How Do You Know When You’ve Had a Good Day?

My coaching practice includes coaching people who are either considering a career change or are trying to make their current job more fulfilling.

“How do you know when you’ve had a good day?” is one of the most important questions I ask.

How someone answers this question reveals a lot about their values, needs, and aspirations.

Answering this question requires a few things. You must have the ability to critically evaluate a day and decide if it was a good day, neutral day, or bad day. You must have the self-awareness to pay attention to the quality of your days. And you must be able to identify what separates good days from bad days.

I find that most people can’t easily answer this question the first time it is asked. After all, answering this question requires a level of clarity that, if someone already had it, means they wouldn’t need a coach in this moment.

But what trips most people up is that they’ve never tried to identify what creates a good day for them. If ‘good day’ isn’t a prompt that works for them, I’ll often rephrase to ask, “when you feel most fulfilled, how are you spending your time?”

For some it is the activities they undertake (some like a physical component to their day or to work on things that produce a tangible output while others prefer to spend their time in quiet reflection). For some it is the outcomes they produce (some want to see measurable progress on a daily basis and the ability to share what they’ve produced with others and get their feedback). For some it is in the connections they make (some want to develop relationships or explore interesting or deep topics with another person).

There is a nearly infinite combination of activities, outputs, outcomes, connections, etc. that can help someone know when they’ve had a good or fulfilling day.

Another way I’ll ask the question is, “what will you always make time for?”

We all have work that we don’t want to do and that we try to defer or ignore (like expense reports or filing taxes). And we all have work that we look forward to. We have work that will create more energy for us than it will draw.

For me, I’ll always make time for someone who says, “Do you have a minute?”

Often I’ll get that question at 4pm on a Friday. When I hear this question, I know that this person is in need of counsel and that the conversation will likely be an hour or longer.

But I always make time for this because I know it is how I can use my unique skills to create the greatest impact to those around me.

If the person you are coaching cannot answer the question, “how do you know when you’ve had a good day?” then they get homework.

I ask them to work on identifying when they feel fulfilled or frustrated. They need to become aware of how they are feeling.

Once they’ve done that, I ask them to make note down what caused them to feel fulfilled or frustrated.

Usually that is enough to help them better answer the question. And once they can answer the question, they can evaluate their next career decision based on which option will give them the best opportunity to come home at the end of a long day, knowing it was a good one.