January 1, 2010

What would your ideal day look like? Lessons from Barbara Sher

There are lots of ways of getting what you want in life. In order to do that, however, you first have to know what it is you want in life. That, for many, is the hardest first step. About a year ago, when I was on vacation in Portland, Jamaica, I read a book by Barbara Sher called Wishcraft.

In Wishcraft, Barbara Sher offers a strategy for figuring out what you want in life. Part of that strategy is to imagine your perfect day. Not your perfect vacation day, but a regular day in your ideal life.

Enthralled by the idea of a perfect day, and, of course, a perfect life, I began to think about how a day in my ideal life would look like. I wrote it down on a piece of paper somewhere, but have often thought about it, so will rewrite it here.

My day begins with me waking up at the crack of dawn to the sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore. The first thing I do is get up and go for a walk on the beach. After walking, I do some strength training or yoga on the beach, and then go for a dip in the ocean. I go inside, take a shower, and then have breakfast on the patio overlooking the ocean with my husband and children.

My children walk off to school and my husband gets busy doing what he loves – practicing music or making jewelry. I sit out on my patio or at a huge window at my writing desk and write for two hours. After writing, I answer emails and update my blog. Then, I get ready for lunch.

I walk a few blocks from my house to a nice restaurant and have lunch in the garden with inspiring, engaging, smart friends. We enjoy a delicious, healthy meal and wonderful conversation.

After lunch, I walk up to campus, where I either prepare my class if it is a teaching day or do library research if it’s a research day. When I teach my class, it is to a room full of engaged, socially active students who are thrilled with learning and with ideas. I leave campus feeling fulfilled and walk to my children’s school to pick them up.

In the afternoon, I take the kids to an outdoor or cultural activity. This might be theatre practice, horseback riding, or swimming at the beach. Or, it could be the day we all go to zumba or dance class together. After our family activity, we go home and prepare dinner.

A couple of musician friends come over for dinner, which we enjoy on the back deck. The food is delicious and the conversation is lively. After dinner, my husband, Nando, and our friends play a few songs.

I read books with the children for a bit before they go off to bed. Nando and I relax on the couch for a bit before going to bed. I fall asleep, relaxed, and sleep until I am ready to start a new day.

The next step in this exercise is to figure out what kind of life you want to lead on the basis of this ideal day. And, to figure out which things are necessary in order to be happy, and which are just frills. I haven’t made up my mind about that part yet.

One great thing I got out of this exercise, though, is that I have chosen the right profession. Working as a college professor allows me the flexibility to be able to spend my mornings at home writing, and my afternoon engaging with the wider community. I am too social to want to be in the house writing all of the time, so I do enjoy being able to either teach or do research.

What about you? What would your ideal day look like? What things are most important to you in life?

Here are the instructions from http://www.wishcraft.com/wishcraft_ch3.pdf :
EXERCISE 9: Your Ideal Day
With pen in hand and as much paper as you need (or a tape recorder if you prefer to dream out loud), take a leisurely walk through a day that would be perfect if it represented your usual days—not a vacation day, not a compro-mise day, but the very substance of your life as you’d love it to be. Live through that day in the present tense and in detail, from getting up in the morning to going to sleep at night. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? What do you have for breakfast? Do you make it yourself—or is it brought to you in bed, with a single rose and the morning paper? Do you take a long, hot bath? a bracing cold shower? What kinds of clothes do you put on? How do you spend the morning? the afternoon? At each time of day, are you indoors or outdoors, quiet or active, alone or with people?

As you go through the hours of your fantasy day, there are three helpful categories to keep in mind: what, where, and who.

What are you doing—what kind of work, what kind of play? Imagine yourself at the full stretch of your capacities. If you’d like to sing or sail, and you don’t know how, in this fantasy you do know how.

Where—in what kind of place, space, situation? A London flat, an Oregon farm, a fully quipped workshop, an elegant hotel room, a houseboat?

Who do you work with, eat with, laugh and talk with, sleep with? You will undoubtedly want to write some of your favorite real people into your fantasy; you might also want to include some types of people you’d like to be surrounded by—writers, musicians, children, people your own age, people of all different ages, athletes, Frenchmen, financiers, simple country people, celebrities.


  1. Thank you for posting! This is really cool!

  2. Hi, Emily! I am glad you liked it! It is fun to dream about the perfect life, and to figure out what changes you can make right now to get closer!