Start with Place

place planning Jan 21, 2022
place matters

Place is one the most underappreciated life hacks to a better life. The right place makes it easier to live the life we desire. The wrong place creates headwinds that makes life harder. This is why, as we launch into the new year, it is wise to take stock of your current place to see if it is helping or hurting your aspirations. In most cases, modifications to your current home or ways in which you orient yourself to it may make a significant difference. In other cases, planning for a physical move may be the better course.


A new online assessment can help you evaluate the fit of your current place


Step #1: Assess Your Place Relative to Your Goals


It is important to think broadly about place. Place encompasses region, state, metropolitan area, neigh­borhood, and physical dwelling. It’s a lot more than your house or apartment.


Place has a significant impact on our health and well-being. It has both direct and indirect impacts on a person’s life. The best place elevates key elements of well-being, including purpose, social connection, physical well-being, and financial well-being.


In my book, Right Place, Right Time, I offer some exercises to help assess the appropriateness of place for an individual at a given stage of life. Based on positive reader feedback, I have added an online assessment tool to the SmartLiving 360 website to more easily help people think through these issues.


Take a moment to consider what matters most to you and be explicit about your goals.


Simply painting a room can transform its look and feel.


Step #2: Experiment with Changes to Your Existing Place


One of my goals for the new year is to eat healthier. Novel, right? As much as I enjoy the tacos, brisket and beer living in Austin, I probably should diversify my diet a bit more. Part of my plan is to have a salad every weekday for lunch.


A key to realize my goal is to make it easy. I have prepared lettuce on a shelf at eye-level in the fridge. I have a drawer organized with all of my favorite fixings. I have a chopping knife and cutting board next to the fridge to cut up tomatoes, carrots and other veggies. A container with homemade vinegar dressing lives on the kitchen island. In less than five minutes, I am able to prepare a fresh salad that I enjoy.


Part of the strategy to be successful is to make it difficult to derail my plans. For example, if there are unhealthy temptations in the fridge, I try to put those where I can’t easily see them – not at eye-level and ideally hidden behind other items. Some savory items live in the garage where it takes effort for me to retrieve them.


My approach is one small example of how place can be incorporated to help us reach our goals.  Maybe one of your goals is to be more active. Wearables, such as smartwatches, are becoming more capable, affordable, and mainstream. These devices track and motivate users to­ward greater levels of activity. Buying a wearable device and joining an online community could help you become more active. Joining a local gym or investing in a home gym could be a valuable step. Home gyms are getting increasingly sophisticated and are considerably safer during pandemics. Becoming more physically active can be as simple as finding a walking or bicycling buddy to get with on a regular basis.


Is reconnecting with others a goal? There are ways to create strong social connections without mov­ing elsewhere. You can make an effort to reconnect with old friends in the area or welcome new neighbors with the prospect of creating new friendships. You can start a new tradition in the neighborhood that brings people together, such as a book club or neighborhood vol­unteering organization. Consider taking up a cause in your area and rallying friends to join you so that you can spend time on something you care about with people you value. You can be more intentional about connecting with good friends who live elsewhere and consider visiting each other more often.

It may be time for a renovation to make your place better fit your needs


A Bigger Change Could Be Necessary


In some cases, bigger changes may be necessary. There may be an opportunity to change the look and function of spaces. This can be as simple as rearranging furniture. During one of her visits, my sister-in-law repositioned our kitchen table. It changed the whole feel for the better, and I was unaware that such a change was possible. Sim­ilar changes may be available to you. Consider the impact of adding a fresh coat of paint to a room or repurposing a room for a more important use, such as transforming a kids’ room to a home office. There are lots of small changes that can reinvigorate a space and your interest in using it. Plus, these are low-risk changes: if you don’t like it, you can easily switch back.


Renovation, no matter the scale, is a key consideration for many homeowners. Spaces can be transformed to the desired uses and look of today. For those who wish to age in their homes over the long haul and have homes where such a desire is possible, a renova­tion can be critical to incorporate common universal design elements and technology infrastructure. Investments in a master bathroom can be particularly valuable. There is a lot that can be done, depending on needs and budget.


Ultimately for some, the best decision is to change places, either within your neighborhood or to a new geographic area. These are big decisions and pulling the trigger on the right option will likely take time and research. Better to start the process now if that is the right direction.  


Use the start of the new year to not just think about goals, but the likelihood of attaining them. As you reflect, get place right – it may be the foundation that makes everything work.


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