How I turned my dream life into my real life

04/07/2016 04:40 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Four years ago, if you'd told me I'd one day live in paradise and run a business I loved, I'd have probably have said you were nuts.

At that time, I felt my life was a million miles from paradise. I was verging on burnout. I'd bagged a six figure job in Canada that involved international travel and a guaranteed regular paycheck and by most people's reckoning, I was doing well. But it just didn't feel right. And after having an emotional breakdown on a business trip to Russia, I decided enough was enough.

Having made the leap I now understand why so many people feel trapped in jobs they don't enjoy. Often it's because people have misconceptions about the stage they need to get to before it's 'safe' to quit.

In my experience, your dream lifestyle may not be as far off as you think. I used to think I had to earn the same salary as I did in my job as my business, in order to quit. I also thought I had to be uber successful first to prove something to myself in order to have the permission to start living the life I really wanted. But I now realize I was wrong.

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Getting clear on my priorities

An ideal lifestyle is more than a salary: it's about what you want to experience and who you want to be around, What did I see myself doing on a daily basis that would bring me joy? Did I even have to be living where I was living?

In the 4 Hour WorkWeek, Author Tim Ferriss encourages readers to price out the costs of designing their ideal lifestyle. If you want to live in Bali, for example, research the living costs in terms of accommodation, food, extracurricular activities, and traveling around the region.

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Rethinking where I was living

I lived in Vancouver, and like most major international cities, it's expensive. Even when I was making six figures with my corporate job, I seemed to be spending money faster than I could earn it. Rent, food, the lifestyle in a city can be costly, and especially for someone just starting out on their first business.

If I'd stayed in Vancouver, I may have had to make more money with my business right away to stay afloat. And this can be both good and bad. In my case, it forced me to hustle more (good), but sometimes I took on clients I didn't want just to make sure I could afford the rent (bad).

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As yourself what you really want

Knowing what I know today, I now know that a better lifestyle trumps making more money. We make money to have a better lifestyle anyway. So instead of focusing on the big number, let's think about what an ideal lifestyle would really cost.

What you really want on a day to day basis may not be as costly as you think. For example, I like to travel but I don't need to be on a yacht every day. And it's possible to travel and live abroad more cheaply than to stay put in a major city.

Determine the non-negotiables that you must have in your lifestyle. Then ask yourself whether you can realistically access these in your currently location? Are there any parts of the world where you might be able to access these at a lower cost?

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Understand the costs of moving abroad

I researched at how much it cost to do the things I loved. And how much it would cost to live abroad. Nomad List is a great tool that can help you with lots of basic information about the cost of living. Switching to a low cost destination like Chiang Mai in Thailand will lower your costs substantially, for example. Nomad List estimates the living cost there to be $1,134, the figure in Vancouver is almost twice that.

Be prepared to have less money

The first year of business can be rough, and most likely (here's a reality check), you probably won't make the same as your salary. Time is an asset to you in your first year of business, because you'll be immersing yourself in learning new things, figuring out how to market yourself, and what to create. You'll make mistakes, and you need room to do that.

So the last thing you want to do, is feel pressured to make money right away. This why I'm a huge advocate for living abroad because it buys you time. You aren't spending so much to live, so you can experiment and build your business comfortably.

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Envision the details of your new life

Thinking about my ideal lifestyle gave me more motivation for quitting. It could be about getting more freedom, or living a more joyful existence. Or getting the ability to create something that is truly your own.

Getting clear on why you want to quit, and what you want your future to look like will help you to dream bigger. You have to keep those images and feelings alive because they help your brain to imagine the future and make you more likely to follow through on your plans.

So get out a journal or a pad of paper, and write a story of your ideal lifestyle.

And please, for the love of God, tell someone about it.