Two years ago, I reached my breaking point. I was at the wrong end of a too-long work week, defeated and exhausted. My office was filled with people at 6pm, but it was deadly quiet – everyone’s face a mask of numbness and exhaustion.

As was my custom, I was waiting for the clock to strike 6pm – the moment when it became acceptable for me to leave my desk and go home. As I sat staring at the clock, I suddenly felt ill. After years of working in a team where fear and anxiety ruled, my chronic illness had finally come back.

In that moment I knew something had to change.

We live in a culture that teaches us from an early age that there is a natural succession in one’s professional life. You finish high school, go to university, take the first reputable job you can get, climb the ladder, save for retirement.

Most of us accept the following as the truth: we must suffer through our 20’s, our 30’s, even our 40’s, before we get to live the life we want in our 50’s and beyond.

But in that moment I asked myself: Is that really true?

What if instead of building my life from the ground up—I designed my life from the top down? What if I broke out of the social confines that tell me to live a lifestyle that I don’t even want to? That’s making me sick?

Looking back 2 years later, that is what exactly what I have done. Together with my husband, we rejected that standard, and created a successful, growing business based in the US while living and working abroad. We are making MORE money, have a LOWER cost of living, and have more time to truly live the life that we want.

Now every single week, I get people asking me the same question: how did you do it?

There’s no lighting bolt or silver bullet (in fact we teach an intensive bootcamp on this very topic), but here’s the coffee table version.

life

Enjoying the beach in Barcelona

The #1 thing we did was to establish a defining mindset – that “time is our only inalienable resource.” Time is our most daunting of foes—unlike money, you can’t earn back time once you’ve lost it! Time only moves forward, not backwards. This is our North Star that we navigate back to whenever we get off course – and it has never led us astray!

What I am suggesting is that time is the MOST essential currency, and to value it above all else. It’s actually an obvious statement. So we stopped trying to earn our way into a lifestyle that we weren’t going to be able to have for another 30 years. Instead, we asked ourselves where we wanted to be living NOW, and then worked backwards into how we could make an income in that lifestyle.

For example, we knew that if we wanted to travel the world, we needed to do it now. Because once we got older and had children, we would take on the overhead related to mortgage, kids, pets, etc. In order to do this, we took a calculated risk to start our own internet based company, which would allow us to have that lifestyle.

But it’s so easy to get caught in the vicious cycle of limiting mindsets that can accompany a lifestyle change such as this. The voice in the back of your head may begin to list all of the rationale for following a professional path you aren’t emotionally committed to. It says, “I have to be miserable if I want to make a lot of money,” and “I can’t travel because my job doesn’t allow for it,” and “I’ll get the freedom I am craving once I reach retirement.”

Sailing Croatia with Demir

And I get it. I have had my fair share of limiting mindsets too. The little voice at the back of my head was raised in the same social confine—get a good education, climb the professional ladder, earn those two weeks of desperately needed vacation time.

I’ve had to really work to quiet that voice, and work towards living the life that I have designed for myself. And here I am now, living in Spain with my husband, growing our US-based business.

Not only that, now we’re expanding our professional mission by pairing with an incredible new campus here in Spain called United Mint Campus, where we are teaching the next generation of workers to have smart, productive work habits.

Yes, it was a lot of work. And yes, there are still ups and downs.

But we have achieved all of the freedom we could have hoped for, and so much more.

Shooting a TV pilot in Los Angeles

Sometimes I have to pinch myself.

And I want you to pinch yourself, too. First, to jump-start yourself on designing your own life from the top down. And then, you’ll have to pinch yourself again as you start seeing the results, because you can’t believe that it’s actually possible to live your dream.

So, how do you start living your dream?

Our first step was to think about our own personal priorities. Everyone who’s reading this article is going to have a different dream for their life. What matters to you? Why does it matter? Map it out, make a list of the things that matter to you.

Ours looked liked this:

Have a mission-based life
Spend a lot of time together
Have the flexibility to travel or work from wherever we want
Have exciting adventures
Minimal stress levels (critical for my health)
Maintain our standard of living

After taking stock of the things that mattered to us, we took stock of the things that definitely did NOT make that list:

Fame
A specific location
A specific career/certain job

Before you go making your own list, here’s a paradoxical point you may want to consider.  If money is one of your priorities, really think about WHY you want it.

Most people want money to create freedom for themselves. But, ironically, people who are hellbent on massive amounts of wealth end up even more trapped and tied down than they were when they began to earn money.

So, we suggest thinking about money more as just a bartering system—a renewable resource that can help get you to where you want to be, but is not the end-all-be-all.

Start thinking about flipping your own script—thinking from the top down—and about prioritizing your goals and ambitions above the social confines that have defined your professional decisions in the past.

What would make it onto your list?

I am here to tell you that, to the benefit to my wealth, well-being and career, I am fully living my best life.

And I have absolutely no doubt that you can, too.

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