Crafting a clear vision of the ideal day in your ideal life and then revising it as you grow and gain insight and clarity is a large component of living a life dedicated to the pursuit of personal development.
The more detail you pour into your vision the more likely you are to manifest it. One aspect of creating a detailed vision is to layer on texture and nuance by describing and connecting with how it feels to live an ideal day in your ideal life.
When I first started doing my own personal development work I really struggled to identify what my ideal life or ideal day would feel like. I spent a lot of time avoiding or shallowly scratching the surface of the emotional experience I wanted to weave into my days.
Beyond a vague and effervescent notion that I wanted to be happy (who doesn’t?), I had no language for what I wanted my life to feel like. I had an immense and ever growing bulleted list of achievements I hoped to tick off one by one. But how would that feel? And what the hell is happiness anyway?
Is happiness defined by the presence of certain factors? Or the absence of others? Is it the absence of anger, despair, longing; the absence of all those barbed and sticky feelings that impede our ability to draw breath when they lodge in our throats or lay fully their elephantine weight on our chest?
I can attest that happiness, even in the best of times, is not exclusionary of those barbed and sticky feelings. It is common for a moment of happiness to cohabitate with grief, sadness, loneliness. Happiness is not an exclusive feeling; it’s broad and nebulous.
I was clear about the details of the life I wanted to create and gained more clarity about what that looked like and how to make it happen by the day. I knew I wanted a hobby farm. I wanted to keep bees and chickens, and maybe a couple of goats and definitely a horse. I wanted to garden in a big way and learn to espalier fruit trees and grow my own figs and asparagus. And then there were the career goals, creative goals, retirement goals. I have goals for every area of my life.
But what would it feel like to inhabit that life, especially on a daily basis? What would it feel like to bring each of these wants to life and then actually do the work they require every damn day? And why does how that might feel matter so damn much?
I could easily imagine that winter trips to the barn and chicken house would quickly become a slog and a grind. Something I might come to resent. And in the garden there’s the weeding, watering, mulching, pruning, trimming, harvesting. Endless tasks and chores. I could see clearly how easily my deepest longings might quickly become a misery. What, then, does the emotional experience need to be in order for this life to be the life that I am in love with? That was when I realized that I didn’t want to be merely happy, I wanted to be in love with and to fall in love with my life over and over again.
So what does it feel like to be in love with my life and to fall in love with life over and over again? In asking myself this question repeatedly I have discovered that the life I’m in love with is full of moments of joy, wonder, uninterrupted marvel^, endlessly unspooling possibility, and (to borrow a term from Elizabeth Gilbert) stubborn gladness**. It’s approaching the day with deep gratitude, openness, curiosity, and the courage to step into whatever is unfolding for me in the moment.
Knowing that this is how I want my life to feel gives me the insight and clarity that I need to create the experiences that allow me to feel the way I want to more of the time. I can structure my day in a way that provides more opportunities for this emotional experience. And I can eliminate things that do not move me closer to that experience.
In short, familiarizing myself with the emotional texture I want to weave into my days helps me to hone my discernment about what to keep and what to let go of. It improves the quality of the choices I make about my life and that, in turn, improves the quality of my lived experience. That is why knowing what you want your emotional experience to be is so important; you won’t be joyful or ebullient or wonder-stricken all of the time but you can create experiences that spawn those feelings every single day.