How to Craft Your Ideal Day… and Live It

Sometimes I write about what I know. And sometimes I write about what I need to learn. This post falls into the second category. I am failing at the task of living my best life. Since life is a series of days, one after another, I know that I need to fix my problems at the level of the day. If you too would like to craft your ideal day, and then live what you create, read on! We’ll do it together.

What’s Wrong with Your Day?

I used to be driven by schedules and deadlines. Most of them were self-imposed, the result of taking on too much and trying to be perfect at all of it. When I retired, I consciously chose to reject my old ways. I revelled in the chaos of the neutral zone that is part of any major life transition. I’m still revelling and still transitioning but, truth be told, the drifting is starting to get to me. It has been two years, for goodness sake!

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

Annie Dillard

What’s happening for you? It might be that you are working eight plus hours a day, and have no time for family, friendships or fitness. Or perhaps your days are filled with obligations to others, responsibilities you are happy to meet but that leave no time for you. Maybe you are retired, and can’t figure out how you ever managed to work You still don’t have enough time to do all you want to do in a day.

Whatever the reason, if you have something burning inside of you that you want to have in your life, you must pursue it. Marie Beyon Ray says it beautifully,

“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment sparkling like a star in our hand–and melting like a snowflake.”

What’s Burning Inside of You?

I want to be learning, savouring, and creating every single day. Writing for Profound Journey is great, but I also want to develop my writing skills in other genres. I’ve wanted that my entire life. I have no excuses now. There’s nothing stopping me from doing this except me.hand making okay symbol in front of sunset

How about you? Do you know what would bring you joy if you were to do it on a daily basis? That’s the critical first step to being able to craft your ideal day. If you need help, try this:

  • Think about how you want to feel. This is the intention part of the goal setting/intentions post I wrote in December. In my case, I’d said that I wanted to accept myself as I am, and to savour my days.
  • Use the techniques of creative visualization to imagine your ideal day. Your ideal day should give you the feelings you want. Try to use all of your senses for a complete experience.
  • If you can’t imagine an ideal normal day, go ahead and visualize an ideal vacation day or a day after you win a lottery. Then for each aspect of that day, look at the values you are expressing. For example, if you picture yourself living in a house on the beach, do you want to feel calm? Do you want to be surrounded by beauty?

What Do You Actually Need to Do?

Identifying your desired feelings is the first step, but if you are going to craft your ideal life, you will need to take action to bring those feelings to life.hand on Mac keyboard

Have you heard of a DIY MFA? The premise is that if you want to write, you can pay a university $60,000 and go do your Masters in Fine Arts. Or you can do your own MFA by following the advice of Ray Bradbury. Bradbury knows what he’s talking about. Considered one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century, Bradbury published more than 30 books,600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, screenplays, and plays.

In the essay “How to Keep and Feed a Muse,” Bradbury encourages wanna-be writers to:

  • read every day–a short story, poem, and essay. The essays should be from a variety of disciplines.
  • write every week–one short story a week for a year
  • watch movies
  • have a variety of experiences so you have a life to write about

You can pay an online provider to guide you through a DIY MFA or you can truly do it yourself. I’m doing it myself. I  have created a weekly chart for tracking variations of all of the above, plus a few non-writing actions like physical activity and cooking a new recipe at least once a week.

What are the actions you need to take to achieve the feelings you identified as important? If you don’t know, do some research to find the vital few actions that are going to give you the results you want.

How Can You Craft Your Ideal Day Despite Obstacles?

If, unlike me, you have legitimate excuses as to why you can’t live the life you intend, your next step is to deal with obstacles.

Most people will go to their graves with their music still inside of them.

Benjamin Disraeli
This may involve:

  • taking the time to clear the decks. For example, I spent an entire weekend getting my inboxes to zero. Now that I’ve got that done, a few minutes a day keeps that part of my life quite manageable.
  • hiring or delegating. One of the best bits of advice I’ve ever received was from a friend who said, “Hire someone who’s good at whatever you’re not. That way your time is freed up to be paid for what you are good at.” Not that I’m getting paid to write at the moment, but you get the point.
  • reframing your thinking. If you truly can’t get rid of an obstacle, you need to come to terms with it. Reframing so that the obstacle is an opportunity can be helpful. An example might be choosing to see a mundane part-time job as fodder for future writing.

How Can You Live Your Ideal Day Every Day?

This would be the $100,000 question; the one for which I don’t have any easy answers.

Seize the day and put as little trust as you can in tomorrow.

Horace
What I do know is that fear is often the reason for failing to do something you say you really want to do. To overcome that fear, try one or more of 35 ways to strengthen your willpower and self-control.

Given the actions I want to take, I’m going to work on suggestion #35. I will proactively arrange my life to prevent problems from happening in the first place. In other words, I will schedule my daily writing practice, for instance, and will give that appointment the same respect I’d give to an appointment with my doctor. If a day comes up where I have to cancel, I’ll make the decision consciously and will reschedule. By turning my daily writing practice into a routine, I’m hoping to ignore my fears by removing thinking and decision-making from that part of my day.

Update: I’ve been doing my daily writing practice since April 1st, and so far, so good. By making sure that I meditate and write early in the morning, I’ve got those desired feelings in place nice and early. That’s making the whole day, every day, so much better.

How will you craft your ideal day? If you’re one of the superstars already living as you intend, please share your secrets! 

 

21 comments

  1. I still struggle with this whole ideal day concept. 🙁 I think that in order to tackle this issue going forward I will institute a “Kiss The Frog” policy. That is, doing what I need to do first thing thereby freeing up the rest of my day so that I can focus on living my ideal day (which to me means doing whatever I want and creating something).

    What do I want to do every day in order to feel joy?

    Lately, I have been doing some adult coloring. Would you believe I found packages of 6 designs slightly longer than regular printer paper for $1.25 at Dollar Tree? The paper is thicker than usual too so things like marker don’t tend to bleed through. I have been doing a bit of reading too…another of my ideal things to do. I love reading! 🙂 I would like to be creative each and every day…be it coloring, drawing, making jewelry or crocheting. Of course, I still need to make videos for my YouTube channel but I can do that even while doing creative things. My videos can show others how to do the things I do to be creative.

    Yes, I think that would bring me enormous joy if I could do things like that every day. Now that my taxes are done and sent to the government I can get down to doing just that. I think I will start by carving out an hour a day to just sit and read. I will then make a video of me doing something creative while explaining the various steps as I make whatever I am making. This could be creating something delicious in the kitchen too.

    Thanks for bringing our minds, once again, back to focus on doing something that brings us joy, Karen. I do find myself losing touch with that amidst the mundane day to day chores.

    1. Hi Susan,
      You seem to be really clear that being creative every day brings you joy and would give you your ideal day. Your clarity is impressive and that clarity has allowed you to list a bunch of ways you can be creative AND still fulfill the constant demand for new content that comes with having a flourishing YouTube channel. That’s awesome, Susan – very inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Hi Karen,
        Thank you for all the compliments! 🙂 I started today with shooting a video of How To Make Homemade Vegetable Beef Soup. I did this before lunch and followed lunch with coloring and reading a book.

        I still need to edit and upload my video but couldn’t due to the hydro going out. Now that power has returned (I am on my computer now) I can go ahead and edit my video and upload it to my YouTube channel.

        I call that a productive and ideal day. 😀 Now I just have to focus on stringing a lot of them together and I will be living my ideal life.

        1. It sounds as if you definitely had a day that was ideal for you, Susan. Coloring and reading in the absence of hydro sounds like a good plan. Best wishes for a bunch more days just like this one.

    2. Hi, Susan – I too like to ‘do what I have to do’ (and ‘do what takes the most energy’) first thing in the morning. Then, psychologically, I feel I can better enjoy my ideal day guilt-free!
      BTW – I am off to look for your Youtube channel now.

      1. Hi Donna,
        I think that getting what needs to be done before getting into our wants is sort of a common theme for a lot of us. Gerri mentioned the same thing in her comment, getting things that need doing done first. I like your explanation of doing things this way allowing you to enjoy your ideal day guilt-free. I like the sound of that. 😉 I mean, who needs more guilt, am I right?
        Thank you very much for having a look at my YouTube channel. I really appreciate that. 🙂

    3. Colouring is so relaxing! I have been super busy with work and working on a PhD so creative time has been nil. Courses are done for now though, so I am back to sewing and creating!

      1. Congratulations on finishing your coursework, at least for now Kelly. The PhD process is such a marathon. I’m glad to hear that you’re taking time to renew through sewing and creating.

  2. I like to do the things that are on my mind that I feel need doing first thing before doing things for myself. If I don’t do this, they are in my thoughts all day and I can’t accomplish other things properly.
    I know I should ignore sometimes, but things I feel I need to do still linger regardless. I guess this is good even though I find myself multi-tasking several times a day.

    1. Hi Gerri,
      My two cents worth of opinion is that what really matters is finding what works for you and doing that! If you need to get the “have to dos” out of the way before tackling the “want to dos”, that’s fair enough. It’s like Susan’s kissing the frog (previous comment) – an expression I love!
      I’m glad your approach works for you. As long as you’re still getting your joy into your days, it’s all good.

  3. I love being retired because I have more “want to dos” days than “have to dos”. Every Sunday, I look at the calendar, see how many things I have written in for the coming week and decide if indeed I do have to do them or if I even want to do them. If they are simply things that keep me busy but are not productive or enjoyable, I will often cross them off my list. I’ll have to do some thinking about what my “ideal” day would be like and work towards making that day a reality.

    1. What a wonderful luxury – to be able to cross things off your list! It’s certainly one of the pleasures of retirement, especially if you can get your head around doing your want tos rather than having to please others.

  4. Hi, Karen – As usual, your post provides great food for thought (and aligns with many of the ideas of which I have been currently grappling). I’ve recently read ‘Beautiful Ruins’ which contains the great line: “The smaller the space between your desire and what is right, the happier you will be.” In my mind, I have modified this line slightly to read, “The smaller the space between what you want and what you currently have, the happier you will be.” For me, these lines (both the modified and unmodified versions) contain the secret of a happy, fulfilling retirement. I believe it is the energy and bravery to try new things, and the self-acceptance to be content with who you are and what you have that leads to this contentment.

    1. Hi Donna,
      I’ve also read Beautiful Ruins. I don’t remember that line but I like it, as I do your modified version. When I read your blog, it seems to me that you’ve identified the qualities of your ideal day and that you diligently endeavour to live those qualities just as often as you can. You certainly seem to be contented and the various posts on your blog speak to your willingness to try new things.

  5. “I spent an entire weekend getting my inboxes to zero.” I think if I could do just that, my life would be perfect! Actually, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what exactly it is that I want to do in retirement. We travel, which I love, but I feel that my day-to-day world is too full of… well… stuff. I like the idea of scheduling activities and sticking with it. Having no schedule is nice after working for so many years, but I often don’t feel very productive (although I always feel busy).

    1. I really struggled with this too, Janis. I want the flexibility, don’t want to be on a schedule, but also want to be productive at doing the things that matter to me. I’m finding that being really clear about what matters and then making sure I include it in my day – that is working, at least for now.
      And yes, having inboxes at zero feels just incredible. They’re not totally at zero anymore of course, but I’m still managing to keep them very lean – maybe 12 messages across three email accounts.

  6. “Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment sparkling like a star in our hand–and melting like a snowflake.”

    What a beautiful quote! I wish I could write like that.

    I am in a bit of a quandary….my ideal day is when serendipity kicks in and a bunch of all the right things happen. Then I bask in the glow and enjoy all the good things. I really am looking forward to not planning my ideal day. It sounds almost like goal setting and work for me. Did I miss the point?

    1. I’d love to write like that too, Fran. I’ve started working on the exercises from a book called Word Painting to see if I can at least approach something like a decent level of description and figurative language in my writing. I’m not holding my breath, but it’s interesting to try.

      Your take on my post makes complete sense for where you are at this point in your life. In the two years since retiring, I rejected any hint of a schedule. I STILL reject any scheduling. And I don’t want to set goals either. But there is a feeling I want to have – an intention if you will – and that’s the feeling of learning and being creative and aware.

      I was finding, like Janis in the previous comment, that I was drifting through the days, staying busy, busy, but still talking and talking and talking about how I’d love to try new things in my writing. The problem was that that was all I was doing about writing – talking! Oh and reading books about the writing life, ALL of which stressed the importance of a daily practice. I realized that some weird fear – of failure; of success; of who knows what – was making it easy for me to procrastinate on the writing practice.

      My first thought was to turn new writing into a big project. I was going to write a book, a book that would take years to research and that I would immerse in just like I’ve immersed in everything else in my life. Shades of the science lab!! But that was scheduling and goal setting and just the thought of it made me feel ill.

      So now I’ve decided that I just want to play. To play with writing descriptively and see what happens. To play with meditating daily for a while again (I’d lost that habit) and see what happens. To play with cooking something new once a week and see what happens. You get the idea. A lot of the things I want to play with just effortlessly happen during my day – like reading, walking with Shylah, even cooking. But meditation and writing don’t. I suspect that’s because both require me to sit with myself and dig deep. Although I consider myself an introspective person, I also know that I default to filling up life with projects to pursue.

      That’s why I now meditate before breakfast and take myself off to my studio to write for a few minutes after breakfast. I’ve only been doing it since April 1st – it’s not a habit yet – but I am finding that it helps stop that incessant internal chatter that says, “You said you wanted to write. You’re not writing. How come you’re not writing? Do you need a goal? What will you write a book about? How will you get it published?” and on and on ad nauseum.

      Sorry, Fran. This is a very long answer, but it did help me to write it! So sorry, and thank you. And as you for, just come home my friend and enjoy serendipitously wonderful days until you feel like it’s time to do otherwise.

  7. Ok! Now I get it and it all makes sense. I do so want to enjoy not having goals, and just doing whatever strikes my fancy at the time. That is my retirement goal from where I sit right now. However, now that you filled me in a little more on reaching your writing goals, a connection to a secret fear that I do have about retirement comes to mind. It is exactly what you described. If I do not have a purpose or goal, am I on the downward spiral to old age, inactivity and being on the wrong side of the sod? We (I) lived in a world driven by routines, expectations and goals. We sacrificed and did our duties. Without the structure that work gives us, drifting aimlessly can be a challenge. Thanks for helping me get this fear out in the open. In spite of me identifying this issue for myself, I still want to enjoy the vacation from routine and structure. I want to set some “me” goals. Every once in awhile, it strikes me even now, that in nine weeks I could take a vacation in the middle of September instead of buckling down for the beginning of the work year. I want to enjoy that and then maybe get to where you are right now! Thanks Karen. Cheers! Fran.

    1. Thank you, Fran. You summarized in a paragraph what I failed to in an entire post and my very long earlier response to you.
      Your secret fear is shared. I am feeling purposeless right now and, while that is great sometimes and especially wonderful when you first retire, the drifting is getting to me.
      I’m not sure if writing and meditating will do the trick but it’s something I’m trying – without big expectations or a product at the end.
      You won’t need to take a vacation in September. In nine weeks time, you will be living an entirely different life and words like ‘vacation’ and ‘weekend’ will lose all meaning because the special features of those days will simply be part of your day-to-day life. It’s gonna be wonderful, Fran.

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