Imagine Your Best Life
by Rochelle Melander
What might it be like to live your best life? What would it be like to be your best possible self? What would you be doing with your days? Where would you be living? Who would you connect with?
For the past fifteen years, I’ve asked my clients these questions. Usually, it’s an exercise I give them early in our coaching relationship–because it helps both of us to see what they truly desire.
The exercise comes from the field of social psychology. Professor Laura King discovered that writing about one’s best possible future self improved participants’ moods, health, and ability to set and achieve goals. In the study, psychologists instructed participants to write a vision of their lives five years in the future, imagining that they had worked as hard as possible and everything had gone as well as possible. Better than a crystal ball or a Magic-8 ball, the best possible self exercise gives us the ability to sketch out the details of our happily ever after.
So are you up for the challenge? Here are the basic instruction for the exercise:
Imagine yourself five years from now. Everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your goals. Write in the present tense about your life.
In the original study, participants did this exercise four times. I like that. I found that the first time I tried this exercise, I was so tethered to the present that I could not vision the future. The second time I did the exercise, my tether was looser. Each try brought bigger dreams. As I worked at it, my description of my best possible life became more detailed.
*Use any timeframe that works for you: 1 month, 1 year, 5 years.
*Write in the present tense, using as much sensory detail as possible. Write about how things look and feel, taste and smell. Write about what you hear when you are working or relaxing.
*Write about every area of your life—not just your job. Think about your living environment, what you wear, how you exercise, the foods you prepare and eat, and who you connect with.
*Think about creative ways you could do the exercise. Instead of simply journaling about your best possible future, write an article about yourself, an acceptance speech for a coveted award, or a profile of yourself for a television news show.
*Consider doing the exercise away from home. It’s hard to see the seeds for your beautiful future when you are staring at piles of dirty laundry and unpaid bills. Go to the art museum, a coffee shop or library and write there. You will be able to think bigger thoughts away from home.
*Pay attention to how you feel when you do this exercise. If any activity or scenario gives you energy, star it. If anything you write about drains your energy, note that, too.
*Finally, and most importantly: have fun! Enjoy this exercise.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
When you have finished your fourth journaling session, put your visions aside for a week. Then take yourself out for coffee or tea and review what you have written. Using your journal or another piece of paper, answer the following questions:
+What places, life experiences, dreams, and plans came up repeatedly?
+What places, activities, and connections gave you energy when you wrote about them? (And now when you read them.)
+What life plans drained your energy?
Once you have your answers to these questions, you will be able to develop a roadmap for your life. You will know what goals you want to focus on. You also know what “shoulds” you can let go of.
Perhaps you’ve always said you’d get a PhD in biology and be a professor, but when you wrote about it, the whole idea of spending the next six years in school gave you a stomach ache. But when you wrote about starting a garden design business–that enchanted you. What is the first tiny step you can take toward that goal?
And as always, if you want help turning your dreams into plans, set up a consultation with me.
Versions of this exercise appear on this blog, in my book Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) and Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination, and Increase Productivity. I also wrote about the exercise 8 years ago as a Wednesday Writing Prompt.