Gaye Levy, Contributing Writer
Back in the day, I used to talk about something called Image Direction and the Image Directors.
What I meant by that was, in the most basic of terms, determining who I was and what I wanted to do. From there the goal was to create a targeted plan of action to get me where I wanted to go. And as part of the process, becoming an Image Director.
Now let me say – and this is important – this was in the ’70s. You know, the era of bell bottoms, mini-skirts and disco? I was starting my career, and along with my peers we were driven to become “someone”. With a legacy of campus unrest, anti-war protests, and a general distrust of the older generation, we wanted to make a difference and along the way if we made a ton of money, all the better. That was the way it was for the ’70s generation.
Yep. Image Direction. It was our ’70s fancy-schmancy word for setting a goal then making it happen.
Those days seem like a long time ago. While the optimism of youth still resides in this now, decidedly older body, the old concept of image direction seems dated. Instead, I would like to think I pursue a life of Strategic Living. What is that you say?
Living strategically – by my own definition – means living a life full of abundant adventure while embracing the tenants of simplicity and sustainability. It means being healthy and reaping the benefits of bounteous friendships and caring relationships. It means living a life full of happiness and readiness, without the burden of wanting to be someone else or someplace else. It means liking yourself and moving forward with this business of life with animated spirit and optimism.
This all sounds like lofty stuff, but when you get right down to it I think we have been preparing for this moment for a long long time. Living strategically means being self-sufficient and being self-reliant. It means being prepared for life in these uncertain times.
So how do you get there? Today I would like to outline 10 basic steps to achieving a strategic life.
1. Be healthy and pursue wellness
Sometimes good health is elusive. The combined effects of stress, alcohol, tobacco and controlled substances can take their toll on your health. Add poor eating habits and a genetic predisposition to a disease and you may feel that you are doomed. The best you can do is to exercise, eat a healthy diet, limit stressful activities and avoid substance abuse.
You may, through no fault of your own, be unhealthy but most certainly you can pursue wellness.
2. Achieve economic independence
Eliminate debt to the greatest extent possible. More and more, the value proposition when it comes to housing is to rent rather than buy and, to take things one step further, share a home with another family, related or not.
Achieving economic independence means you might have to give up your credit cards, give up meals out and sacrifice your nights out on the town. Just remember, debt does not magically appear in one month, one year, or even a decade. It can insidiously accumulate over time.
As with your preparedness and prepping activities, take increasingly larger baby steps toward getting out of debt. As long as you are consistent, those steps will eventually take you toward your goal of economic independence.
3. Embrace food production
Grow a garden – it does not have to be large. There is a certain joy in picking a few tomatoes off of your own vines. Not only do they taste better, but you gain the knowledge of knowing how to work the soil and plant the seeds. The same thing applies to baking bread or canning chili. I’ll bet you never thought of those domestic arts as food production. Shift your mindset and start thinking about those things you can grow or make yourself – without reliance upon the shelves at the local grocer.
4. Reduce energy consumption
Here in North America, our reliance on fossil fuels is an epidemic. There is nothing self reliant about using gas or oil to heat your home or cook your food. Still, to accept that as part of our way of life is perfectly acceptable. But I would like to see you challenge yourself to reduce your dependence by doing with less.
Turn off the lights and light some candles in the evening. Learn to entertain yourself with a book, a board game, or simply a great conversation with someone you enjoy. Leave the car in the garage and take a walk.
These are all small things you can do to reduce energy consumption — and, like pennies in the piggy bank, the little things can add up quickly.
5. Learn to barter
Times are tough. Many are unemployed. And many have had their retirement funds decimated by the sneaky (and dare I say corrupt?) Wall Street types. Perhaps you have a useful skill. Or perhaps you have a healthy flock of egg laying chickens. Learn to trade your skill or extra commodities for something you either need or covet.
You would be amazed at the things people will barter for. Even in business. Take a plumber — he or she might trade plumbing services for some year-end tax services from an accountant. Or the chicken farmer — he or she might trade a years supply of fresh eggs for roof repairs. Think about those things you have to trade. Start small but start now. Bartering is the “in” thing to do these days.
6. Use it up, wear it out, make it do!
I love this saying. Believe it or not, it was coined by our government during World War II. I think it speaks for itself: Use what you have and use it until it wears out. Sure, a nice set of new tools would be nice. But there is nothing wrong with the old ones other than old age and perhaps a little rust. Clean them and make do. They are just fine the way they are. This applies to clothing, automobiles, dinnerware, you name it.
7. Take advantage of nature’s bounty
Fish, hunt, or forage for edible native food. Again, the possibilities are endless. Not only will you reap the benefit of free or almost free food, you will develop an enjoyable hobby as well.
8. Prepare for the unexpected
This is what prepping is all about: acquiring the skills, tools, gear and food you will need when and if faced with a crisis. The crisis can come from a natural disaster, a family emergency, a job layoff, or even a collapse of society. I don’t have a crystal ball that tells me nothing bad will ever happen. So I prepare and I hope you do too!
9. Chose simplicity
Given the choice of living a simple, minimalistic life or one filled with non-stop appointments, complicated logistics, and expensive habits, I choose the simple.
Living with less does not mean you are being cheap. It means picking and choosing the best you can afford for those things you do choose to own. This allows you to appreciate your surroundings and your stuff because they were thoughtfully and carefully chosen with purpose in mind. Gone is the clutter and gone is the excess. Everything you own will have a place in your home and a place in your life. The word “junk” will become foreign to you.
Living simply and getting rid of stuff will allow you to open up your senses to what really matters. And you will be happier for it.
10. Enjoy the good life
Number 10 is to enjoy the good life under your own terms. Your. Own. Terms. Repeat that. This is your life and as far as I know, the only life you will have. If you spend your life fulfilling the dreams of others to the exclusion of yourself, you will be missing out on experiencing the wonderment of a new challenge, the joy of a job well done, the adventure of a path less traveled.
It does not take a lot of money to enjoy the good life. What it does take is a commitment to having fun and a dedication to pursing dreams. So go ahead, smell the roses. Figure out the life you want to live given the resources you have. Just do it!
Today I would like to announce the launch of Strategic Living, the new web site and blog created with my long term friend from the ’70s, George Ure. As a matter of fact, we coined the terms “image direction” and “image directors” together. Come on over and take a look. We plan to send up a new article every Friday morning with an eclectic subject matter geared toward helping you live a strategic life under your terms. And at the end of the day, who could ask for more?
Gaye Levy, the SurvivalWoman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State. She lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable, self-reliant and stylish lifestyle through emergency preparation and disaster planning through her website at BackdoorSurvival.com. SurvivalWoman speaks her mind and delivers her message with optimism and grace, regardless of mayhem swirling around us. Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!