When working with clients, one of the first and most important exercises we dive into is their ideal day, and recently I had a huge, dropped in “aha” about it that I needed to share. This relates to you whether you even know what the exercise is, I promise!
But let ’s start with that first. What the heck is the ideal day exercise?
I lead clients through a visualization and then they free write or free speak about all the images that are coming to them about their most perfect, most ideal day in their perfect, most ideal world (if we didn’t have to worry about the how they get there). They are doing the things they most love to do, in an environment that brings them life, feeling authentically self-expressed and physically at their best, contributing in a way that lifts them up, surrounded by people and things they feel deeply connected to.
We get all sorts of information about what they are really reaching for, how they most want to feel, and how to start to create those feelings right now, instead of waiting.
Then, we create goals out of this information, roll our sleeves up and combine deeper inner work with action.
I, myself, have completed this exercise about three times in my life, and it has been super powerful for me, which is why I initially brought it into sessions.
I have visualized the details and natural light of my home, my son, my little girl, my befriended body, financial security, my beautiful home office, career developments, deep client relationships. Short of a few details here or there, it has all come to fruition.
It has been the same with my clients. I have gotten many emails in the middle of the night where someone excitedly exclaims, “Beth, it happened. I lived my ideal day. We did it. This stuff works!”
Here’s what I am coming to realize, however; the ideal day exercise, while important and life-changing for many of my clients and myself, is a bit of a fantasy that isn’t completely real.
That may sound depressing but stay with me. This is important.
While the ideal day is an incredible roadmap for deeper joy and more alignment with our desires, in some ways, it perpetuates this idea that there is a someday where you won’t experience the uncertainty or discomfort of growth, of the nature of life, where you won’t have to feel what it is like to feel human. It is this projected paradise life where we get to only experience the things we would choose to experience.
It’s the same sort of projection as we so often see on social media. Filtered snapshots with just the right caption that makes us look like we are the ones who have life figured out, that celebrate our ability to have made the right choices and decisions. Listen, I love a good filter and a good caption as much as the next person, but It is so very limited to the full scope of a life, and its projection into the universe is a second in a day filled with 86,399 other seconds, captions and human experiences.
There is always a moment after our ideal day snapshot ends, and as perfect as that day may be, the next moment may be unpredictably unfiltered, uncensored, messy and won’t make us look very good to ourselves.
Because as we start to get what you want, growth is a prerequisite and is almost never comfortable, neat, filtered or linear.
We become as we achieve our ideal days, like in The Velveteen Rabbit.
Here’s a reminder:
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
And becoming who we are meant to be, at least in my experience, can sometimes feel like someone prying our fingers from a ledge we are hanging off of. It requires so much trust, so much letting ourselves hang out, and dare to drop before we fly.
And if we keep growing, we keep shedding old coats, old dreams. Our desires shift and change.
If we are paying attention, this process is often uncomfortable.
Full disclosure here, I am less sunny than the girl who created my current life, but I am discovering deeper dimensions.
And as I wake up and dive in, I am learning to live in this human skin with more surrender and see things I never saw before.
If Beth from five years ago could see where I am from the outside and a safe distance of five years, she would think life was perfect and would be in awe at how much visualization, trust, family/community support, and honest work can co-create. She would think I would have arrived! She would look at my beautiful children, home, career flexibility, feelings of purpose and assume I would be happy for the rest of my life.
But here’s the thing..that Beth from five years ago isn’t the Beth I am now, and she has pretty limited perspective on the day to day of what current Beth experiences. Her perception would be much more fantasy than reality.
She would see the snapshots of total and utter joy. And there are so many right now. Nursing my baby at twilight while she caresses my shoulders, cuddling with my three year old at night while he asks me the silliest questions about how life works, feeling electric when I am speaking to clients and we are in the zone together, when my dear friends come to visit our home in DC and I experience that deep ache of intimacy and connection. She would say I’m so so lucky. And I am.
She wouldn’t see or understand the grittiness of parenthood yet; the relentlessness, the lack of freedom, the struggle to sometimes stay patient and sane, the flares of rage, the guilt, the inevitable blade of comparison and self-judgment. Because this job is here to grow my soul big time, which requires constant breathing and challenging my mind at every turn.
Parenting is my Olympics of personal growth. We all have our own Olympic moment.
Former Beth wouldn’t see our current political and cultural climate and how it affects our communal anxiety. She wouldn’t know the fear that accompanies dropping my three-year-old off at a public pre-school in the age of AR-15s and toxic masculinity; of something happening to my kids that I can’t control and the hot shiver that shoots up my spine at the thought.
That self wouldn’t know the dreams and desires I now have, and how I am trying to let go of old identities to pave way for new possibilities, with very limited time and bandwidth, creating a special kind of tension.
I am growing, largely because of the more contrasting emotions and because I have no choice. I cannot airlift out of the grittier, harder moments. I am becoming more beautiful (even though I’m grayer, more wrinkled and much more exhausted). This version of me wasn’t present in my ideal day, because I didn’t know she existed yet.
Here’s the most important lesson I am learning…nothing is ever all good or all bad. There are shades in EVERYTHING but life is always arching toward our expansion and growth.
If you are continuing to dream, you will achieve your ideal day in some form, love. You will. If you keep reaching up, if you keep daring to believe in its possibility, if you keep stepping into the arena of action and trust life and your intuition to guide you to your next step, you will.
Ask any Broadway star, any six-figure coach, any parent of two with a perfect townhome, any size four, and if they are honest, they will tell you:
It didn’t change their relationship with life. That, unfortunately, and fortunately, is an inside job; one we have all been given by birthright.
Even when your dream life falls into place in just the way you imagined, you will still be a human being, and you will feel what it feels like to be a human being here on this planet.
In your someday fantasy, while there will be moments of joy, while you may feel the way you want to feel more often, you will have new challenges you couldn’t have understood previously, you will still be in process,you will be learning every single day, and you won’t be the same person you are now. You will start to want more growth, and you will still, likely, be uncomfortable.
I hope you see this as a good thing because that means you don’t need to wait to start claiming your joy in the present. You don’t need to treat this moment in time as something to get through until you live your ideal day. You can see where so much is already in place, how in some ways you are living the ideal day you would have created five years ago, and laugh at that a bit.
I hope you see this as a good thing because then life starts to become more about what you learning and who you are becoming than what you are accomplishing, it is a hell of a lot more interesting and beautiful, even with all of its sharp edges and caverns.
Rock On & Be Well,