Designing Your Life with Permaculture

Josh Davis
Sunday, 1st January 2017

A mini series appreciating how permaculture principles can help us not only make efficient and sustainable changes to our landscape but also to our lives, so we can be the change we want to see in the world.

January is often a time for resolutions, change, or as permies like to call it 'redesign'. Using the end of the calendar year as a chance to push the reset button. A time to start again and implement the changes we wish to see in our lives. Often these well meaning plans and ideas show initial promise but are eventually overgrown, and overshadowed by our hectic lives. Permaculture has taught us so much about implementing efficient and sustainable changes to our landscape so what can it teach us about implementing efficient and sustainable changes to our lifestyle? 

Rather than attempting to create a lifestyle we think we want, the permaculture approach is to observe the natural way we should be living and create that instead. Designing like this takes the least path of resistance, reduces the amount of energy needed, increases efficiency, and ultimately creates a healthier and happier ecosystem for us all.

This guide uses the 12 Permaculture Principles as a framework to help us design natural lifestyle changes. These can be implemented at the start of the year or for a slower approach broken down into one principle per month over the full year. Find out what works best for you and take action.

Designing your life with Permaculture Principles

1. Observe and Interact 

Everything in the natural world has evolved to be the version that best suits its surroundings. It is a subconscious ability to adapt to what is going on around us that has been the key decision maker in which species are extinct and which are not. 

In permaculture we have been taught to observe the land thoroughly before taking action. This allows us to gain a full understanding in order to make informed decisions. We can use this approach for our own lives too. The natural way is not to fit a round peg into a square hole. Everyone’s circumstances are unique, so there is no right or wrong answer of how to live our lives. A single mother of 3 living in a large city has very different circumstances to a male teenager living in a rural community. We must first observe what our one of a kind situation is before we can start to redesign it.

Here are number of areas we can observe our current lifestyles to understand what works effectively and what can be redesigned or changed. It can help to record some of these in a notebook/journal to look back and identify patterns in which to focus our redesign:

  • Physical observation - Pay attention to how you feel each day. Do you have low or high energy, do you have an injury or are you feeling strong? By consciously paying more attention to how we are feeling physically on a day to day basis we can start to be wiser with how we use our body and avoid injuries, burn out or illness.
  • Food and Drink - Take time to see how different foods and drinks make you feel. Are you always low energy after lunch when you eat a particular type of food, does too much caffeine have an affect on you? Consciously looking out for any impacts of what we are eating and drinking can help us make changes that will improve our health.
  • Happiness - Notice things that make you happy or unhappy. This can relate to something as simple as the weather being sunny, to how a certain person makes us feel, to listening to a particular type of music. Take note of these things and look for patterns that link them. Don’t waste time on things that make you unhappy.
  • State of Flow -  Pay close attention to any times that you feel in a state of flow. This is when we are fully focused on what we are doing and time seems to disappear. It can occur in all areas of our life that we are truly passionate about. It could be when running, writing, painting, playing music, whatever it is for you, look out for these moments and write them down. Identifying these patterns helps us to identify our true passions.
  • Time - Where are you spending most of your time? Does this add value to your life or not? If you are spending 2 hours a day commuting, or on social media, whatever it is, ask yourself “Is it adding value to my life?” Stepping back and noticing the areas that are formed out of habit and that do not add value can allow us to create free time which is a nonrenewable and immensely valuable resource we often overlook.
  • Meditation and Mindfulness - Meditation is a useful tool to allow us time to disconnect from the distractions of the modern world and make observations. Are you frustrated today? Are you more positive? Is your mind more active? Taking as little as 10 minutes to observe how we are feeling each day can help us identify patterns in our life. Nature is made up of patterns and identifying them can help us find things that occur naturally for us.  

There are no right or wrong ways to observe our behaviours. The important thing is to consciously switch your mind over to an observational point of view and to look for patterns. Every permaculturist knows that nature is made up of patterns and your ability to identify your own is key to helping you redesign a more natural lifestyle.

Photo caption: Taking time to observe and interact by keeping a journal.

Next: Catch and Store Energy

Josh Davis is an outdoor educator and facilitator exploring ways we can learn from the natural world. He offers one on one coaching and consulting to help design your life from permaculture. 

You can find out more at

Useful links

Book: Cultural Emergence by Looby Macnamara

Book: People and Permaculture by Looby Macnamara

Book: Zen in the Art of Permaculture by Stefan Geyer


hearthstone |
Tue, 31/01/2017 - 13:30
Only relatively small number of people can afford to live sustainably now. With that it can not be a true sustainability. Sustainable is when all beings in this world live in as profound harmony with themselves and the Earth as possible. Until the last refugee, last homeless can start living sustainably, we shall never be able to live so ourselves. Thanks, Hearthstone - www.ModelEarth.Org