My best self is who I wish to bring to the table when preparing for my day, project, or success path. In my last post, I spoke about how I wish to show up in 2018. In this post I want to expand showing up into a broader context known as Best Self exploration and practice.
Who am I when I show up as my best self? Who are you at your best?
In every situation I bring myself. Sometimes I am present as my best — mindful, soulful, listening, open, and firmly rooted in my strengths. Other times I am not my best self and I bring my crankiness, judgement, impatience, and less than present self. When I am not at my best, I shortchange my experience and leave others confused and/or empty from our shared experience. At my best, I move in slower motion because full presence requires pausing and settling fully into my most positive self.
In 2001, Laura King, a professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, conducted a study on Best Self practice using writing over a period of several days. Her work showed that when we explore our best self in reference to a future time or goal, we are happier. Best self practice has also been written about in Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book, “The How of Happiness.” Lyubomirsky says that imagining a best possible future helped participants build their best possible self today that can lead to their future vision coming true. Through writing, they were able to recognize what they could transform in themselves in order to work toward their goals. Writing leads to better understanding of “your priorities, your emotions, and your motives, your identity, who you really are and what’s in your heart.” Writing allows us to see a bigger picture of our goals, see what’s possible, and work toward our imagined future with more purpose and well being.
I am sharing this writing exercise for you to begin to identify and explore your best self so you can bring more of you into your year, your project, and your daily life. I, personally, like to write with pen and paper so I involve more of my senses and bring more focus to the practice. You might find that using a computer works just as well for you. Either way, prepare to write for 15 – 20 minutes daily for the next 4 days. By identifying your Best Possible Self in detail, you will be more present with positive results.
Taking the time to imagine your best possible future and who you are at your best allows you to more clearly integrate all of you into your present and your future. You will also increase the likelihood of success. Going for the detail is what stands this apart from New Year’s resolutions or a list of goals & intentions you wish to realize this year. When I write and add to this exercise during each day of writing into my imagined positive future and my best self, I refine and prioritize my lists.
This exercise asks us to imagine our life once our goal is accomplished whether a week from now, a year, or longer. What will you be doing? How would you be living? How will you feel? How will your life change for the better? By writing daily you can move beyond the initial goal – the to do list and on to a positive imagined future (as if it has already happened).
Identifying & imagining how I will feel, do, and be in my life is clarifying who I am at my best. Through my writing I explore and play with how my life could be better by being more of my best self. This practice can be done in all areas of life: professional, romantic, social, physical, spiritual, or any area you wish to focus on. Choose one goal or area for the exercise.
Exercise #1: Best Self Exercise. Choose a goal or intention you have for the next year (or any time line).
1. Sit quietly and imagine that you have already accomplished your goal and that everything has gone as well as possible. For a moment, settle into the feeling of accomplishment. Imagine the details of your life as you stand in your future — look around you. What is different? How do you feel? How are you different? How does your daily life look?
2. Now, spend the next 20 minutes (I like to set a timer so I don’t need to look at the clock) writing about your accomplishment in the future you imagined. Describe in as much detail as possible your completed tasks. Describe who you have been in order to bring this task to fruition. How is your life different? Better? More fulfilling? How do you feel as you look around you? Where do you feel in your body? What did you let go of?
3. For the next four days, repeat the exercise. You can begin again or continue writing & expanding the detail from the day before.
4. Now look back at what you wrote. How did you participate in creating your imagined positive future? What strengths did you exhibit or use? Who did you need to BE in order to accomplish your imagined future?
[Note: I’ve added a second exercise to fill in gaps in our perceptions of ourselves.]
Exercise #2: Reflected Best Self. This exercise asks you to reach out to family, friends, and/or coworkers. It is a different approach called the Reflected Best Self — especially useful because others see us differently than we see ourselves.
1. Ask several people you know (family, friends, coworkers) to tell you or write to you about how they see you accomplishing tasks. Can they provide some detail of strengths they see and who they see when you are at your best? Ask each to provide one or two specific examples of how they see you at your best.
2. Compare what others think with what you think. You may find that you can expand who you are when you are your Best Self.
Have fun with these and let me know who you are at your best!
Note: In a future post I’ll explore how to mine your experience — both past accomplishments and your imagined future — and identify greatness, magnificence, strengths, thoughts, and actions that inform you on who you want and need to be in order to live life more fully at your best, both now and in your imagined future. Stay tuned!