You’re closer than you think to your perfect life, and you can change more than you think to get there.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying an exercise from one of Martha Beck’s books (sadly, I can’t remember which one): spend ten minutes per day thinking, in great sensory detail, about your perfect life.
(These are the bare basics of the exercise. There’s more detail, and I highly recommend The Joy Diet, Finding Your North Star, and The 4-Day Win!)
Beck advises that this exercise may be ridiculously difficult. Your brain will keep gamely trying to drag your thoughts back to things it perceives as threats – and in its defense, that strategy has worked out pretty well for us in the long haul. However, as we are no longer wandering the plains with lions at our heels, she exhorts us to keep at it. We are to visualize not just the external indicators, such as, “I have a nice car,” but also things like how our body feels and what our work space looks like. Which brought me to an interesting revelation: I’m not all that far from my perfect life.
I don’t mean the most perfect life I can have now, I mean my pie-in-the-sky, full-of-unicorns perfect life. And that’s right, it’s not all that far off.
Now, I’d be the first to admit that I have some strange history when it comes to money. For various reasons, I wound up with an awful lot of rich friends – like, have-their-own-yachts rich. So when people say that money doesn’t buy happiness, I’ve actually seen that played out. Not that all of those people were miserable, not at all, they had as much joy and laughter in their lives as I did, and I’m sure it’s nice not to have to worry about money – but nonetheless, their lives were just as messy and imperfect as mine, too.
Regardless, I think those of you who haven’t witnessed this firsthand might find the same thing if you make a concerted effort to picture your perfect life. Waking up with the sun, having your morning tea or coffee over a leisurely breakfast, having the time to work out or learn to play guitar – would it surprise you if these were the pictures that came to mind instead of yachts and expensive champagne? It surprised me, frankly.
So, yes. I may not live in my dream house. I may not have ten acres of land to go striding across in the mist while my dogs frolic around happily in the meadow grasses. I may be freelancing instead of working exclusively on my own things. But what I do have is a life that almost eerily parallels my dreams of perfection: time for coffee with my husband in the morning, midday walks with the dog, writing a LOT, time to go running, time to play video games, taking the time to cook my lunch from scratch instead of heating it up in the microwave.
These are dreams that were bought with late nights and weekends spent writing, but they aren’t unattainable. Like guest-posters Chuck and Emily, you may have a full career and hobbies outside of that – your perfect life might be choir three nights per week, or painting on the weekends. My dreams won’t be yours, not exactly – but what I hope is that when you take the time to imagine the scents and sensations of your perfect life, you’ll realize how in reach many aspects of it are.
Sometimes people exhort you to dream big. Today, I’m exhorting you to dream…cozy. Dream art-y. Dream gardening-ly. Don’t work yourself to the bone on the assumption that you want a Maserati – have the audacity to see if what you really want is a battered pickup truck and a Saturday hike.