Picture Your Ideal Day. Want to Turn it into Your Ideal Life?

Heather jumps for joy in front of a sunrise over the ocean
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Thumbing through a two-year-old journal, I found my notes on an exercise called “My Ideal Day”.

A chill went down my spine when I read it.

The “ideal” day that I described years ago was creepily similar to the day I’m living right now.

Check it out:

My Ideal Day as of 2013
Some of this stuff is kind of stupid: “hippy clothes!” (really, Heather?) and “avocado and tomato salad” (why so specific?).

I read through the page again and realized that right now I’m totally living my ideal day:

  • I wake up early in the sunshine – in time to see the sunrise most days
  • I have tea in the morning – while looking out at the beach
  • I exercise with yoga in the morning – after I walk the dogs
  • I have warm weather all the time – Mexico’s like that
  • I make supper – yeah, because I like cooking
  • My husband Tim is beside me all the time – we’re the only two housesitters at a remote villa in Xcalak, Mexico

Did I program myself subconsciously by doing this Ideal Day exercise? Or is it just a fluke that my Ideal Day became real?

More importantly, can the same exercise help you picture your ideal day, and make it come true?

"Your Ideal Day" overtop of pink tropical flowers

What is the “Ideal Day” Exercise Anyway?

The “Ideal Day” exercise is about imagining your perfect day and all its magnificent details. I’m talking about a normal day, not one that ignores the laws of physics.

If you could do anything, what would you do? If you could live anywhere, where would you live? If you could have any job, what would it be? Take time to consider your answers and write everything down.

Then once you can picture your ideal day, you can take steps towards making it happen. You try to live your ideal day.

String together more and more ideal days, and before you know it you’ll be living your Ideal Life.

Congratulations you!

OK, it’s not quite that easy (it never is). But by thinking about your Ideal Day, you’ve taken the first step.

Ready to get started?

Before your brain explodes with possibilities, find a guide or worksheet for this exercise. Using one helped me focus my thoughts.

Search the interweb and you’ll find tons of templates for the Ideal Day exercise. I like the one on Natalie Sisson’s The Suitcase Entrepreneur blog.

She calls it How to create your perfect day in work and play. Her questions walk you through creating your ideal day. To keep you from getting out of control, she gives you a time limit (30 minutes).

There are plenty of examples for inspiration, and a video too.

All this helps, but the key to this exercise is details.

For example, if the question is “What do you do when you wake up?” my sucky answer could be:

I eat breakfast and drink coffee.

A better answer would be:

I make myself breakfast of scrambled eggs with cream cheese and a café latte, and eat it on my balcony overlooking a river.

Get it? I can really see the second answer happening.

Everybody’s Ideal Day is different.

“Ideal” for me might sound like “Hell on earth” for you. My Ideal Day was a chance to be honest about what I really wanted without worrying about what anybody else thought.

Now that I put it up in this post, you’ve probably already judged me. Sigh.

There’s no obligation to share your Ideal Day with anyone. This is about you, be honest about what you want.

"Science Says" overtop of a beach with a dog in the water

How the Exercise Messes with Your Brain

Thinking about my Ideal Day and learning it came true was pretty nifty. Can science explain why I ended up living my Ideal Day?

Yes, in fact it can.

I Zeroed In on What I Really Wanted

If I never thought about a perfect day from beginning to end, I wouldn’t know what it was and I could never make it happen.

Worse, if it did happen I might not even notice.

Picturing a perfect day with details – instead of generalizations –makes a vision. If I have a clear vision of my Ideal Day, I can try to achieve it and I’ll know it when I live it. (OK, maybe that’s not science, just logic.)

My Mind Made it Real

Like in the Matrix, my mind can make things real. By picturing my ideal day in detail, I’m using a technique called “visualization”. According to an article in Psychology Today called Visualize It, psychologists use visualization as a tool to “mentally rehearse an action”.

Athletes use visualization to help them score the winning goal, the same way I can use it to live a perfect day.

It’s a fact: visualization helps the physical body make your vision happen.

I Committed When it Hit the Paper

Writing things down makes them likely to happen. That’s why it’s not just important to think about my ideal day, but to write down the details. That turns my ideal day into a set of goals that I can strive to achieve.

Don’t take my word for it, a study by Dr. Gail Matthews at the Dominican University of California, showed that people who wrote their goals down were more likely to achieve them than people who didn’t. If I want to live my ideal life, it’s worth taking time to write it down so it can become real.

"Worthwhile" overtop of white seashells with waves lapping at them

Does the “Ideal Day” Exercise Work?

Thinking about my Ideal Day was fun, and it didn’t take a huge amount of time to complete the exercise. More than that, it helped me realize what I truly want my life to be like.

It was my first step towards embracing a life of full-time travel.

What I Learned

This exercise is one of those “you get out of it what you put into it” dealios. By putting some real thought into it, I learned something about myself.

I learned what’s important to me.

If it was in my Ideal Day, it was clearly important to me:

  • exercise
  • breakfast (the most important meal of the day!)
  • being outdoors
  • connecting with friends
  • cooking
  • reading

I described my ideal room where I woke up as “small”, which tells me that it’s not important for me to have a huge living space (no mansions in my future).

I described my job as (basically) project management, which means I went to university for the right job (yay!)…and left it to be a writer (for now). This tells me that I’ll be living my Ideal Day when it has project management in it.

I learned that in the past two years I haven’t changed…much.

When it comes to what I want in an Ideal Day, I seem to be on the same page as I was two years ago. The same page, but not exactly the same line.

The Ideal Day I pictured still appeals to me, but if I was to describe my Ideal Day right now, it would be a bit different. I’d add a few things (learning a language, time with family) and take some out (hippy clothes, lunch at a café).

What’s the deal with me and hippies? Read more about it in my Confession: I’m the Worst Traveler Part 1.

Since I’m always changing, my Ideal Day is changing too.

I learned that I married the right guy.

My husband Tim and I decided to do this exercise separately and then compare afterwards. When we compared our Ideal Days they were remarkably similar.

This was both exciting and a huge relief, because if they were different our marriage could be in trouble.

Luckily that wasn’t the case, and we seem to agree on where we want our lives to go. Hooray!

Remember my Ideal Day? Check out Tim’s:

Tim's Ideal Day as of 2013
I guess we’ll have to fight for who gets to cook supper, but other than that, our Ideal Days totally jive. And yes, my husband prints like a 5 year-old.

When we described our Ideal Days, we were living in a city, working corporate jobs from nine to five. We were working our way up the ladder and had plenty of disposable income.

Doing this exercise made it clear that neither of us wanted to be in an office all day or cared about making a butt-load of money.

Neither of us were living our Ideal Day.

"Conclusion" overtop of vintage windows

The Wrap-up

Since Tim and I did the Ideal Day exercise two years ago, I’m basing my next statement on just two results (which isn’t exactly scientific).

The Ideal Day exercise works!*

*results may vary

Not only are we now living in a place that makes our ideal day possible, we’re doing the things that we described in our Ideal Days. Most of them, anyway.

Obviously I can’t credit this exercise completely for the life I’m living right now (that would be ridiculous and…miraculous). But I do think that it was the start of our plans for a new (and awesome) life.

If you’ve never thought about or tried to picture your Ideal Day, maybe it’s time to start. You could end up living it.


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    • I hope you do try this challenge! It’s really easy, and it you can take as much or as little time as you want. It helps put things into perspective.

  1. Fantastic post Heather and so well detailed. I love that you are living your perfect day you wrote down years ago and that you’ve identified what I refer to as, my non negotiables you want each day.

    • Thanks Natalie! It means a lot that you read this post (you did inspire it after all). My perfect day is going to change I’m sure, so I’ll be doing this exercise again in the future. Thank you again for the great resources on your site!

    • Hi Ailish, I’m glad you enjoyed it! It was kind of freaky when I found out that subconsciously I was living my ideal day. Good luck with the exercise, it’s the first step to living your ideal day: knowing what it is. Have fun!

    • True! Visualization is said to help athletes, and I think that the more you can make your vision real with details the more likely you’ll be to actually live it out.

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