Months before my college graduation, one of my friends brought up the idea of embarking on a three-month backpacking trip across Australia. It sounded like fun, so I did what any sane entrepreneur-to-be would do: I put off my last quarter of college and joined him.

While we planned the trip, several people said, "I wish I had the opportunity to do something like that."

But the fact is, they did have the chance to explore the world; they just made excuses to rationalize their decision to stay back.

It's a common misconception that going on trips and taking risks to expand your personal horizons is impractical. Money was a common concern I heard, but living within your means is feasible almost anywhere you go.

I spent about $7,000 on my excursion because I lived it up frivolously Down Under, but I could have experienced the country for half that.

When you dismiss something just because it seems impractical, you often miss genuine opportunities for personal and professional growth. Some chances present themselves only once. You just have to say "yes" and take the plunge.

You might even learn something along the way, too. For me, it was about adopting the Aussie mindset.

During my time in Australia, the relaxed lifestyle of the Aussies, Kiwis, and Europeans we met contrasted sharply with the "live to work" mentality so ingrained in American culture. To them, it isn't about your place in life or how you make a living; it's simply about living well.

Contrary to what many people think, this philosophy doesn't have to clash with being ambitious. It just means making a fun, fulfilling life your first priority.

My Australian vacation literally transformed my life. I recognized the value in working to live and adopted this philosophy to drive my personal and professional goals. Here's how working to live can transform your approach to work and life:

  • You begin to live without regrets. Why live each day in a way that will leave you kicking yourself down the road? Taking advantage of opportunities--and trying to be spontaneous--will expose you to more gratifying experiences.
  • Burnout is no longer an issue. Like most entrepreneurs, you probably rack up the hours trying to launch your business. You work weekends, opt out of social engagements, and put your health on the back burner. When you finally crash and burn, your venture will probably do the same. Enduring a miserable journey to reach a great destination just isn't sensible.
  • Work will fit into your life, not vice versa. Your job should work around your lifestyle, not control it. I identified the lifestyle I wanted, found a place that suited it, and then figured out what career to pursue there. That's the abbreviated story of how a stand-up paddleboard business became San Diego's fastest-growing company in 2014.
  • You adopt an "I can" mentality. Starting a business is similar to exploring a new country. It means venturing into unknown territory with an undetermined timeline. Only a small fraction of people try it because many think it's out of their reach. But if you're willing to challenge yourself, the experience may just change your life.

Putting personal fulfillment first is much easier said than done. But making a few simple changes in your life can get you on the road to living life to the fullest.

Here are some ways you can work on living:

  • Travel. Before formal education existed, the most educated people were the ones who traveled the world. While financial issues might be a serious problem for some, it's much easier to live cheaply abroad. In Australia, you can stay in a hostel for around $20 a night, cook your meals there, and enjoy store-bought beer on the patio with other guests instead of eating out and hitting the bars. Many backpackers work odd jobs as they go to pay for their travels, too.
  • Live with an open mind. Considering new and different perspectives is another important step in embracing life to the fullest. If you constantly criticize new ideas or ways of living--without attempting to understand them--you'll never experience the best things in life.
  • Educate yourself. The more effort you put into learning, the more you'll realize how little you know. Knowledge provides a level of empowerment. It inspires a genuine curiosity and instills a sense of duty to make the world a better place.
  • Confront your fears. We often fear things we don't fully understand. Forcing yourself to experience something new will not only alleviate your fears, but it will also expose you to thrilling opportunities and valuable life lessons. I was terrified of heights, so I forced myself to go bungee jumping in Australia. I still don't like heights, but my fear no longer keeps me from experiencing things like hiking the Grand Canyon. Address your fears, confront them directly, and you'll break down barriers in your life.

Working to live can have huge implications on your attitude toward life and business. And this goes beyond enjoying your job. Building your life around this philosophy and starting from a place that brings you joy and fulfillment will naturally translate into greater success in every aspect of your life. So put the excuses aside, go explore, and discover what your life is missing.

Published on: Sep 5, 2014