Living a Level 1 Life

“…ask for the old paths where the good way is
And walk in it
Then you will find rest for your souls”
Jeremiah 6:16

Want to cut to the chase? Print and fill out the Focus Finder right now.

Got a minute? Read this article on what Living a Level 1 Life really means:

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates


Sometimes life gets complicated.

Sometimes it feels like things are just…off.

It seems the longer we leave orderly processes unattended, the more they tend toward disorder.

It is then that we look up and realize that we have drifted into distant waters, far away from where we intended to be.

It takes a lot of work to get back to shore – a lot of determination, and most of all – FOCUS.

Do you find you ever:

  1. Rationalize behavior that is not in line with your principles?
  2. Go weeks without exercising?
  3. Feel overwhelmed by money, and take on a victim-mentality in all things financial?
  4. Find yourself wanting to lose weight or improve other health markers, but cannot seem to make sustainable, healthy changes?
  5. Lash out irrationally at people that you love?
  6. Feel like stress, substances, food-choices, or lack of fitness affect your daily walk?
  7. Feel anger toward others because of life-choices they have made for themselves in any area?
  8. Want to love deeper and experience faith for yourself?

These behaviors or desires are all symptomatic of a greater force – the need to realign ourselves to timeless, healthful principles – we call this ‘life-in-alignment’ a Level 1 Life™.

Your Level 1 Life is defined by you, and is an expression of your most fulfilled self. Level 1 represents basic, simple truth in six key areas, which we call Focus Factors™:


Living a Level 1 Life is a decluttered, stripped-down, simple and substance free way to live. The closer we align ourselves with what we know to be timeless, principle-centered truth, the more peaceful we become – despite life’s obstacles!


Level 1 Life Principles

For those with a walk in faith, many principles can be found in sacred texts and teachings. Whether you’re religious or not, here are some examples of principles that you can adopt throughout the process to become more aligned:

Fitness and Food: I treat my body as a temple, the only one I have.

Daily exercise (walking, running, weightlifting, body-weight exercise) is essential for a long, healthy life. The food that I decide to ingest will be reflective of the respect I have for my temple, and will serve greater purposes that just emotional satisfaction. I will enjoy eating sustainable food and drink because I know it is nourishing my body, my mind, and my soul.

Family: Each one of my relationships is an emotional bank account. I will make deposits in everything I do – not take withdrawals.

In loving my family and friends well, I will live by the golden rule. I understand that I am here to serve them, not the other way around. I will model the behavior I want to see in my children, and start every day with the question – ‘what can i do for my spouse,’ not ‘what can she/he do for me?’

Finance: I am a temporary steward, not owner, of money. I will use it for good in all things.

I can’t take money with me when i’m gone. I will spend, give, and save money for a purpose. These purposes include: securing my families’ future, leaving a legacy to my children of not just money, but also the ability to manage money well, giving to charities and causes that are in line with my principles, and having fun while I am at it!

Fun: There is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work.

Originally from Ecclesiastes, this principle describes my approach to enjoying life in a healthy, sustainable way. I will even seek fun in my work, seeing the ability to work and provide as a privilege afforded me every day.

Faith: My most peaceful and fulfilled life will be lived in alignment with my principles and the principles I ascribe to a higher power.

I will find the old paths where the good way it, and walk on them. I will pray often, and understand that there are certain things I cannot control. These things, such as being hurt or hurting others in the past, are things I cannot change in the present. However, I can seek forgiveness and learn from my mistakes. I will not disparage or tear down others for their beliefs, but instead focus on my individual journey. Love will be at the center of the decisions I make, the causes I support, and the behavior I engage in.

“The personal power that comes from principle-centered living is the power of a self-aware, knowledgeable, proactive individual, unrestricted by the attitudes, behaviors, and actions of others or by many of the circumstances and environmental influences that limit other people.” – Stephen Covey

The good news is that transitioning to a principle centered life makes decision-making in tough times easier! The other good news is that most people instinctively know how it feels to be balanced vs. off-balance:

  • If you know the best version of you doesn’t drink alcohol, set goals to drink less.
  • If you know you spend too much time watching TV and not enough quality time with the kids, set time management goals to align with that vision.
  • Eating pizza five times a week and know it is affecting your weight and mood? Cut it down incrementally to get closer to your principle-centered diet.
  • Overspending or buried in debt? Create an action plan to get rid of debt and never go back again.

Of course, if you are facing issues that require the services of a professional – make it a part of your plan to reach out!


Four Steps to Living a Level 1 Life:

STEP 1: Through meditation, focused thought, information gathering, and sound counsel, identify the principles by which you will live from now on in each of the focus factor areas. Write them down.

STEP 2: Fill out the Focus Finder – it only takes a minute, do it now – we’ll wait!

STEP 3: Each day, take realistic steps – stick to the daily goal you wrote down in the areas that needed focus based on your assessment.

STEP 4: Zig Ziglar said “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.” Visit the Level 1 Life Blog for daily motivation.

For even more motivation, check out the Level 1 Life Recommended Reading List

To your health, 

Derek Brainard

*Authors at may not be licensed providers of specific investment, tax, legal, nutritional, or medical advice. Seek professional counsel in any of these areas to make your plan as specific and relevant to your situation as possible!*

About the Author

Derek Brainard

Head Shot 2017 (2)
Derek Brainard, AFC® is a proud husband, father, teacher, coach, writer, and U.S. Navy Veteran.

Derek and his wife Stephanie spent their first years of marriage dumping $60,000 of student loan, credit card, and personal loan debt.

Upon separating from a seven-year Naval career, Derek worked as a licensed Financial Adviser, helping clients create and execute their financial plans. After transitioning to higher education in 2016, he stood up the Office of Financial Literacy and created the Syracuse Smart Money program at Syracuse University, which was subsequently ranked the second best collegiate financial literacy platform in the country by LendEdu, 2018. Derek now works as Manager of Education Services for AccessLex Institute, a nonprofit organization based in West Chester, PA.

Derek lives and works in Syracuse, NY with his wife and two kids, and enjoys writing, triathlons, listening to audiobooks, being outdoors, and good food. His writing and financial commentary have been featured on Mastery of Money, Refinery 29, Bustle, Newsday, Thrive Global, and U.S. News & World Report.

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Contributing Authors

Christine Wilcox

Wilcox Bio

Christine Wilcox was born and raised in Marcellus, NY. When she was nine, she became the youngest black belt martial artist in Steve LaVallee’s East Coast Karate system. She attended Syracuse University earning a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Mathematics Education in 2007 and a Master of Science in Inclusive Special Education in 2011. Christine taught in the Syracuse City School District before pursuing a career in the health and wellness field.

In 2013, she went on study nutrition and lifestyle counseling at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. As a Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, her special interests include natural healthcare, stress relief, and holistic healing. She is wholeheartedly invested in supporting her clients to create a healthy, happy life and achieve a greater state of overall well-being.

Christine has been practicing yoga and incorporating its philosophies into her lifestyle since 2009. In April 2014, she completed her 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training at Lotus Life Yoga Center in Dewitt, NY. She continued her teacher training with Judith Lasater in 2015, completing the Relax and Renew Level 1: Learning to Teach Restorative Yoga Teacher Training. Christine practices and shares various techniques of meditation, Gentle Vinyasa Flow, Yin Yoga, and Restorative Yoga. She offers both group and private sessions for those seeking relaxation and recovery.

Christine is deeply honored and grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community through her classes, workshops, and health programs which offer a focus on restoring and maintaining vibrant health. She also works in private practice with survivors of trauma, offering yoga and mindfulness as tools for transformation and healing. Christine enjoys nature, traveling, preparing and cooking fresh whole foods, and spending time with family and friends. She lives in East Syracuse, NY with her fiancé and their two cats, Olive and Sprinkles.

For more information about wellness offerings, contact Christine at