Eric kim feet selfie, laptop, Osaka

How to Discover Your Ideal Lifestyle

Eric kim feet selfie, laptop, Osaka
Everything I need for my ideal lifestyle. Osaka, 2018

Dear friend,

One question I’ve been curious about the last 10 years of my life: what is the “ideal” lifestyle, and how do I achieve it, in order to be maximally “happy”?


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What is true happiness?

Osaka urban landscape skyline. 2018
Osaka skyline. 2018

Ever since I was around 18 years old, I’ve always sought the philosopher’s stone of:

What is true “happiness”, and how can I achieve it in my life?

This endless wandering has made me read hundreds of books, talk to hundreds of people (who I considered successful and happy), to listen to hundreds of videos and podcasts, to experiment with my daily lifestyle, and to travel all around the globe.

How can living a certain lifestyle help me achieve happiness?

Osaka Street Photograph

On top of that, I’ve always been curious about achieving the ideal “lifestyle”, without really challenging myself and asking,

What would be my ideal lifestyle?

Uniqlo Street Photograph, Osaka

I didn’t really ask myself this question, because all these self-help books and popular culture told me the “answers”: having a bunch of money, a bunch of freedom/flexibility/free time, purposeful and meaningful work, good friendships, good diet and exercise, etc.

But what I want to encourage you through this essay is this:

You must dictate your own ideal lifestyle for yourself, by asking yourself what you truly desire in life.

Walking people. Osaka, 2018
Walking people. Osaka, 2018

Experiment in your personal life to discover what works for you

Cindy portrait Osaka

Your ideals in life are different than mine. All humans on planet earth (while we might be similar in many regards), we are also extremely different. We shouldn’t generalize that what works for others will work for me; similarly, we shouldn’t generalize what works for me will work for others.

Which means before you go searching for answers to your life’s questions or problems in the minds of others, seek it for yourself.

Step 1: Subtract cancerous people from your life

torn face osaka

First and foremost, I think one of the immediate things we should tackle is to identify the sources of extreme discontent or dissatisfaction in our lives; specifically, certain negative/toxic people.

Identify these people in your life — who are they? Your boss, certain family members, certain “friends”, your partner, or acquaintances?


My practical suggestion: start off by distancing yourself with them. Block their emails, phone calls, or forms of communication. Don’t feel guilty about it. You must be brutal. The first step to your thriving in life is to cut out people who are toxic to you, people who are nothing but dark clouds, and a cancer in your life.

Eric kim selfie headless Osaka

If you discovered you had a cancerous tumor in your body, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to remove this cancerous tumor from your body at all costs, even if the chemotherapy might cause you (momentary) extensive pain and suffering?

Dark urban landscape Osaka

The reason why you must subtract cancerous people from your life is this: if these are the people you are interacting with on a daily basis, they’re going to color your mood, your outlook, and your life to an extreme level.

Osaka urban landscape

Take it from me, one negative person can ruin your life. One negative person can cancel out the effect of 100 positive people. Thus, be brutal about cutting these people out of your life— just like how I had to cut my dad out of my life.

Step 2: How can you create more?

Osaka selfie Ricoh gr ii and GoPro

If you’re reading this, I assume you’re a creative, a photographer, or someone with a passion for making stuff, whether it be photos, visual art, or something else.

To me an ideal lifestyle allows you to create everyday. That means if your passion is to make photos, you must discover ways you can make photos everyday! If your passion is writing, you must discover how you can write everyday. Regardless of your artform, you must discover how to do it everyday.

RICOH GR II x Eric Kim Neck Strap
RICOH GR II x Eric Kim Neck Strap

Too often the mistake people make is this: they think they will be happy once they have a bunch of money, a bunch of free time, and a bunch of flexibility/freedom. But no — the reason that is false is this:

The only reason we desire money, free time, and flexibility is in order to create more art and stuff.

Polite street photograph. Osaka

We are happiest when we are in the creative “flow” of making. We are happiest when we are ACTIVE; doing stuff.

The word “motivation” comes from Latin, “to move”. Thus to be “motivated” means to move, to be active, and to be active. We all want to be motivated more to shoot more photos, to write more, and create more. I don’t think anyone desires to ultimately be more passive, and watch more Netflix.

dutch angle cindy hallway, airbnb, osaka

Thus I challenge you, ask yourself:

How can I carve out more time in my everyday life to create more?

Can you make time in the morning before work? During your dinner? During your lunch break? After work? During your commute home? Once you’re home?

Cindy smiling Osaka

How can you be an “everyday” artistic warrior — not just on the weekends?

Step 3: Be self-centered

Eric kim portrait fade red

In modern society, to be self-centered or “selfish” is synonymous with being “evil.” We get this from Christian morality and we get this from the social-economic philosophy of “Utilitarianism” (the greatest amount of happiness for the maximum number of people) which is promoted in the UK and America.

Honor thy selfie

I think it is noble to help others, and help empower other humans. However, as the wise philosopher Publilius Syrus once said 2,000 years ago:

“Don’t water the garden of your neighbor if your own garden is dying of thirst.”

Which means, “Help yourself before helping others.”

Memento mori

If you’re not in a good mental state, how can you expect to help others? If you’re not physically strong, how can you also help carry the burden of others? If you’re weak monetarily, how can you pay for the meals of others?

I would say if it is your ultimate goal to help others, first help yourself to the maximum extent. Figure out how you can live the best lifestyle, and then seek to help others.

Street street street

If it is your desire to create more art at home, you need to learn how to say “no” to the requests of others. You need to learn to be extremely sparing of your free time; don’t give away your free time like its worth nothing. The philosopher Seneca once said something like,

“How foolish it is that we give our time like it is worth nothing, yet we are so stingy when it comes to giving away our money! In truth, we should know that our time is more valuable than our money.”

He’s right. Our time is worth much much more than our money. Because our time on planet earth is finite. At best, most of us will live to be around 100. At worst, we might die in our sleep tonight. We can all earn extra money, but we can never add years to our maximum lifespan, nor can we predict whether we will die of some sort of exotic diseases or cancers.

Cindy walking down stairs, Osaka

Learn to turn off your phone when you don’t want to be contacted, to not check your email and ignore it, and to stay focused in your own creative bubble of self-development and growth.

Don’t feel guilty being an individual; you need to become strong if it is your ultimate aim to help others.

Focus on the everyday

Eric kim Osaka selfie, 2018

I feel that these three steps above are a good path to discovering your ideal lifestyle. Figure out,

What do I want to do less of on a daily basis, and what do I want to do more of on a daily basis?

Photograph inside living room. Osaka

Don’t think about the far future, think of how you can make tomorrow or today a better day.

For myself, I seek less distractions, less unnecessary stress, less drama, less bullshit, less guilt, less politics, less pettiness, less anxiety, less envy/jealousy, less worries.

Eric kim bathroom selfie. Osaka, 2018

What do I seek more of? I seek more focus, more creative output, more confidence in myself, and more meaningful and purposeful work.

Abstract shadow selfie

The ideal lifestyle can be simple; it doesn’t need to be exotic. You can live the ideal lifestyle while living in the suburbs, with an ordinary job. But for myself, I’ve discovered that becoming self-employed as an entrepreneur has helped achieve my personal lifestyle goals: flexible daily schedule, fewer distractions, more focus on creating words, photos, and videos.

Assignment: Define your ideal lifestyle

Selfie with Cindy at Daiso, Osaka, elevator, flash

Assignment: On a piece of paper, write down your personal daily goals; what do you want to achieve on a daily basis? What is holding you back? How can you prune away superfluous social activities, or cut away certain negative or cancerous people from your life to achieve your ideal lifestyle? Be brutal, be honest, and focus on strengthening yourself before helping others.






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