“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” ~ John Lennon
The sun was out, and there was a slight breeze.
I was drinking coffee and holding a cigar, contemplating whether to light it or not. These were perfect conditions for me—and for the writing exercise I was embarking on:
“Write out—in as much detail as possible—your ideal day.”
My ideal day is simple. Some might even say it’s unambitious. I don’t want to be a famous actor, the president of a country, or the richest man in the world. My perfect day just needs to include my core values: health, inner peace, creativity, and growth.
This ideal day would allow me wake up at 5 a.m. to meditate for 20 minutes and then make my long espresso just in time to watch the sunrise. Feeling refreshed and connected to my spirit, next I would journal non-stop for another 20-30 minutes, pouring out every thought and wish onto paper just as Jackson Pollock would pour out his heart onto canvas—with a glint of madness.
Then, I would exercise for an hour. Whether I do so with a run, going to the gym, or a Pilates class would depend on the day. I’d shower and be off to work by 9 a.m.
Finally, I’d be back home by four in the afternoon, when I would read for an hour—and then, write for another two hours, finishing just in time to be ready for my family and social obligations. There would be a 30-minute nap just after lunch to charge my batteries. By nine in the evening, I would be in bed and reading for another hour before falling asleep at ten.
If only our lives would go exactly as we planned.
My ideal day looks simple on paper, but it’s not easy. It works some days and fails miserably on others.
Some days, I get up, my rituals go smoothly, and I feel as boisterous as a kid—ready to tackle the day and the world. But on other days, when the alarm goes off at five, I can’t get up, no matter what. And then, some days I get up, but go through my rituals like a zombie. My meditation is all over the place, and my journaling has no soul in it.
Sometimes, I exercise and feel energetic for the whole day—while other days, I arrive at the office barely walking and sit rooted to my chair, not being productive at all. What’s worse, I often succumb to some injury and have to stop exercising for a few weeks, as is the case right now. I’ve had chronic pain in my neck, which seems to worsen every time I read, write, or train.
The second part of my ideal day is my writing life, which is supposed to start at 4 p.m. In theory, I would be in front of my laptop by then—but often, I can’t write, and I just check my emails and surf the web. It all depends on my energy levels and the amount of stress I’m carrying from the working day. The sheer difficulty of writing as a craft doesn’t make it any easier to get into the mood either.
But, when I don’t write, I carry this guilt on my shoulders, which quickly grows into frustration. I start snapping away at everyone around me. I become intolerant, and my family or social time in the evenings becomes an exercise in patience—for them more than me.
Our ideal life doesn’t usually equal reality.
We get so caught up in romanticizing our lives that when they don’t match our dreams, we get discouraged and quickly give up on them. We stop practicing our habits and stop trying to live according to our ideals. We justify it, saying that life came between us and our dreams.
We need to recognize that we won’t necessarily get what we strive for—not immediately. Taking a five-day seminar with Tony Robbins doesn’t mean we instantly become our perfect selves, but rather, that Tony has shown us a glimpse of what we could become.
We all want change, but we expect it to happen too quickly.
We want to be happy now. We want to be perfect now.
We are chasing this Hollywood-esque moment in which we simply press a button and change.
Just because I wrote out my ideal day, inspired by the sun and a cigar, doesn’t mean that I can now live like that all the time.
It’s okay to be disappointed that our day didn’t match our ideal. However, instead of filling our minds with guilt and recriminations, abandoning our aspirations, we should look at it more openly instead.
We need to accept that we can’t immediately start living our “ideal life” seven days a week. We must be grateful that we’ve even lived those few moments, hours, or days the way we’d envisioned. We need to appreciate our humanness, in which there is no certainty.
Just because I couldn’t live ideally today doesn’t mean I’ve failed. Rather, I will fail only when I stop trying to live my ideal way.
So keep dreaming. Keep idealizing.
Just know that it will take some time, effort, and patience to live up to your dreams.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from my experience striving for my ideals, it’s that perfection is not the goal—growth is.
Author: Mo Issa
Image: Instagram @elephantjournal
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis