Your Best Possible Self
Sometimes, the mirror isn't enough. To know who you are, you may have to ask others a question or two. And you may have to take a few minutes to nudge that brilliant future of yours along.
Some people see the glass half full. Others see the glass half empty.
Still, others just drink the water without getting hung up on how much is in the glass. We have unique personalities, live in interesting times, and in any given moment, maybe more or less optimistic about ourselves and the future.
Researchers claim that between 40% and 50% of our overall life-contentedness, or happiness, is genetically predetermined. This leaves a lot of room for intentional change. Your height is at least 80% genetically predetermined. This means that it’s far easier for you to make yourself happier than it is for you to make yourself taller! You might be thinking, yeah, sure, but what about my rotten life circumstances?
Well, again, there’s hope. Researchers have shown that only about 10% of our happiness is determined by our life circumstances, and we’ve already discussed possible ways to brighten up your surroundings and circumstances.
Of course, you can’t fix everything about your circumstances, but the good news is this: At least 40% of your attitude, mood, contentedness, bliss, joy, and/or happiness is within your control. You can make meaningful, substantial changes. You can choose to eat chocolate, smile in the mirror, paint something your favorite color, or try new happiness habits and work directly on changing ways you do things and some of your ways of thinking.
There’s strong evidence that people can become more optimistic, and if paired with some goal-setting and incremental habit-changes, they can change the course of their lives. Right now, in the grip of pandemic demands and fears, this may seem naïve. Yes, things are rough. But honestly, what better time to fight back? Learn new skills? Take better care of yourself?
These are NOT happy times, but you can dig deep and invest in personal transformation.
As some famous basketball player once said, “You miss all the shots you don’t take.”
This week, we’re proposing two activities for your personal experimentation. The first one is called the Best Possible Future Self exercise. It changes your focus. Instead of feeling mired in the difficult days, you’re facing, it shifts and lifts your consciousness toward tomorrow.
Here’s the assignment:
For at least the next five days, take 15 minutes and write (yes, write) a short essay about the future you. Not a glum, resigned future you. No! Write about your best possible future self, achieving your goals, becoming an intentionally kinder, smarter, warmer, more successful person. Define success on your own terms. Let your hand guide the pen along with the page. Don’t censor or scold yourself.
Each day, you can just write what comes to mind, or take a specific area in your life. Future happier relationships? Future employment advances? Future publishing success? Future better parenting? Fewer weeds in your garden? How would the future look if you were able to develop your best possible self? Stay in the realm of possibility—the realm in which you can imagine setting goals and moving toward that best possible self.
Goal-setting is an act of hope. Goal achievement includes many repeated acts of self-discipline, support from others, and rewards along the way. This is one reason other people matter. As you imagine and then work towards being your best possible self, living your best possible life, you need other people to notice and support your efforts.
This brings us to our next activities...
Both are designed to give you important and positive feedback about your strengths from outside yourself. No matter how much self-examination you engage in, you can’t know yourself as others do.
A view of yourself, and your strengths, from outside yourself can be helpful. Martin Seligman developed the VIA Strengths Test and made it free to the public.
We do NOT suggest you pay for the “full report” but rather just look at the feedback they give you after you take the test. It may or may not be of interest or help to you. We view it as a way to glimpse some of your strengths as measured by a self-help quiz.
Here’s another idea with a similar goal.
We think it’s a better option because it’s interactive and specifically about you. We want you to conduct two interviews with people who know you well. We call these Natural Talent Interviews.
Here are the steps:
Identify two people whom you respect and trust.
Ask them for a few minutes of their time.
Let them know that you have an assignment to get more in touch with your personal strengths and talents.
Arrange a time on the phone, Zoom, or if safe, in person.
Ask them the following question: What do you think are my three greatest strengths or talents?
Ask for specific examples of each talent or strength. Take notes if you’re comfortable, or just listen and afterward, document what the person said about you—both your natural talents and the examples.
From the beginning of time, humans have naturally worked toward becoming better versions of themselves. In this process, there has always been failure and success.
We cannot achieve perfection, but we can keep our focus on being a little better version of ourselves every day. Although we know you’ll experience frustration on this journey, and we encourage you to be gentle with yourself through your inevitable disappointments, self-improvement is a worthy goal.
Becoming your best possible future self can be more easily achieved if you approach the goal from a foundation of your current and existing strengths and talents.
We’re confident that you have many strengths and talents to work from, and we hope today’s activities are useful and meaningful to you.