Welcome to episode 12. Today, I would like you to consider what your life might be like if everything went exactly the way you want it to go.
Let me take a step back. On Sunday 16th November, I celebrated the first anniversary of my life-changing weight-loss surgery. I won’t go into great detail here, but if you want to know more, you can watch my live videos about it on my YouTube channel. Reaching this important milestone caused me to reflect on some of my challenges and achievements over the past year, and as I did so, I looked up from my desk at my ‘Best Possible Self’ scribbles from January 2017.
I did this activity during my ‘Introduction to Positive Psychology’ module at the start of 2017, as I began my MSc in Applied Positive Psychology; I looked at what my ‘Best Possible Self’ would look like 5 years later, in 2022. Under ‘health’, I listed being a healthy weight and swimming regularly, no longer suffering from sciatica, being full of energy and vitality and having glowing skin. Under work and education, I listed having obtained a Distinction in my Master’s degree and having begun work towards a PhD. Halfway through the five years, I have reached most of those health goals, have obtained a Distinction in my Master’s and have now embarked on an EdD, a different but equally valid and more appropriate (for me) route of obtaining a Doctorate.
Yet the activity I did – the ‘Best Possible Self’ intervention – was not intended as a goal-setting activity. This activity is a Positive Psychology intervention aimed improving mood and increasing optimism. Of course, a side-effect may well be increased goal achievement, but I am not suggesting that merely visualising an idyllic future makes it happen!
I am sharing this intervention with you from a wellbeing perspective. A literature review into over 30 ‘Best Possible Self’ (BPS) studies found that “the BPS can be recommended as one of a portfolio of interventions and when used alone and repeated over time can result in a significant increase in well-being, which can persist over time”. Researchers also found that it “can be used as an intervention with students, adults and children” and that “participants in BPS experiments report that their motivation to complete, and continue with the BPS activity is high”.
You can do this activity with your students as part of PSHE lessons, tutor period or counselling sessions, and you can of course do this yourself! It can be done as a written activity (the writing format can be left to the individual, e.g. bullet points, mind map, essay etc), as a drawing activity (particularly useful for younger children) or even as a spoken activity (e.g. in dialogue with a counsellor).
Here is what you do: Take some time to visualise your life at a specific point in the future where everything has gone exactly as you want it to go – you have done and achieved everything you wanted to achieve, everything has gone brilliantly for you. Think about this point in time in the present tense: What are you doing? What are you thinking / feeling? What is happening in your life? You can do this on multiple aspects of your life (e.g. school / career, family, health) or choose a specific aspect you want to focus on. Write, draw or discuss your answers (or find any other creative way, e.g. a collage, a poem, a play…).
Repeat the activity as often as you like for increased positive results. I personally found it useful to pin my musings above my desk as a reminder of what I visualised back in 2017. This activity has been life-changing for me. Research suggests it can have a significant positive impact on wellbeing. Give it a try and let me know how it goes! I always love hearing from you
And as always, until we speak again, For Flourishing’s Sake, have a great week!