My family and I just got back from Europe, where we lived and worked and played in Portugal for a month, living a lifelong dream. And the experience was so amazing that I wanted to share some reflective thoughts about living your dreams.
(Full post on some takeaways from that experience — living and working overseas — is coming very soon. But you can see more of my Portugal photos on Instagram in the meantime.)
We’ve been asked dozens of times by people who knew we were going, or we met in Portugal: “How in the world are you able to do this?,” which we frequently took as affirmation that others saw us living our dreams.
And typically my wife and I gave the default answer of: “I started a software company and because of the type of work we do, the work I do for the company and of course our awesome team, I am able to work most anywhere.”
But the question they are really asking is this:
How are you able to do incredible things like this?
And the true and simple answer is this:
We choose it.
Living your dreams is a choice. And a choice is … the decision between two options or possibilities.
We made the right and good choices in our lives that enabled us to do this and more and be at this point in our lives.
I’m writing this post mainly because I think on the whole we don’t think about our choices and how they affect living our dreams and goals.
For instance, we were able to live in Portugal for a month because we made these choices …
- Instead of continuing to work in the job I once had making $45K a year, I started working hard on nights and weekends building my name and skills (10 years ago now) so that I could eventually quit my job and start a business called iThemes. The drive and motivation for that came from wanting to create my ideal workplace, work with and for the people I enjoy most and, then finally, have no cap on the financial upside benefit from my work. It turned out to be a great investment and choice … and 8 years later, with many ups and downs, we’re at the point where all that hard work is paying off in so many ways. I love my job, the people I work with and for and it rewards us well.
- Instead of buying our first house together that I thought was “right,” in 2011, my wife, Lindsey, convinced me to buy a house well under what we could “afford,” in an older but up and coming neighborhood we really wanted to live in for a time, so that we could be ready when the right land and opportunity came about. We sold that house for a profit in 2014 and had many amazing memories (and fantastic Halloween parties) in it. Another great investment but more so, a fantastic choice.
- Speaking of that dream house, we built that house last year, but it wasn’t the one we could “afford” either. It was the one we wanted and needed without being stupid or crazy and limiting our options for other dreams. We were sensible, tried to think through our family needs but also build something that was uniquely US. We didn’t build it to impress others, we built it to be our forever home where we’d make a lifetime of memories. Although we wish we’d have built another room and a bigger laundry room maybe, it is an amazing home for our family and a fantastic choice for us and our dreams. (By the way, we paid extra to build a huge back porch so we could host our friends, team and even customers on it and have done so. Another great additional investment!)
- We try hard not to drive our paychecks as well, which has historically always been a great choice for both of us (WE both drove older, paid off vehicles for many years). Although we did buy a new truck last year, it was a base model and allows us to take family trips, while my wife (bless her heart) has the same car she had when we met five years ago. She’ll likely insist on driving it until the other mirror, or the tires, fall off.
- Our clothes are very modest and comfortable. In fact, I have to beg, plead and coerce her to get new clothes for herself — meaning ones that don’t have stains or holes in them. And I’m pretty good with Polos and jeans and of course anything with the iThemes logo on it. But we choose not to overindulge on clothing, by not buying the top of the line or a brand name, simply because we don’t want to wear our self-esteem. (That sounded judgy. Sorry.)
- As we were starting to have children, Lindsey and I made the decision to not drastically change our lifestyle, or alter our dreams specifically related to a big dream of ours, traveling. Instead of saying, “Heck no, I never want to get on an airplane with a 1-year-old and a toddler!” My wife, who led this choice/perspective for us, said, “We’re going to show them the world.” Now, both of our kids have their passports, have been out of the country, and we keep living our travel dreams. Great choice!
- The last choice I’ll give you is a core value for Lindsey and I. We choose, each day, to make the most of our time, treasure and talent on earth. But specifically, I want to mention that the most important choice we make is the one of our time. Both of us, separately and long ago, decided we wanted to make the most of our time on earth and were unwilling to let anyone else dictate what we did with it. We both made difficult, heart-wrenching choices in our past, perhaps to correct mistakes or change bad situations in order to use our most precious resource — time — to the max. Every day is an adventure for us now as we spend our time together pursuing our dreams. Choosing to spend our time wisely will always be the best choice we make.
These are just a couple of the CHOICES we have made and continue to make in order to be where we are now (or where we were last month).
Some might be tempted to think living your dreams means great sacrifices. But they aren’t to us. They are choices. It’s only a sacrifice when you aren’t choosing the path that leads you to your goals and dreams. You’re giving up something you REALLY want for something you have now.
This is yet another choice of perspective. If what I’m choosing means more than the cost, it’s not a sacrifice to me.
We just don’t keep up with the Jones. They are boring and have small-minded (at least from our perspective) dreams of things that rot and rust. They value their time, talent and treasure differently than us.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in jealousy of what others have or do.
Jealousy is envy without the cost.
It’s wanting something someone else has without paying the price for it.
In fact, I didn’t write this post stir up jealousy in anyone, but rather as an example of the choices we made to do so and to inspire you to do it for yourself.
But to anyone who might feel jealousy about what we were able to do … my simple response and guidance would be: This all started 10 years ago. If you want to live what we did, I’d suggest you start working toward it now, on nights, weekends, vacations, and make the choices we made and continue to make. (Warning: Results may vary.)
But the key is: We choose to live our dreams, not someone else’s. You should choose to live yours, and only yours.
And thus, we’ve just tried consistently to make smart choices that enabled us to live and achieve our OWN dreams and goals.
That has started and continues with our in-depth and frequent discussions together, answering the questions: How do we want to live our life? What do we want to do with it? Where do we want to go? How can we give of ourselves to others?
In fact, as we were living in Portugal last month, I asked Lindsey, “So what’s next? Where do you want to live next?” We value that WAY more than possession or things.
I should add … that none of this would be possible if my spouse/significant other/partner (Lindsey) and I were not fully aligned in our dreams and goals.
We always make choices together. If I want something, but she doesn’t, then we have to find a compromise, and vice versa. And whenever something isn’t right, we can often trace it back to being misaligned, which always warrants a repeat of answering those questions again to make sure we’re on the same page (or need to adjust).
We talk frequently about these things, because our dreams and goals matter most to us. Sometimes they change and shift. But we are focused on our own life adventure.
But most of all it’s simply about prioritizing our dreams and making choices that reflect them. And that makes living our dreams day to day — and the choices in it — so incredibly easy.
So easy in fact, that the decisions I’ve mentioned above, help us answer the question people ask us about living in Portugal even simpler:
We choose it.