Design Your Lifestyle for Happiness and Fulfillment

Lifestyle Design - Happiness and Fulfillment

by Brenton Russell on

How many articles about lifestyle design have you read that left you inspired to change your life but unsure what the next practical step is?  How many times have you been told to target a niche market, outsource to a Virtual Assistant and automate your business processes but have been left wondering how on earth to apply all these great business tips when you don’t even know what your desired lifestyle looks like?

While conceptual reading is great for self development and expanding perspective, our desired lifestyle is only going to be realised with focussed and relevant action!

In this post you’ll learn how to design a lifestyle to achieve happiness and fulfillment, recognise areas within your lifestyle design that require re-balancing and how to seize the opportunities that significant life changes create to lead to greater happiness and fulfillment!

Needs-Based Lifestyle Design

Before you can progress towards your desired lifestyle you first need to know what this lifestyle looks like. I believe that the essence of lifestyle design is creating your world to achieve personal happiness and fulfillment.  Personal happiness and fulfillment is achieved by meeting your basic needs. Therefore:

Needs-Based Lifestyle Design = Happiness and Fulfillment

What Are Our Needs?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Philosophers and psychologists have theorised throughout the ages on what defines the basic human needs.  Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs are represented by the following diagram:

Once the largest and most fundamental needs at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid have been met such as water, food, sleep and warmth, we can start moving up the hierarchy to achieve more complex needs for greater life happiness and fulfillment.

Progressing up from the basic needs at the bottom, Maslow suggests that our needs become more psychological and social based.  Up towards the top of the pyramid our needs centre around self-esteem, personal accomplishment and the need to realise our individual potential.

Choice Theory

Choice Theory (Dr William Glasser’s positive psychology of human behaviour) has similiar thoughts on what comprises our basic human needs.  Amongst other principles, Choice Theory states that the basic human needs are:

Choice theory is the school of thought that I use to define and assess my basic needs.  Its fine to use other models so long as you are gaining a clear and honest picture of what your basic human needs are in life.

What Are Your Needs?

To achieve personal happiness and fulfillment, we each need to satisfy our different basic needs to varying levels according to our personality and character.  Understanding our basic needs criteria is the first step in designing a lifestyle to meet these needs.

Complete this free 3 minute Basic Needs Analysis Activity to gain a greater understanding of your basic human needs profile.

Design Your Life to Meet Your Needs

Now that you have a better understanding of where your needs lie, assess your life and actions against your needs criteria. Happiness and fulfillment are difficult to achieve when your actions in life are not appropriately meeting your needs.  Where an imbalance exists (generally identified by negative feelings such as frustration, disappointment, anger etc) determine actions that you can take to re-balance your life against your needs.

This is practical lifestyle design in action!

For example, if you feel that your love and belonging needs aren’t being met join a new club or set up a weekly date with your partner.  If your power/empowerment needs are not being met join a specific interest group and start exerting some influence in an area that is important to you.  If you are not meeting your freedom need make a date with yourself each week to do what ever spontaneously takes your fancy.

Re-balancing Needs – A Personal Example

I have known for a long time that my needs (in simple terms) are:

  • Survival – Low to Moderate.
  • Love and Belonging – Low.
  • Power – Very High.
  • Freedom – High.
  • Fun – High.

Up until 09 December 2010 I worked as an officer in the Australian Army for 13 years.  My very high power needs were well met through the significant responsibility that I held in commanding soldiers in both training and combat.  As my survival need was relatively low there was no conflict with this need and my job.

Many aspects of the Army are fun and adventurous so this need was also well met but there was a conflict within my lifestyle between my high need for freedom and the rigid and heavily prescribed aspects of the Army.  As most of my needs were being met, the conflict with my freedom need wasn’t a significant issue. Sometimes you have to compromise!

After 13 years of conformity and large doses of lifestyle prescription, the conflict between my freedom need and the Army way of life started to create increased friction.  Along with re-balancing my family’s needs, it was my inability to appropriately meed my freedom need which eventually led to my decision to leave the Army.

Leaving the Army meant re-designing my lifestyle.  And re-designing my lifestyle meant creating a world where my basic needs continued to be met.  With the Army meeting all of my power and a lot of my fun needs I quickly realised that for me to be happy and fulfilled I would need to include replacement activities to meet these needs.

Creating the ‘Uncork Your Mind’ website now goes a long way to meeting my power need.  It allows me to talk about the things that I find important and provides me recognition with every person who visits my website and finds it useful.  In the Army I predominately met my power need by having power over people and now I meet this need by empowering other people.

Time will tell if this website is enough to meet my power need noting that it is very high!  If not then I will look to join an interest group or local council to exert influence in areas that are important to me.

Leaving the Army and moving towards becoming a ‘lifestyle design entrepreneur’ certainly aligns with my high freedom need which bodes well for my future happiness and fulfillment.  If my survival need was high then the choice to work in more entrepreneurial endeavours would have caused an imbalance between my lifestyle and personal needs.

Focussed Action!

Remember that:

Needs-Based Lifestyle Design = Happiness and Fulfillment

Understanding where your needs lie and including activities and behaviours to meet these needs is practical lifestyle design in action!

If you found this post useful please forward it to your friends and colleagues who may also benefit from it using the social media buttons below.  It means a great deal to me to spread the message of lifestyle design and also helps me to meet my ’empowering others’ need!

Don’t forget to register for my free monthly Lifestyle Design newsletter on the right hand side of the website containing high value information not published anywhere else!

Uncork Your Mind is now a “DoFollow” website.  If you choose to leave a comment you will get a link back to your website.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan Renfrew @lifestyle design December 21, 2010 at 1:13 am

Great post buddy,

And quite timely aswell as im taking this week to do some psychological housekeeping. Thanks for highlighting the importance of our hierarchy of needs.

Ryan Renfrew @lifestyle design recently posted..Part 5 The No Bullshit Secrets of Stratospheric Success – The Law of Receptivity


Brenton Russell December 21, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Hi Ryan,

I find that a needs-based focus on lifestyle design (whatever your design looks like) is a very simple and effective way to keep me focussed on what’s important. Unfortunately simple doesn’t always mean easy! The challenge is to understand your needs criteria, identify when your needs are out of balance and identify constructive actions to rectify the imbalance.

I’m sure that by keeping an awareness of your needs your upcoming psychological housekeeping will be highly useful!


Peter J December 22, 2010 at 1:20 am

Hey Brenton,
Good to see another local Aussie out in the blogosphere 😉

I would say that many of us are in a mixed patch of each of the hierarchy of needs. We’ve all reached certain elements from inside each of the hierarchies and will probably spend the rest of our lives trying to fill the gaps.


Brenton Russell December 22, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Hi Peter,

Always good to hear from another local!

For me the big thing is that each of us has different levels of need within each of the areas. For example, power/empowering is well and truly my highest need while my wife’s is freedom. I can assure that this difference creates some challenges sometimes but understanding each of our different needs naturally points us towards outcomes that can fulfill both of our needs.

I agree with you that balancing and fulfilling our needs is a life long pursuit but one that has happiness and fulfillment as its reward!


Fernando December 22, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Hey, nice to meet you Brenton!
I think in my case it’s all about love. All the other are alright too but for me love is the one I need and not only love from my girlfriend, also from my friends and stuff.
I think is the best bond between humans :)
Fernando recently posted..Do You Have The Passion To Become Rich


Brenton Russell December 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Hi Fernando,

Thanks for stopping by! Its great that you can recognise what your predominant need is and make life decisions accordingly. Love and Belonging is one of my lower needs so I guess that you and I would make very different decisions about how we each meet our needs!


Ivan Honey December 24, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Hi Brenton , I’m enjoying your site. As a trainer in Choice Theory, Reality Therapy and Lead Management , I was delighted to see your reference to the Basic Needs, which is an integral part of the Choice Theory model. This powerful model is used world wide (50 plus countries) and is widely acknowledged as a highly effective and scientifically valid approach. A recent trainee told me “Its like Ive been collecting games all my life , but now I have the console to play them on!”
Lifestyle design which fits with the way the brain works will always be more satisfying and sustainable. Ignoring any of these needs for too long will always bring us undone. I’m enjoying following your journey. Its great to do action research on oneself! Its the only way of course. While our lives are unique to us, we can learn so much from each other. Happy Christmas and great blogging for the new year.
Ivan Honey , Psychologist


Brenton Russell December 25, 2010 at 10:37 am

Thanks for stopping by, Ivan. Whilst I certainly don’t claim to be a Choice Theory expert, I do see the value in many of its principles and methodology. I had a quick look at your Ivan Honey website and its certainly great having someone with such an extensive background in psychology and Choice Theory like yourself stopping by and adding great comments. Thanks!

I certainly agree with your comments that we can learn so much from each other and this website aims to achieve this. Your comments definitely contribute to this aim!


Ryan Renfrew @lifestyle design January 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I completed the basic needs profile

1. power and empowerment
2 freedom
3. fun
4 love and belonging
5 survival

I got one question. Does this order repesent us a person and who we are or can the order change over time. The whole state vs trait arguement I guess.
Ryan Renfrew @lifestyle design recently posted..Goal Setting Gone Wrong


Brenton Russell January 17, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Hi Ryan,

This is a great question and one with varying opinions!

Dr William Glasser who developed Choice Theory and is where I have taken these Basic Human Needs from is of the opinion that your needs profile is largely hardwired within your DNA and that cases of people changing their needs profile is very rare. Choice Theory further states that although it may appear that your basic human needs change it is actually your perception of your basic human needs that change. This change in perception is often created when some of your needs aren’t being met so these needs now appear to be more important to you where in fact it only appears that they are more important to you because they are not being met. This change in perception can also come about as people understand better what the definition of the basic needs are and can therefore better define what their own needs profile is.

My opinion differs in that I believe that your basic human needs profile can change. I believe that this change can be a slow gradual change or can be rapid where instigated by a significant event. I believe that my needs profile has gradually changed over the years.

Thanks for the great question. I’d love to hear any other opinions out there!


abbu January 7, 2012 at 1:58 am

Design Your Lifestyle for Happiness and Fulfillment by studying Bhagavat-Gita As-It-Is , it is clearly mentioned about the Human lifestyle. The creator of this universe gave knowledge about the human lifestyle along with the creation. But unfortunately this knowledge was not carried properly and not was followed by the next generations. Due to this reason, the Knowledge about actual Human living style has lost. Without this knowledge, human beings started living by observing the society. These changes taken based on place-to-place and time-to-time. Bhagavat-Gita As-It-Is: Ch. 6 verses 32 as A human being is perfect human who, by comparison to his own self, see the true equality of all beings, in both their happiness and their distress.


Sharon Selby March 2, 2012 at 4:31 am

Thanks so much for this great post! I am a Child and Family Clinical Counsellor in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I love to see people feeling empowered and aligning themselves and their lifestyles with their needs and temperament.
All the best to you,


Brenton Russell March 4, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Hi Sharon,
Thanks so much for your comment. I have a huge amount of respect for the work that you would do as a Child and Family Clinical Counsellor. I’m sure that it must be challenging work but so important to support those who need a hand.


Nikki June 2, 2012 at 6:42 am

I’ve worked for several years with clients based on Glasser’s Basic Needs. When I worked for a therapeutic foster care agency, we really felt that proactively addressing the basic needs of foster kids was much more beneficial than reacting to their meltdowns when these needs were neglected. It provides a very basic framework for working with parents and guardians (whether foster or biological). I love the basic needs assessment tool, very useful.


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