On Lifestyle Systems Design

The story of how I created my own personal lifestyle

The word lifestyle began as a marketing concept to define what products and services were needed for a specific individual, group or cultural identity. It includes everything from interests, opinions, and behaviors to what we wear, what we do, and how we live.

It was originally defined as “a person's basic character as established early in childhood” by Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler in 1929. Since the early 1960s its meaning has been broadening to “way or style of living” as a marketing strategy to sell new commodities.

Today the list of possible lifestyles is endless; some we are born into, others we grow into or voluntarily choose. We begin to adopt or reject the lifestyle of our guardians and eventually we come to create our own based on what we identify with the most.

From this perspective Fewer Better Things is a lifestyle that combines digital technologies, ecological sustainability, and humanity into a system of daily habits. It’s a proactive choice to live a mindful life in harmony with technology, people, and planet.

What we consume to define our personal, group or cultural identity has consequences for everyone – people and planet. But since walking into a fancy brand store with desirable apparel is separated by design from the sweatshop they were made in we don’t always make that connection. Our decision is based on what we think we want and what we can afford today or believe / hope we can afford in the future via credit.

We mortgage our future to earn respect and admiration in the present. Driving a fancy sports car – been there, done that btw – communicates that we have “made it” and that it’s our God-given right to “have it all” at any exorbitant expense. And then one morning we wake up and realize that nothing of that really matters. Ouch!

The day I had that very experience I decided that I needed to get out of that default system and create a new system with new healthier habits. Sure, if I’d kept my mind shut and my feelings to myself I could have continued being a very successful cog in the old machinery and retire with more things than the Kardashians. But no, hells no!

My real dream was never about acquiring a lot of things or about financial success but about location independence, personal freedom, and creative thinking. I wanted to explore, learn, and grow to become a mindful creator rather than a mindless consumer.

I began to redesign the system, change the parameters, and write the new code for a happy and meaningful life in the 21st century. I digitized, dematerialized and became a digital nomad, which I still am today despite having relocated to a small surf town.

A great system needs sustainability, not just in financial terms but also ecological as everything we humans do on this planet has a potential negative impact. The sad truth is that the more we “contribute to society” the more carbon emission we create.

The Fewer Better Things system I’ve design over the past decade is a synthesis of the best ideas within a lot of different fields – both ancient and contemporary. I draw on the successful experience and insights of others and on my own experiential lifestyle experiments. It’s a constant cycle of improvements and betterments.

And the system is ridiculously simple:

  1. Design a lifestyle that is aligned with your purpose, values, and interests

  2. Declutter your life from any distractions to free up time, money, and attention

  3. Create positive everyday habits that supports the designed system long-term

I know that if I’m mindful about how I spend my money my burn rate will stay low and my runway will expand. That liberates my time and attention which I can then invest in projects that deliver bigger existential, happiness, and financial returns. Instead of fighting the current I’m surfing the wave.

I’m no longer locked into one societal system but have drawn on the best practices from many different individual, group, and cultural systems to create my own customized and personal lifestyle system that I enjoy every single day.

And I know that as long as I take care of my system daily the results will compound exponentially over time. Everything I do, the way I do it, is creating a happy life in harmony with people, planet, and technology. Not tomorrow but today, every day.

A digital cleanup will lead to less virtual clutter, better digital practices, and more freed up personal time. Engaging mindfully in the circular economy will create a lower burn rate and decrease negative ecological impact. Choosing fewer better things simply leads to a better control of time, money, and attention. That’s all, folks!

Next member-only edition will be published on Wednesday, November 10, 2021.

Happy Sunday,

Per Håkansson

Silicon Valley, California