In search of an ‘ideal’ life

I say yes when I mean no

There have been many times that I said yes when I meant no, afraid of displeasing others, and even more afraid of being viewed as selfish. I think the first time I decided to get married, I said yes when I meant no. Young and inexperienced in being myself, I agreed to be a fish out of water for as long as I could, so as not to hurt or disappoint or displease. Not surprisingly, it all ended badly.

And how many times, once trained in self-sacrifice, do we have the opposite conversation with ourselves; our passion for life saying yes, yes, yes, and our practical guardedness saying, don’t be foolish, be realistic, don’t leave yourself unprotected.

The unwavering truth is that when we agree to any demand, request, or condition that is contrary to our soul’s nature, the cost is that precious life force is drained off our core. Despite seeming rewards of compliance, our souls grow weary by engaging in activities that are inherently against their nature.

Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

My wife and I share a precious moment at the beginning of each day, when we sit outside, look into our garden, drink hot water with lime and read short stories from the book that usually she brings to the table. This morning, the above popped-up and I could not help myself to start smiling as the story completed my thinking process of the last couple of days. How to live an ideal life?

It may seem that we can design whatever life we want, then reality takes over and we are swept by its currents. Well, such situations happen at times, when the stream of life river is quite strong and there is no other way than let go and enjoy the ride, if possible. Swimming against the current will be similar to Sysiphos effort. Useless.

On the other hand, if we don’t know where we want to go, it’s kind of hard to start the journey. Unless we don’t care where we end up and in such case, any direction is good enough.

How to live an ideal life? I feel it makes sense to start with the present moment and figure out what is my ideal day. From there, what is my ideal week. An ideal month. And perhaps even what should my ideal year look like. Here is what I came up with:

An ideal day

  • Wake up early, around 6:00
  • Short mindfulness, breathing and stretching practice
  • Physical activity: run 5km or HIIT or ExFitt fitness
  • Energizing, healthy food
  • Get my work done in 4-6 hours
  • Nap 25mins
  • Learning, reading, exploring
  • Dinner – connection with family or friends
  • Read a book
  • No screen at least one hour before sleep
  • Go to bed between 22:00-23:00

An ideal week

  • 1 day: motorbike ride or other outdoor adventure
  • 1 day: teach freediving or fitness or something
  • 3 days: work
  • 1 day: time with friends or family
  • 1 day: be useless, do nothing, no plan

An ideal month

  • 12-15 days of work
  • 2-3 days teach freediving
  • 2-8 days of outdoor adventuring and exploring
  • Enough idle time for learning, reading, creating
  • Lots of time connecting with family and friends

An ideal year

  • Accomplish my annual targets
  • At least one long adventure expedition: motorbike, sailing
  • Regular breaks to freedive, scubadive, enduro riding, trekking
  • Lots of time connecting with family and friends
  • 2 months in Czech with extended family and EU friends

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? The question is how to execute. Not just execute, how to execute well!

Here are few thoughts on solid execution:

  • Plan weekly but not too much otherwise overwhelming.
  • No targets lead to nothing, too much or ambitious targets lead to frustration – find the balance.
  • Reflect briefly at the end of each day and regularly once a month. How do I feel about reality vs. ideal?
  • Adopt 80/20 approach, i.e. if I am 80% happy, that means 100% because there will be always something not happening as I planned.
  • Check regularly with my wife and kids: are they happy, do they feel connected?
  • Politely say no to anything that does not fit my ideal life idea and takes more than 10 minutes.

Of course, the usual-suspect-stumbling-block is work. It just takes too much time! Too much time away from other things in life.

Very often, they key questions around work are:

  • How much do I like to work?
  • How much do I have to work to support my family financially?
  • How could I make money with something that does not feel like work? E.g. teaching freediving in my case.
  • How to achieve financial freedom?

Let’s discuss these topics more in depth soon, in one of the future posts here.

Another bummer could be unplanned, unintended events that just happen to us and how to deal with them. Illness, accident, death of a loved one. Virus and all the stuff resulting from how society decides to handle it. Just name yours! In my view, shit always happens and we often can’t influence what happens to us. What we could manage though are our reactions, our attitude, our happiness even in face of ‘bad’ events. When we live our life (remember 80/20) in a way aligned with our soul, we may be better prepared to cope with whatever inevitably comes our way.

Feel free to use the above concept to do your own, precious, ideal life exercise. What have you come up with? I am curious to hear back from you, dear readers. What works well for you? What are the key challenges?

PS: an ideal life is closely connected with longevity. Check my earlier 3-post series on the topic. Also, you may be interested in looking at what we do at Modern Midlife Mentors to help people with personal transformations.

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