It’s been over 11 years and 33 countries since we first asked these questions.
In those 11 years, we’ve grown our family from four kids to seven and traveled with them to 33 countries on 5 continents.
We’ve climbed ancient pyramids, volcanoes, and mountains; ridden dromedaries in the Sahara, horses in Germany and wild ponies on the moor; waded, surfed, swam, snorkeled, or sandboarded on 4 continents; explored castles in Europe, beaches in the Caribbean, jungles in Central America, and glaciers in Iceland and Nepal; learned vocab in Spanish, German, French, Italian and Arabic; and eaten breakfast in France, lunch in Monaco and dinner in Italy -- all in the same day.
We live an extraordinary life.
It started out normal enough — a small house in a farming town with a white picket fence, 2 dogs, 2.5 kids, and a career my husband was committed to until he was 65. Maybe if we worked hard we could retire early at 60, then travel. That was our life plan.
But it all changed once we started reading books on lifestyle design and personal development — such as Wayne Dyer’s How to Be a No-Limit Person — and asking ourselves questions we’d never considered before.
1. How would you change your life if you knew you had six months to live? What would you do differently?
This question still bothers me sometimes because there are things I would choose to do when fully embracing life that I would not do if I really knew I was dying. Embracing life I choose to travel, see the world, and grow my passion business to reach long-term goals.
But if I knew I was dying I would spend all my time with my children (instead of working on my business) and extended family (instead of trotting the globe).
Yet it is a powerful question that helped us make life changes. If I knew I was dying, would I wait until I was 60 to travel with my husband? Would we keep our hum-drum day-to-day routine, or would it be filled with more adventure, fulfillment, and purpose?
2. If you’re living out of a sense of obligation instead of choice, aren’t you just a slave?
When we first asked ourselves this question, we thought the life we had was our choice. We’d chosen which college to attend, which house to buy, which career to pursue. Hadn’t we been free to make those choices?
What we didn’t realize that we had been obligated to make those choices because they were the only ones presented in the recipe of social conditioning — college or not, career or job, mortgage or rent, retirement or welfare.
We weren’t aware of gap years, internships, startups, passion projects, doing work you love, passive income, or living abroad.
When we were newly married I worked for a ski resort in Utah. One day after work I missed the last shuttle down the canyon. Upset and obstinate, I started walking.
Fifteen minutes later, a calmer me was thinking clearly. The canyon was at least 8 miles, and it would soon be colder and darker. That meant I had just three options (in the days before cell phones):
- return to the resort and hope to find a ride
- walk the entire 8 winding miles down a steep canyon road in the dark dressed in dark clothing
- or hitchhike (a scary prospect for a young, inexperienced girl like me)
I chose to hitchhike and was soon picked up by a snowboarder who was smoking weed.
But I learned a lesson. My hasty, emotional decision had limited my choices. I didn’t have any other options. I was obligated — a slave — to choosing one of the three.
Social-conditioning makes it appear that we have options. But without being aware of it, we’ve become slaves — obligated — to choose from the limited formula we’ve been handed.
Which job do you choose? (The one you’re given.) Why do you go to your job? (To pay the bills.) Why do you live where you do? (To be near your job.) Why do you get up every morning? (To go to work.) What’s the purpose of your life? (To earn so you can pay the bills.)
Aren’t you really just doing it out of obligation instead of choice? Aren’t you really just a slave?
It’s only when the slave becomes aware of his ignorance that he can gain the knowledge to free himself.
3. If you could look from space at the great big globe we call Earth, where would you choose to live? What is it that keeps you from being there? Why not choose to be where you want to be?
When we first asked this question we were living in a small town where my husband had been hired as a teacher. His job decided where we lived.
As we thought about where we would want to live if we had no obligation to be any particular place, we promptly realized how many options are available.
Which continent? Which country? Which language? Which climate or terrain? Which activities did we want to pursue? Which experiences would we like have?
Asking these questions required digging deep into self-discovery. Who are we really? What do we really like? Beaches or mountains? Oceans or lakes? City or country? Surf or snow? Tropics or desert? Storm or sun? Why?
Baby number seven was born in Germany. We lived in an area with a U.S. military base. Our fellow Americans were shocked that we’d chosen to live in Germany because we wanted to, not because we’d been given orders to move there.
But for most of us, what keeps us from being where we choose to be, instead of where the job is, is the money. ‘How would we earn a living?’ is the first thing we ask. We’re not accustomed to choosing where we want to live, but to it choosing us.
Which is why the next question is crucial.
4. What would you do if there were no such thing as money? What would you be doing with your life on a daily basis? What would you do with your time?
In the midst of raising a young family and paying the bills, we asked ourselves these questions.
If money was out of the equation, how would we make decisions? What would matter to us? What would our day look like? It was hard to even imagine such a thing.
But slowly a vision of our ideal life began to form. It would include travel, new experiences, learning languages, doing good, inspiring others, educating our children, lots of reading and writing, and creating a lasting legacy. It would mean working on projects that we’re passionate about and that make a difference.
Our daily schedules would be filled with the things that matter most, the things that bring purpose and fulfillment.