In Positive Psychology, there is a concept called the “ideal self” or “best possible self” which refers to creating a picture or visualizing yourself at your best. Many research studies have found that when you visualize your ideal self, it increases your mood, increases optimism, and is associated with decreased illness.
This makes sense.
It promotes a positive mindset. Rather than worrying about the future, you focus on the potential for your future to be better than your present. Also, similar to visualizing yourself cross the finish line, it gives you a temporary boost of motivation and encourages you to work towards achieving your goals.
If you want to try the formal intervention that has been developed and validated by researchers, here is how you do it.
Best Possible Self Exercise:
- Start off by brainstorming and writing down some sentences that describe what your ideal self looks like in the future. Focus on attainable goals and try starting the sentences with “In the future, I will…” Organize your brainstorming by writing about these three domains of your life:
- Personal (how your ideal self is physically, spiritually, and psychologically)
- Professional (how your ideal self is in terms of position, accomplishments, level of expertise, occupation, skills, etc…)
- Relational (how your ideal self is in regards to relationships and contact with loved ones, friends, colleagues, etc…)
- Using what you created in number one, write a detailed and coherent personal story. It does not have to be super long, but it should be realistic and make sense.
- Perform a 5-minute imagery exercise where you imagine the story you wrote. Perform this imagery exercise once a day for as little as four days or as much as two weeks.
In this exercise, you are generally given about 20 minutes to complete steps 1 and 2. Here are some excerpts from the prompt that is given to participants:
Your best possible self means imagining yourself in a future in which everything has turned out as good as possible. You have worked hard and you have managed to realize all your life goals. You can envision it as satisfying all your life dreams and development of all your best possible potentials… think of and write down your goals, skills, and desires you would like to achieve in the far future for each of the three domains, and finally merge these into a personal story like a diary.
The problem with this exercise (and its solution):
Before I discuss the problem with this exercise, I would like to highly encourage you to give this exercise a try. You don’t have to follow all the steps, but I would recommend at least spending a few minutes to perform the imagery exercise and imagine your ideal self. Go out for a walk, put on a nice soundtrack in the background, and visualize. It’s a form of introspection and helps to put things into perspective in terms of where you are now and where you want to be in the future.
However, there is just one problem with this exercise — it gives you a high and a taste of a positive future, but it does not bring you any closer to it. Don’t get content with the momentary positive feelings it gives you. If you want my opinion, here are the three steps you should take for this exercise to be successful:
- Visualize your ideal-self
- Use the positive emotions and temporary motivation it gives you to create an action plan to achieve that ideal future
- Execute the plan