The “Ideal Day” or “Perfect Day” exercise is a common tool used in coaching to help clients get clear on what they want. If you’ve ever worked with a coach or read any books on productivity or lifestyle design, you’ve likely come across this classic tool.
In case this is new to you, the essence is this:
Think about your ideal day (or week). If you had no constraints or obligations, if money and time were not factors to consider, how would you spend you day? What time would you wake up? What would you do? Who would you spend your time with?
You can use this exercise to consider your life as a whole or when considering one specific part of your life, like your job or your relationship.
For some people, getting a clear vision of what they want can be a challenge. “Vision” feels so esoteric. Putting it in the context of a day or a week helps make it more concrete.
One limitation of the Ideal Day exercise is that many people tend to fill their ideal day with whatever they feel they lack in their current life circumstance. It’s like asking a child what he would eat if he could have anything he wanted and the kid tells you he would eat candy and ice cream all the time. When you do the ideal day exercise while sitting in a workshop, or in the confines of your current space, it’s easy to become reactionary to what you don’t like about your current situation.
The truth is that many people don’t know what they want; they don’t ever stop to consider that they have a choice. They have difficulty expanding beyond their current experience or knowledge base. So they default to filling it with a lot of things they don’t get to do in their life right now, but that are on their radar.
Rather than thinking about an Ideal Day in the abstract, I like to gather information for my Ideal Day exercise. Every experience provides information. The more experiences we can have — both those we enjoy and those we don’t enjoy — provides information.
Give yourself the gift of new experiences, and take note. Extract the qualities of the experiences you enjoy — those are the elements to include in your Ideal Day.