My friend Ben once told me, “The ideal number of martinis is the same as grilled cheese: one and a half. One just isn’t enough, but two is pushing it. Stick with one and a half and you can’t go wrong.” And my ideal self agrees. But when I have either a martini or a grilled cheese in front of me—both at the same time seems like an unfair slice of heaven, really—I’m hard-pressed to listen. Because there’s the “I” we are, and there’s the ideal “I” we wish we were. And very often, there’s a big space in between.
Maybe the ideal you has a cup of hot green tea in a comfy chair by the window in the early morning light, while the real you puts on coffee while brushing your teeth and checking emails in the dark because, well, you don’t have a comfy chair by a window.
Maybe the ideal you winds down at the end of the day reading one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century while listening to Tosca, while the real you curls up under a blanket on the couch for three mind-numbing hours of TiVo.
Maybe the ideal you throws weekly dinner parties with Ina Garten recipes paired with fine wine, while the real you is so tired by Friday, you only have time to doctor up some jarred pasta sauce paired with a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck.
We know that living as our ideal selves makes us feel better. But this is real life we’re talking about, a vortex of urgent emails and work deadlines, carpools and tax appointments and marathons of TV shows you simply can’t tear yourself away from (ahem, reality cooking shows). So not only do we forget how important it is to allow ourselves a chance to be the person we wish we were, we don’t have the time!
Well, you do. Kind of. Because you don’t need as much time as you think. Spending just ten minutes a day feeding those dreams of your ideal self will bring you closer to feeling as if you were living it every second.
Maybe you don’t have time to train for an Ironman, till an organic garden, learn Italian, and refurbish old furniture while working a full-time job and dreaming about a pied-à-terre in Paris. But you can spend ten minutes planting sage in the kitchen window. You can read eight pages of a great book. You can go for a brisk walk around the block before you get back to work. And just those ten minutes of living your ideal life will fill you with such bursts of pride and productivity, you’ll want to do so much more.
It’s not practical to believe we’ll make all the right food choices, spend all the right money, and read all the right books all the time. So we shouldn’t beat ourselves up when we don’t. Not only are we being unfair to ourselves to feel like failures if we don’t meet all of our own ideal expectations, but reaching the pinnacle of perfect selves would leave no room for dreams! Instead, give yourself a goal you have no excuse to miss: Every day, for just ten minutes, do one small thing that your ideal self would do. It will feel like clicking the “On” switch of a happy life, setting the scene for you to fulfill more of the best self you want to be.Back to all excerpts