There is a coaching tool called “ideal day” which I sometimes use with clients, when they are uncertain about long range plans or next immediate steps. It’s a low-risk, fun way to gain unexpected clarity.
The way it works is this: you visualize your ideal day in 5 years. This “ideal” day isn’t meant to be vacation time, or some impossible parallel universe life, but it is a visualization of your best possible reality in 5 years. Hence “ideal” day. It’s an opportunity to imagine what’s possible, and what desires you might want to manifest. You start by watching yourself wake up, and write down everything you see – your bedroom decor, who is with you, what you do after getting out of bed, what you look like in the mirror, how you spend your day, where you go, what work you do, how family/friends are integrated – until your head hits the pillow that night. As much dreamy detail as you like from your ideal day five years in the future.
I recently found my own version of this “5 years in the future” visualization exercise which I did for myself, back when I was getting certified as a coach. 5 years ago!! I was unmarried, had no kids, and worked in a traditional corporate job. I wanted the polar opposite: a partner, kids, and my own coaching & consulting practice.
There are many cliches to sum up what I was thinking as I read it, but I’ll start with: be careful what you wish for! Because, while my perception of the events has certainly changed now that they are REAL real, A HELL OF A LOT of what I visualized is NOW TRUE.
Then, upon occasion, while reading through it, I thought – that’s not a dream. That sounds like a fucking nightmare. (2 kids and a dog?! Really, Maggie?!!)
The most glaring commentary is how clueless I was about exactly what it took to be a parent. How much work kids are. During my ideal day, I gloss over this reality with throw away lines like “put kids to bed”, as if it was EVER that simple. My “reality” column tells it like it is.
So if your ideal day in 5 years includes starting your own business or having children, I may be your cautionary tale (or possibly motivate you to go for it, depending on your appetite for risk and chaos!).
Here is a side by side comparison of what I dreamed up five years ago and what’s come to fruition.
At least I got my damn fluffy white down comforter!
IDEAL DAY BEGINS
wake up in bed with fluffy white down comforter, soft sheets
husband is next to me
we have 2 little kids who wake us up or perhaps i meditate early while everyone is sleeping
look in mirror. see 44 year old woman who’s still in shape, thin, but slightly aged.
either long or much shorter hair
REALITY DAY BEGINS
wake up in bed with fluffy white down comforter, soft sheets
husband woke up early for some peace and quiet.
we have a 3.5 year old (terrorist) who we call ‘boss baby’; each morning, she screams from her bed, “MAAAAMMMMA. MAMMMMMMA” until I get up and fetch her. This is around 6:15am. There will be no meditation. Ever.
After going to my kid’s room first, I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth (because I have morning breath that didn’t exist until I hit 40)
I barely have time to look in mirror, but when I do, I see a 44 year old woman who’s still in shape, thin, and DEFINITELY slightly aged. Long hair still!
|IDEAL DAY CONTINUES||REALITY CONTINUES|
|go to closet – there is a mix of more business attire, but corp casual clothes (theory) and lots of soft well worn, well fitting jeans, scarves, flats. sweaters and leggings and soft grey t shirts.|
(some high heels still but fewer. plus trail/hiking/running shoes and clogs/boots)
|go to closet – there is a a mix of corporate casual clothes and a couple of pears of jeans, old scarves, flats. ratty sweaters. Leggings and t shirts mostly from Target. |
(very few high heels still because I sold all of my Christian Louboutins on Poshmark. Kids ain’t cheap. Neither is starting your own business)
|husband and i get the kids off to school together as a tag team (we all eat breakfast together)||We never have breakfast “together” during the work week, in the 3.5 years of having a kid.|
|I take a walk/run with our big dog – forest trail – smells fresh and crisp||MAYBE I take a yoga class, and it smells sweaty. Usually I take a yoga class to sweat some and also sleep some. I lost a lot of hours of sleep when my daughter was an infant.|
IDEAL DAY CONTINUES
I coach clients; in town or in my home office.
I pick up the kids at school.
I talk to my twin sister on drive to pick them up.
spend time with family through dinner
maybe I see clients between dinner and kids bedtime
PUT KIDS TO BED.
(if by “put kids to bed” I meant: beg and plead with only 1 child to take a bath, brush her teeth, go to the bathroom, sit still while we put on PJs, sit still while we read, sit still while we sing songs. and please (for the love of god!) go to bed before midnight. This bedtime routine takes an hour, sometimes more.)
REALITY DAY CONTINUES
I coach clients; in town or in my home office. (YIPPIE – that’s true.)
My husband often picks up our daughter from pre-school, while I madly try to finish work before family consumes the evening
my sister and I rarely have time to talk, but we do send lots of mom memes and emojis.
husband and I tag team entertaining our daughter and making dinner – most of which is harried and slapdash.
um – what time were these fantasy kids going to bed, midnight? on rare occasions, i’ll meet with clients after work and my husband will put our kid to bed.
|IDEAL DAY FINISHES||REALITY DAY FINISHES|
|spend time with husband after kids go to bed, either talking or reading together or maybe watching a movie.||after finally getting our 1 child to stay in bed, my husband and I both make a hasty retreat to our respective offices for much needed alone time where no one is asking you for anything. Sometimes I get into bed as soon as my kid is asleep. Although you can’t ever truly get back the lost hours of having a newborn, I sure as hell try each night.|
|Damn if I didn’t get that fluffy white down comforter, at the very least. And all the other madness…well, I wouldn’t trade any of it.|