Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What would your ideal day look like? Lessons from Barbara Sher

There are lots of ways of getting what you want in life. The first step, however, is to know what it is you want in life. This, for many, is the hardest part.

Nearly three years ago, when I was on vacation in Portland, Jamaica, I read a book by Barbara Sher called Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want.

The book came highly recommended by the amazing Kerry Ann Rockquemore and I found it carried many important life lessons. In Wishcraft, Barbara Sher offers a strategy for figuring out what you want in life. Part of that strategy is to imagine your perfect day. Not your perfect vacation day, but a regular day in your ideal life. Once you know what your perfect day would look like, it makes it easier to imagine your perfect life.

Enthralled by the idea of a perfect day, and, of course, a perfect life, I began to think about how a day in my ideal life would look.

My ideal day

My day begins with me waking up at the crack of dawn to the sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore. The first thing I do is get up and go for a walk on the beach.
Here we go again!

After walking, I do some strength training or yoga on the beach, and then go for a dip in the ocean. I go inside, take a shower, and then have breakfast on the patio overlooking the ocean with my husband and children. My breakfast includes a café latte, a mango smoothie, and yogurt with granola and strawberries.

My children walk off to school and my husband gets busy doing what he loves – practicing music or making jewelry. I sit out on my patio or at a huge window at my writing desk and write for two hours. After writing, I answer emails and update my blog. Then, I get ready for lunch.

I walk a few blocks from my house to a nice restaurant and have lunch in the garden with inspiring, engaging, smart friends. We enjoy a delicious, healthy meal and wonderful conversation.

After lunch, I walk up to campus, where I either prepare my class if it is a teaching day or do library research if it’s a research day. When I teach my class, it is to a room full of engaged, socially active students who are thrilled with learning and with ideas. I leave campus feeling fulfilled and walk to my children’s school to pick them up.

In the afternoon, I take the kids to an outdoor or cultural activity. This might be theatre practice, horseback riding, nature hiking, or swimming at the beach.

What Have I Done?

Or, it could be the day we all go to zumba or dance class together. After our family activity, we go home and prepare dinner. The kids do their homework while Nando and I make dinner.

A couple of musician friends come over for dinner, which we enjoy on the back deck. The food is delicious and the conversation is lively. After dinner, my husband, Nando, and our friends play a few songs. I listen from the hammock on our back deck.

I read books with the children for a bit before they go off to bed. Nando and I relax on the couch for a while before going to bed. I fall asleep, relaxed, and sleep until I am ready to start a new day.

What will make you happy?

The next step in this exercise is to figure out what kind of life you want to lead on the basis of this ideal day. And, to figure out which things are necessary in order to be happy, and which are just frills. As I think about this for myself, I have realized that I do not necessarily have to live on the beach, but do need access to the beauty of Mother Nature on a regular basis. I love going for long walks and doing outdoor activities, so living in a warm climate is a definite plus for me. Another of the most important parts of my day involves having good friends around. So, I also want to live somewhere where I have access to a great community.

One great thing I got out of this exercise is that I have chosen the right profession. Working as a college professor allows me the flexibility to be able to spend my mornings at home writing, and my afternoons engaging with the wider community. I am too social to want to be in the house writing all of the time, so I do enjoy being able to teach and to speak publicly.

How Does Your Ideal Day Look?

What about you? What would your ideal day look like? What things are most important to you in life?

Here are the instructions from

EXERCISE 9: Your Ideal Day
With pen in hand and as much paper as you need (or a tape recorder if you prefer to dream out loud), take a leisurely walk through a day that would be perfect if it represented your usual days—not a vacation day, not a compromise day, but the very substance of your life as you’d love it to be. Live through that day in the present tense and in detail, from getting up in the morning to going to sleep at night. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? What do you have for breakfast? Do you make it yourself—or is it brought to you in bed, with a single rose and the morning paper? Do you take a long, hot bath? a bracing cold shower? What kinds of clothes do you put on? How do you spend the morning? the afternoon? At each time of day, are you indoors or outdoors, quiet or active, alone or with people?

As you go through the hours of your fantasy day, there are three helpful categories to keep in mind: what, where, and who.

What are you doing—what kind of work, what kind of play? Imagine yourself at the full stretch of your capacities. If you’d like to sing or sail, and you don’t know how, in this fantasy you do know how.

Where—in what kind of place, space, situation? A London flat, an Oregon farm, a fully equipped workshop, an elegant hotel room, a houseboat?

Who do you work with, eat with, laugh and talk with, sleep with? You will undoubtedly want to write some of your favorite real people into your fantasy; you might also want to include some types of people you’d like to be surrounded by—writers, musicians, children, people your own age, people of all different ages, athletes, Frenchmen, financiers, simple country people, celebrities.

What about you? How do you envision your ideal day? How close are you to achieving it? What is one thing you can do today to get you closer to your ideal life?

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my most memorable activities from taking Prof. Rockquemore's Leadership for change class. I was in a really tough place at the time but found so much solace in my inner self's ability to connect with what truly makes me happy no matter what is going on in my life. I still reference my ideal day now and believe it is what I ultimately want, although I haven't figured out yet how to get there. I think I get closer with each day. Thank you for your blogs and your work. I am always so inspired by you and admire your life.