A little over two years ago, Jeff and I were preparing to bring our first child into the world. Jeff worked non-stop and I was working a full-time job and two part-time jobs. It was a lot. One Saturday afternoon, after Jeff helped me at a weekend work event, we both sat down totally exhausted and grumpy. This exhaustion led to a realization that this was not the life we wanted anymore. – Certainly not the life we wanted to introduce to our baby.
Jeff had just finished reading The Power Of Habit and suggested we start to think about our ideal day. We did and, boy, did we change our life. Now don’t get me wrong, our life is still beautifully imperfect. We still need to fine-tune our system for laundry. (Seriously, how does the pile never lessen?!) We still have challenging days. But that’s ok. We have fun, and we each have our non-negotiable “ideal day” moments that help to refuel us.
So, what did we do and how did we do it?
I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the easiest thing we’ve ever done. It took time, it led to tough conversations, and it forced us to make some very difficult decisions. And I couldn’t recommend it more! Obviously, you are welcome to read The Power Of Habit and see how Charles Duhigg recommends looking at your habits. Honestly, I never read the book. (It’s on my list for 2020.) Based off Jeff’s description, we came up with our own system. For us, we needed to start with who we wanted to be. Then we moved on to what we wanted to do. I’ve outlined our system for you below. Give it a try. Share it with us! We’d love to help you.
The new year is a great time to take a good hard look at your life and start to make meaningful, long-term changes. How exciting!
Steps we took to find our ideal day:
Set aside some private time, grab a cup of coffee, and have a “real-talk” moment with yourself. Be brutally honest. Write it down.
FIRST – Forget who you are. Ask yourself who you want to be. What are qualities, attributes, or personality traits you want to have. Think about this from a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual point of view. Don’t overthink this, just make a list. Again, don’t worry about who you are now.
Example: I want to be a…
- Caring Daughter
- Healthy Person
- Contributing Church Member
- Well Rested Individual
- Happily Married Person
SECOND – Taking the bullet points from the list above, come up with 2 things for each unique “person you want to be” that describes what that looks like to you.
- Caring Daughter – 1.) Calls mom weekly 2.) Celebrates parent birthdays
- Healthy Person – 1.) Eats 2 servings of fruits and vegetables each day 2.) Works out 4 times a week
- Contributing Church Member – 1.) Volunteers to usher 2.) Tithes 10%
- Traveler – 1.) Has updated passport 2.) Takes a yearly trip
- Well rested person – 1.) Sleeps 8 hours per night 2.) Relaxes on Sundays
- A person who is in a happy marriage – 1.) Has a monthly date night 2.) Sends one loving text message a week
THIRD – Write out your IDEAL day. Be specific. Write it out hour by hour, starting with the moment you wake up and ending with going to bed. This doesn’t have to be reflective of what your day currently looks like. Dream big. Do you want to sleep in until noon? Do you want to savor an amazing cup of tea each morning? Do you want to take an hour long shower? Name it, and put it in your dream schedule. Take a look at the traits you came up with above, include those into your ideal day. If all of this is difficult for you, start by answering these three questions:
- If I could spend my day doing WHATEVER I want, what would it be? Dream big. Don’t think about the financial side, the responsibilities of your life, etc. If you could do ANYTHING what would it be?
- What do I talk about doing, but never do?
- What are the things in my life I DON’T want to do?
FOURTH – If you have a partner in life, children, or anyone else that intimately impacts your day-to-day, ask them to do this exercise as well. This can be tricky if they are not interested in these types of exercises, but let them know it’s important to you. Get them on board.
FIFTH – Combine your ideal days to create an overall ideal family schedule. Play with it, find compromises, mesh them together. Don’t stress out or overthink this. Remembers it’s just an exercise and should be fun.
SIXTH – Take that ideal family schedule and DO IT! Now, again, don’t stress out. Take a deep breath. Don’t be discouraged. For most people, it will be very difficult to take that ideal family schedule and immediately implement it all. That’s ok. Pick one or two things that you can currently change in your schedule. This can be something that involves minor time changes. Looking at the examples above, this may be prioritizing 20 minutes each week to call your mom. Or scheduling out one date night a month. Incorporate those. Then, when they have become a part of your habit, build on and incorporate more.
When we first started, Jeff simply added to his ideal day “Drink a Bad-A cup of coffee” and scheduled out time to make sure he took his daily supplements (or as he called it “Daily Sups.”) I built in time for a long hot shower every evening before bed. These weren’t big changes, but we made them a priority and respected the other person’s ideal moments. Eventually, this led to greater and greater steps toward our ideal day.
By the end of the year, I quit two of my jobs, we changed Jeff’s coaching schedule so he could be home with our children in the morning (another dream item in his ideal day) and we built in family dinner/quality time every single day. These were difficult schedule changes to implement. We had to make hard choices, we had to change our family budget, we had to remove things from our life that got in the way.
But we gained so much.
The trick here is taking steps to living your dream life. You can do it. Life is short, quit telling yourself “this is just the way it is.” It isn’t. It’s the way you’re making it. The only thing standing in your way is YOU. Quit making excuses, quit blaming others. Take ownership of your life, and be accountable for your decisions. Let us know how we can help!