“Each day of the journey is precious, yours and mine —we must strive to make it a masterpiece.”Coach John Wooden, My Personal Best
An Imperfect Question
What’s your perfect day?
I looked up from my computer, gazed out the window, rubbed my chin, and drifted into a fantasy land full of nachos, beer, wine, beach volleyball, sunsets, Dairy Queen, sexy time…
But then I snapped myself out of it with another question:
What good does this daydreaming do?
I can see how asking, “What’s your perfect day?” to someone else could be a good way to get to know them. Come to think of it [Googles to double-check. Yep!] it’s number 4 of Arthur Aron’s 36 Questions to Fall in Love, which I recommend everyone try.
And asking, “What’s their perfect day?” about someone else is a wonderful way to plan their birthday. I did exactly that for Kim in Cape Town in 2019.
But fantasizing about your own perfect day? It feels masturbatory—unless you shove a word in the middle of the question.
Can you make it perpetually perfect?
I think it’s more practical to ask, What’s your perpetually perfect day?
Unlike fantasizing about a standalone perfect day, contemplating a life of one ideal day after another forces you to concoct a perfect system to shoot for rather than a destination. This gives you practical insights to mine.
Because a perpetually perfect day must:
- Fit in every important area of your life—relationships, health, purpose, exploration, etcetera—so nothing gets left behind.
- Find a happy balance between enjoying the moment and preparing for the future. (More on this in Dan Lieberman and Michael Long’s book on dopamine, The Molecule of More.)
A life of perpetually perfect days—or maybe 85 percent such days—would never get boring. You wouldn’t hedonically adapt and get restless.
If anything, every perpetually perfect day would be better than the last!
(Aside from unlucky days ruined by someone spilling coffee all over your keyboard or something.)
How do you plan a perpetually perfect day?
You’re probably not as into fitness as me, so the following analogy may not resonate with you as much. Bear with me:
Compare planning your perpetually perfect day to programming a fun fitness routine.
You’re looking to plan out a set of activities that:
- You enjoy, and;
- Are a net positive to each area of your life.
That way, the body of your life keeps growing and getting stronger.
By “areas of your life,” this is how I break it down:
- 📚 Information Diet: Not too much junk, which will make you mentally sick and slothful. A good variety that takes time to digest and provides consistent energy rather than spikes.
- 🏋️ Health: Physical fitness and well-being is your backbone. If it falls apart, so does everything else.
- 🧪 Adventure. Your flexibility. This helps you keep an open mind and avoid getting stiff, brittle, and sore.
- 🤝 Relationships: The legs of your life. They do the heavy lifting, but also take the most time and effort to develop.
- 💰 Career and Finances: Your arms. You want to keep them in working order, but there’s little practical need for bulging biceps.
- 🧭 Core: Navel gazing exercises about finding your purpose or your calling are like planks and ab crunches: not the best way to spend your energy. If you work the other areas of your life hard enough, these core areas will tighten up as a byproduct.
My Perpetually Perfect Day
- 06:00 – Wake up naturally.
- 06:30-07:15 – Head out to my ocean-view patio to bask in the morning sun while warming up my brain with morning pages (Flexibility), then work on some blog post, script, or chapter (Career and Finances).
- 07:15-08:15 – Hang out with Kim and the kid(s) before sending them off to do their own thing. (Relationships.)
- 08:15-12:00 – Continue working on my what-will-by-then-be super influential “self-help gym” business: plan and run challenges, create content, coach privately (Core and Career and Finances).
- 12:00-14:00 – Walk a couple hundred meters to the beach for a workout, stretch, or a competitive volleyball session (Health) with friends (Relationships).
- 14:00-15:30 – Rinse off in the ocean, have a quick shower, then go out for a lunch of a big bowl of seasonal salad (Health) with sourdough cheese toast on the side. I’ll either eat with a friend or acquaintance (Relationships, Flexibility) or read/watch/listen to something (Information Diet) about a new topic I’m interested in (Flexibility).
- 16:00-17:00 – “Easy work” like taking notes, phone calls, and checking in with my assistants who support me with crap like emails that I can’t completely ignore.
- 17:00-19:00 – Go for a walk, coach sports, or take some lessons (Flexibility) with my kids, friends, family, and neighbors (Relationships).
- 19:00-21:00 – Small dinner party with Kim, a couple of not-yet-friends (Flexibility), and a couple of old pals (Relationships) where we’d use conversation starters to talk about different things (Flexibility) while eating some home-cooked meal (Health) and taste-testing delicious wine or beer (Negative Health).
- 21:00-22:00 – Chill out with Kim, watching a great show.
- 22:00-22:30 – Read a “sledgehammer” book that inspires me with tons of ideas the next morning (Information Diet).
I wouldn’t want every day to be like this.
I’d like to go camping or traveling every once in a while. But if my days went this way 85 percent of the time, my life would be 100 percent perfect, subject to perpetual fine-tuning, of course.
Is one day not enough?
When I brought this concept to the way-we-work-rethinker Paul Millerd, he said he was on board, but preferred to think in terms of perpetually perfect weeks or even months.
He’s probably right.
In a perpetually perfect life, I’d like room for full-day activities like hiking. There’s also something to be said about weekends or even digital detoxes. None of these can happen within the Groundhog Day-esque perpetually perfect day model.
But planning a whole week or more gets complicated—too complicated for my imperfectly puny brain. So I prefer to keep things simple by imagining a perpetually perfect day that I’m free to break from periodically.
How can you make this dream come true?
Whether you plan a perpetually perfect day, week, fortnight, or month, once you have a plan the next question is:
What needs to change for you to make it a reality?
For me, and for most people I’ve talked to about this question, the answer is usually, “Not that much.”
All I’m missing is for my work to get a bit more traction. That would earn me the additional income I’d need to be able to afford daily lunches out, fine food and drink every evening, an assistant, and a moderately-sized home by the beach with a sunny patio and enough extra space for me to work in peace and quiet.
Knowing that, I’m challenging myself to do things that make me uncomfortable but will grow my business—running challenges, leading courses, expanding my network, building my skills—while all the while keeping up with the other areas of my life that are on a near-perfect pace.
Maybe you aren’t as close to your perpetually perfect day as I am. But if you’re fortunate enough to be reading this without a debilitating health condition, I doubt it’s a pipe dream, either. Because I suspect your perpetually perfect day depends little on hard-to-attain status goals like wealth, fame, and power and a lot on reachable, growth-oriented routines.
So ask yourself this:
What’s the first challenging change to your routine you can make to get closer to living your perpetually perfect day?
- 💘 Perpetually perfect partnership? Does your partner’s perpetually perfect day fit with yours?
- ⏳ Not too late. “The beauty of time is it cannot be wasted in advance.” – Arnold Bennet.
- 🌱 Become > Be. Instead of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “Who or what do you want to grow into?” – Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, Designing Your Life.
- 🧩 What’s missing? “I think of the self-actualizing man not as an ordinary man with something added, but rather as the ordinary man with nothing taken away.” – Abraham Maslow.
- 🛀 That’s the life! “The good life is not something you will ever achieve. It’s a way of living.” – Scott Barry Kaufman, Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization.
- ⛵️ Float your boat. If my “body of your life” model doesn’t do it for you, consider Scott Barry Kauffman’s improved model of Maslow’s needs: A boat. My recap here.
Stay perfectly uncomplacent.
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