I’ve spent the past few years designing my dream life from scratch while traveling the world full-time, and I have yet to encounter a country that understands the importance of entrepreneurial progress and life quality the way Finland does.
Although Finland is only 100 years old and has a small population of less than six million, it has made tremendous strides in scaling its financial success while preserving its humanity. Not only is it one of the happiest countries and best democracies in the world, it has one of the best work-life balances in the European Union and is thriving economically: the capital of Helsinki boasts a vibrant ecosystem of over 500 thriving startups, and investments into Finnish tech startups went up by 42% in 2016 and have quadrupled since 2011. Culturally, the Finns have a reputation for being tough as nails and excelling at whatever they set their mind to.
The Finnish entrepreneurial prowess, unusually high life quality, and quiet determination have a lot to teach us about life design – that is, the practice of creating a life that you’re deeply passionate about and reflects your wants and needs. Here’s how you can begin:
Focus on what’s important
The Finnish are well known for their minimalist, no-frills approach to life, which is reflected in their ever-present attention to design in architecture, fashion, furniture, transportation, and so on. Their underlying principle, “form follows function,” stresses that everything you create MUST serve its purpose before you make it beautiful. As a result, the design is highly functional but elegant in its simplicity.⠀⠀⠀ ⠀
We live in a world of chaos, and at any given moment, we are overly saturated with too many options… to the point where we risk forgetting what we wanted in the first place.
I personally struggle with getting lost in all the cool things I want to do in my business, such as hire people, create courses and e-books, automate, launch new programs, etc. In the past, I’ve juggled way too many projects at once, burned out from the overwhelm, and disconnected from why I was doing it in the first place: to live my life to the fullest and empower others to do the same.
To successfully design your life, strip away all the extra fluff and really focus on the “why” of what you’re doing. Don’t let what’s extra become a distraction. If you’re feeling indecisive and stuck in your vision, you’re probably making things more complicated than they need to be.
Take your word seriously
Finns have a unique, no-nonsense attitude towards communication: they say what they need to say, and not a word more. Small talk is avoided at all costs and silence is an expected break in conversation. As a Finnish proverb goes, “take a man by his words and a bull by its horns,” meaning that words should be taken seriously and people need to be held to what they say.
If you intend to design your life, start meaning what you say and saying what you mean. Be impeccable with your words and use them to set your intention, get extremely clear on what you want, and then act on it. Most importantly, keep the promises you make – having a track record of acting on what you say will build trust and accountability with yourself and others.
For example, I create a vision board every year and write down specific goals. Every month, I check in with myself to evaluate and adjust my progress. It’s gotten to the point that when I write something down – for example, to build a six-figure business within a year’s time – whether I’ll accomplish it is no longer a question. I just know it’ll get done, and the “how” will reveal itself along the way.
Believe in the power of your words, and act on them. The right opportunities find you when you are being genuine and forthcoming with your intentions, and you will be able to spot them if you are paying attention.
Carve out space for creativity
Despite living in the world’s most technologically advanced country, Finnish people place great emphasis on being offline. Having ample space, quiet, and time is highly valued and sought after, especially in nature. From an early age, Finns are taught to treat the great outdoors as a second home. As a Finn jokingly commented during my recent visit: “we came down from the tree a little later.”
In the midst of the complexities of everyday modern life, their happiness is rooted in simplicity: taking a hike through the forest, spending the afternoon picking berries, relaxing in a steaming hot sauna before jumping into an icy lake. Their connection to nature is also a major source of inspiration in their architecture, design, and startup culture.
As you’re working hard to bring your dreams to life, don’t forget to carve out time to go outside, disconnect from work, and relax your brain. Being outdoors has been repeatedly proven to improve overall mood, fight depression, and lower blood pressure, among many other benefits. Stepping away from the noise will create space for creativity, which you’ll need to continuously explore fresh, new ways to expand on your lifestyle.
Don’t get so wrapped up in your desire to create an ideal life that you forget to actually live it. Prioritize work-life balance, and give yourself permission to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Originally published on: Forbes