I’ve written about how to design your ideal day, how to recognize false choices that can hamstring you when you’re contemplating change, and how to set resolutions, but there’s something I haven’t written about yet.
My own ideal day.
So without further ado, I’m going to explain how I followed steps 1 and 2 in this post to analyze my ideal day and identify key themes.
Step 1: Break it down.
I’ve broken down my ideal day into three blocks — morning, afternoon, and evening — and I’m beginning by making changes to my morning. The morning sets the tone for the rest of each day, and it’s also a time of energy and hope, so it seemed like a natural starting point.
Step 2: Identify themes.
Here’s my ideal morning:
- Wake up at 6:45 am.
- Take a cup of coffee out onto my porch/deck, which has flowers around it and is serene and maybe near a body of water. Read, think, talk with [my significant other] a bit. Maybe take a short walk (in my pajamas) on my property to see the water/welcome the day.
- Take a shower around 8 am, spend very little time getting ready because I look fine from sleeping and eating well.
- Write for ~4 hours. Have a light but refreshing meal (fruit & yogurt with nuts & seeds, for example) when I’m hungry.
This couldn’t look much more different from my average morning. In my real life, it never feels as if I have enough time in the morning. I shower, I put on makeup, I dry and straighten my hair, taking sips of coffee from a mug that’s perched dangerously on the rim of the sink. By the time I’m ready to head out the door, I’m five minutes late and I’ve forgotten to eat breakfast. All in all, my morning routine feels nasty, brutish, and short. And then, of course, I have a bear of a commute to get to the office.
In comparing my ideal and real mornings, I identified a few key themes:
- Spaciousness. I hate rushing. Hate, hate, hate. So why do I do it every morning? I’ve always told myself I’m not a morning person, I’m a befuddled dragon before my first cup of coffee, etc. But maybe I’ve been making my mornings unpleasant by waking up at the last minute, rushing through my routine, and running to the train station in my flip flops—rather than allowing myself the time and space to greet the day.
- Access to the outdoors. This was one of the great surprises of writing out my ideal day. I hadn’t even noticed how much I missed being in nature until I realized that my perfect day would start outdoors.
- Attuned eating. I tend to eat when I think I should or when I’m bored/stressed/anxious rather than when I really want to. One day I allowed myself to work up an appetite before dinner, and I was surprised—almost embarrassed, really—at how much more I enjoyed the food. Do I really never let myself get hungry? To clarify, this theme isn’t about eating less or eating differently (I could lay off the garlic knots, but I love them so). Instead, it’s about cultivating and paying attention to my appetite.
- Writing. I love to write. But sometimes I hate it: specifically, when I procrastinate until the day has gone by and it’s time to get ready for bed but I’m trying to jot down a few paragraphs and my head hurts and none of my ideas seem good anymore and all I can think is maybe I’m not cut out for this. If I intend to fill my days with activities I really want to do, I should start with writing. No excuses.
Now that I’ve identified my key themes, it’s time for me to set small, manageable resolutions that will help me honor* them in my daily life, and my next post will be about just that.
Again, my goal isn’t to make a radical departure — I’m not going to quit my job and leave my boyfriend and start a goat farm in New Zealand (although I’d respect your decision to do so, if that’s your dream life!). Big, sudden changes aren’t my style, and — for me at least — they usually turn out not to be sustainable. Instead, my goal is to use daily resolutions to build a bridge between my current routine and my ideal day, plank by plank.
*What do you think, dear readers — is “honor” too grand or hippy-dippy a word to use here?