Idealizing: #16 of 28 Big Ideas from the World of Coaching


This article is seventeenth in a multi-part series that adapts and excerpts my entire book, The Coach Within: 28 Big Ideas for Engaging the Power of Your Own Wisdom, Creativity, and Choices* (Everything Goes Media, 2017).

16. Idealizing

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

— Vince Lombardi


“It is never too late to be who you might have been.”

— George Elliot

Idealizing should not be confused with the psychological term idealization (of self, others, relationships), which may come with some baggage and negative complications. For our purposes, idealizing simply means considering what’s ideal for ourselves — in things small and large, in all areas of our life.

Very much like the second interpretation of possibility thinking (big idea 15), idealizing is considering and picturing what we want most in any situation, in all the detail we can supply, as grand as we can conjure.

  • It’s for the lighter things: Before planning a party…How can I make my sister’s birthday truly special? Before heading to the mall…What am I looking for in a pair of shoes?

  • And the weightier matters: Before talking to your teenager about their substance abuse…What does this conversation need to be? Before visiting a dying parent…What all do I want to say — how do I want to be?

  • And the different pieces of our lives: How will I ideally participate in the neighborhood organization? What do I want my new business to be like? What will make my six-week recovery in bed as easy and enjoyable as possible?

While idealizing may seem like fantasizing and wishful thinking, a lot more is going on. It’s…

  • Creating clarity, focusing our energies, forming a blueprint for the future.

  • Building awareness of our deepest longings and acknowledging them.

  • Stretching ourselves to think bigger and play bigger.

  • Permitting ourselves to be, do, and have more, beginning with creating that in our mind’s eye.

In addition to the mental component, there’s a physical/emotional piece to idealizing. As you envision your ideals, try embodying them, creating in your body what those ideals feel like. Add sensory details. Bring these perfect templates as fully to life as possible.

Allow yourself the indulgence of conjuring what’s ideal for you in any and all situations, without false limits, engaging your heart and mind. Seek your truths and be fearless in evoking them, removed from the judgments of others and your own inner critic. Just be with your ideals free from guilt, obligations, and abnegation (review being not doing, big idea 14).

When you encounter resistance points in yourself, let them exist without heaving additional attention their way. Counter their stickiness with a generous, smiling, inward yes to your ideals, making space in your belief system for their possibility. You don’t even have to try to manifest — or to force — your idealizing into existence. Just begin by allowing your ideals their own vivid reality on the plane of imagination.

You Coaching To-Do’s

⎕ Idealize on the fly today, wherever and whenever you can. Before getting out of bed: What do I want today to be like? At breakfast: What would make my commute perfect today? At work: How can this meeting go swimmingly? What would the just-right version of this report look like? What is the perfect tone for the interaction with this co-worker headed my way? You get the idea. How effective is idealizing for you even if it’s just a few moments of mental prep work? Even on day one without lots of practice under your belt?

⎕ Create an idealizing section in your journal, with one page for each area of your life, each relationship, and each project you’d like to improve upon. Make some initial notes on every page about what ideal looks like for that thing. Return over time to add details and create a more complete and lucid picture on every page.



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