In our continuing series on creating resolutions you can stick to, we wanted to give you a short, practical exercise to help you clarify what is important to you–Your Best Possible Self. This exercise is designed to help you restructure your priorities and gain better insight into your motives and values. Before you start getting nervous that this is a fluffy daily affirmation exercise (I’m good enough and smart enough…etc.), this exercise has some strong science behind it. Sheldon and Lyubomirsky (2006) found that people who completed the exercise for two weeks showed increases in positive emotions, which were sustained up to one-month later. Meevissen et al. (2011) found that compared to a group who imagined what they did during the day, Best Possible Self participants had higher levels of optimism (even controlling for someone’s positive mood)
So, here’s the activity: Think about your life in the future. What’s the best possible ‘you’ you can imagine? What would happen to your career, relationships, health, or other areas of your life if you were living your best possible future? For 10-15 minutes, write what this looks like. Make sure you are specific. Don’t fall back on “I’d be a good <insert here>.” Think about precisely what you would be doing and how you would be doing it. Don’t be distracted by the difficulty of accomplishing what you are envisioning, and don’t get caught up in how others might view you in that role (or an “Instagram-worthy” version). Be imaginative and focus on what the best possible life for you might look like and what is most important.
You can do this exercise on a regular basis–research suggests the positive emotions that result from the writing are sustained over time if you do it regularly. But for our purposes, we will use your response to start thinking about how your response reflects your values, and start developing a concrete plan for getting you there.