from loneliness and isolation when they take a me-first approach to lifestyle design. Most of the time they don’t make it very far because they find it too difficult to earn income. If you don’t care about serving others, they why should anyone serve you their money?

It’s great to fulfill your personal desires, but also think about how your gains can benefit others as well. I do this by sharing my growth lessons publicly. When I first started on this path, I didn’t know how impactful that would be. Since I started blogging in 2004, there have been more than 100 million visits to my website, and my content has been shared, translated, and republished all over the world. I get feedback from people on every continent except Antarctica (a stubborn holdout for some reason). This in turn helps to fuel my own journey by bringing lots of growth-oriented people into my life who reinforce what I’m doing. Most of the friends I have today, I’ve made because of this work.

Ideally your work and lifestyle should mesh together well, holistically supporting each other. Creating this balance is a challenge to be sure, but when you finally nail it, you’re golden.

* * *

These saboteurs have crushed many lifestyle transitions, so please don’t ignore them. Keep leaning into these challenges. See them as growth opportunities that will make you stronger for tackling them.

If you’d like more help on this, I also encourage you to join us in person for the upcoming Conscious Life Workshop in Las Vegas (October 14-16, 2016), where you’ll spend three full days with a group of enthusiastic people who are embracing lifestyle transitions of all types (career, income, relationships, etc). The focus of this workshop is to help you create a sustainable lifestyle that you love with an income stream of $10,000 per month or more. Note that this workshop will not be recorded since it’s designed to be a live experience. The $100 early bird discount is good through September 14th, and after that the price goes up, so if you want to go, it’s wise to sign up soon. If you go, you’ll have a wonderful time, and you’re sure to make some amazing new friends. Hope to see you there!

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Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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