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A quick glance on the news can easily convince anyone that the world as we knew it is on the brink of self-destruction. Some even wait for its final collapse to build a brand new system on the rubble of the old one.

The most paranoids are preparing to face the Armageddon by stashing months worth of food and learning how to make a bow and arrow with a shoe string and the remains of a toilet seat (they’re called survivalists).

It’s tempting to feel helpless when global changes are occurring so fast, and seen from a posture of silent anticipation, our future as a species looks pretty grim. To make matters worse, the media love to bombard us with  information on global warming, dirty bombs and creepy religious fundamentalism.

Global threats are part of part of reality, no question about that, but they only represent one corner of the big picture. This fresh millenium has a bright side that we can all enjoy, while contributing to the highest good of all.

As I write this post, growing tribes are changing their daily habits to live well and do good in the same time. Their creativity and enthusiasm might defeat the impending doom, not by engaging in political activism, but by tweaking their lifestyles smartly, one step at a time.

Let me list some areas where you can upgrade your life and make a difference without putting your career and family at risk.

1. Alternative Homes

Sure, it’s still possible to commit 30 years of your life for a concrete house somewhere in the countryside, spending a fortune in commutes and hoping that your neighbors don’t end up shooting your dog during hunting season. There are other options though.

Eco-villages are spreading in western countries: they gather tribes of conscious earthlings living in zero impact houses, growing most of their food and reinventing social connections between the members of their community, regardless of their age.

My wife and I are currently exploring that sphere and I will report our first hand experience, we’re lucky enough to have friends who have made that step and are thrilled about it.

I’ve also discovered the concept of Earthship: an architectural design that allow you to build houses that are dirt cheap, sexy and off the grid ($100 bills yearly: water, heating, and electricity). I’m planning to investigate on that as well. If you’re curious, check: www.earthship.com.

2. Educate Yourself

The internet provides instant access to knowledge. It’s a chance for us to catch up on our years of youth imbecility when we thought school was a pain in the ass, and a fast track to more exciting careers as well.

I’ve recently used coursera.org, most of their courses are free and given by university lecturers…and you can get them from home.

Another trick found on this post: Google University: go to Google.com , try searching “site:.edu ________” and fill in the space with what you’re looking for. Eg. If you want an online lecture on hinduism, search “site:.edu lecture hinduism.” This method of searching only goes through University websites and brings you high quality content.

Education used to be expensive, now it comes in unlimited quantity at the cost of an online connection, allowing us to trade our stiff opinions for knowledge, and low pay jobs for better positions.

3. Spend Less

Don’t you get the feeling that money is your main blockage? I guess most of us do, and until last year I was pretty lousy at financial management. While the immediate solution that comes to mind is to earn more, consider saving a higher priority. Saving equals security and freedom at no cost. Cutting down on expense doesn’t mean living a depressing live, as long as you substitute expensive leisures with free activities (suggestions all along this post).

Follow the Minimalist movement, it’s a tribe that innovates on ways to simplify your life, reduce life expenses and focus on the essential. These guys are years ahead on the art of simplicity, they teach the skills of a mindful and eco-friendly approach by buying less and choosing long lasting products.

Check out the complete guide to control and save your money.

4. Abandon the Cubicle

Two years ago, my main obsession was to close the biggest sale for an IT company. I managed to do that successfully…But I had to sacrifice most of my time and the company eventually went bankrupt. I’m not the only one thinking that corporations are asking for more and more of your workforce for the “security” that they provide.

I chose to drop everything and start from scratch, but you don’t have to go to that extreme.

In fact, there’s an increasing number of people who learn to make their first 1k on the side, via freelance gigs or online businesses. Eventually leaving their full time jobs to enjoy working wherever they please. Although there’s a lot of ridiculous claims from online marketers, the opportunities are real. If you’re interested in that path try Fizzle.co, their content is serious and documented (I don’t get a dime for recommending this site, nor any others on this post , BTW).

5. Eat Right

Modifying your eating pattern involves deep transformations, that’s why it’s such an amazing field of discovery. I should probably put that one on top of my list. Eating different impacts everything: your budget, your moods, energy level and the planet. I’m not going to rant about animal cruelty and evangelize for veganism (I took the vegan challenge for a year), but seriously, even minor changes in that direction will make you feel like a new person.

Needless to say that cooking your own meals is cheap, fun and healthy, I find it a pretty awesome package.

6. Rework Your Body

A daily job doesn’t cost a dime and lifting weight in a fitness club represents a mere $30/month investment. Even if you’re not into taking exercise, hiking is by far the cheapest and easiest way to get back in touch with your body on a budget. That’s a safe and cheap substitute to cinema and restaurant, if you’ve decided to start saving next month.

Even more basic: breathing. Most of us don’t know how to breathe, we supply insufficient amounts of oxygen to our system, resulting in higher levels of stress, fatigue and even risks of developing cancers (google it for more evidence-based information). Quitting your smoking habit is a first step to take in that direction, but meditation and yoga are also your friends, as they teach you the art of feeding your cells more air, the number one requirement for life…

Consider working out as a free alternative to tranquilizers and expensive mind altering products.

7. Travel Differently

I receive an increasing number of emails from people who plan a trip to Nepal in order to visit monasteries and discover Buddhism, that’s only an example of how to spend enlightening vacation.

Other people chose fair tourism as an alternative to “all inclusive travelling” in order to learn from other cultures instead of leeching on their eco-systems in a big-ass resort.

You might also look into woofing, it’s gaining popularity for obvious reasons. Woofing gives you a chance to trade a few hours of your work a day in exchange of food and shelter in a farm, hundreds of beautiful places can visited for virtually nothing while enjoying the best of the country lifestyle.

The usual antagonism between bohemians, hipsters and overachievers are a thing of the past. The question is no longer about finding a cool identity, but how to thrive in a toughening economy and growing as human beings without trashing the planet we live on.

There’s a wealth of solutions to make it possible, it’s a concept called Lifestyle Design, and you’re in control of it.

This article originally appeared on gr0wing.com.

About the Author:
Hi, I’m Gaël Blanchemain and gr0wing.com is a project: building an online community for the broke and generous who want to use their creativity for a global change. I help you leverage technology, meditation and many other resources to improve your life and help each other.

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