When I was at the CIA, one of our core mission values was “speaking truth to power.” This wasn’t just a nicety plastered on the walls. This was something we all were called on to live each day in big and small ways. Sometimes that meant pushing back against a supervisor’s opinion, other times that meant telling the President of the United States that a specific policy simply wasn’t working.
It was uncomfortable and awkward and sometimes terrifying, but there was a strong culture of being honest, of “knowing the truth and letting the truth make you free,” even when that truth hurt. Sure, there were times when we did this imperfectly, and times when we did it messily, or less fully, but we did it.
And that’s how it is for our personal values too. We have to live them for them to count as being ours.
If we say we value family, but spend our whole day working (even if it’s work we enjoy and care about) and only show up for bedtimes and mealtimes, that’s not living our values. We don’t get to claim that one.
If we say we value our health, but eat whatever pre-wrapped garbage is easiest to swallow because we’re so busy with other things that we can’t eat actual food, that’s not living our values. We don’t get to claim that one.
If we say we value integrity, but always cut corners or do things half-assed because we can’t be bothered to give it our all, that’s not living our values. We don’t get to claim that one.
And - truth bomb alert - if we say we value ourselves, but don’t look after our health, don’t go to the doctor about that niggling thing, don’t invest in ourselves, don’t stand up for ourselves, and don’t tell that inner voice in our heads to shut up when she’s being a banshee about how we look or how we perform, that’s not living our values. We definitely don’t get to claim that one.
We don’t get to say we value family, health, integrity, ourselves and then live differently. That’s not how it works. Either we’re honest about how we are living and say we really value work, junk food, expedience, and being shitty to ourselves OR we change our behavior and get to claim the values that we want to have (family, health, integrity, ourselves).
Too often we overcomplicate things. We are hypocrites about things. And we keep intangible things like values too intangible. But if we say we care about something, then we have to show we care about it with what we do everyday.
It is as simple as that.
During my last Power Hour session, I shared some tips about living your ideal day now, in whatever small way you can. (You can re-watch the session on Making Your Boldest Ambitions a Reality here). But since then, I haven't been able to shake the feeling that I wasn't thinking big enough. That doing small things was maybe too small. That maybe, just maybe, we could all live our Ideal Day for a full day, starting now.
What I mean is this: we all tell ourselves a story about what is or isn't possible. And sometimes that story goes something like this: your "ideal day" is pie in the sky and something you'll have to wait for if you ever get it at all, and oh, till then, you'll have to suffer lots and earn your ideal, but it won't come for years and years and years.
But what if we told ourselves a different story? What if we sold ourselves a different story? Because sometimes, just sometimes, the only thing separating our "ideal" from our reality is the choices we make and a lack of imagination.
So, I'd like to set us all a challenge to prove to ourselves how much of our Ideal Day is possible. Already. Now. Pronto.
First, write down in detail what your ideal day looks like (get all your senses involved): where do you wake up, what do you eat, what can you smell, what are you doing with your time, who are you with, how are you using your brain, how are you flexing your body, and how are you energizing your spirit. Think of as much detail as you can...
...And then - this is the key part - reserve a day in April (or sooner if you can) when you will actually live your ideal day. All. Day. Long.
Now before you protest about jobs and kids and other commitments, just go with it. Choose a Saturday or a Sunday if you have to. Get a babysitter. Take a day off work if you've got the leave. And then be creative and expansive about the Art of the Possible.
Make adjustments if required (some things might not be possible because of lockdown but get creative! If you can't go to a museum or the theatre in person, can you do a virtual trip or watch Hamilton on Disney+?), make plans if you have to, buy the groceries if you need to, but live as fully as you possibly can in your ideal day. ALL. DAY. LONG.
Here's what I'll be doing: waking up before the sun rises, eating a warm breakfast (American-style pancakes with lots of syrup), doing a virtual ballet class, reading fiction for a few uninterrupted hours, writing for a few uninterrupted hours, going for a walk in the sunshine to pick up coffee from my favorite local, running a workshop, and spending quality time with my family in the evening while we eat takeout (I hate cooking).
Nothing else. No email, no admin, no firefighting, just one precious day where I will live my ideal. (And for ultimate accountability, I'll be living my ideal day on 31 March... You can test me on it if you like because I'll be doing our 4th Power Hour session that day.)
If you need any convincing, here's why I think you should do this and why we all can do this: When we live our Ideal Day, we get to try it on, see how it feels, how it fits, and experience what this amorphous "ideal" is like.
And then, if it feels good, we can find ways (because our brains are creative like that) to live that ideal more often. And internalizing how good it feels will motivate us to make the ideal a reality more often too. And we can also see where we need to make tweaks, what we might want to change, what elements to leave out/put in, and what life changes might need addressing now.
And if it feels different to what we expected, that is good too. Because we now have information to tell us whether our "ideal" is really the promised land we told ourselves it would be, or if there is something missing.
Just go with me on this one. It may sound strange, and you may resist it, but just try. For one day, one whole precious full day, live your Ideal Day.
And experience what it's like to live a life of your own making because you made it happen.