In a perfect – and attainable – future, what would your ideal life look like? How would you spend your time? Where and how would you be living? Who would be by your side?
At first, it can feel daunting at first to let ourselves speculate like this. When approached strategically, however, it can actually help with our mood, expectations, and optimism regarding the future. Enter the Best Possible Self (BPS) exercise: A visualization activity that encourages you to imagine a future in which you have accomplished all your attainable goals, and that things have gone as well as they possibly can.
Try this simple exercise to visualize – and realize! – your own best future.
What is the Best Possible Self visualization?
The "Best Possible Self" visualization is a speculative and contemplative exercise that's been shown to improve mood and outlook on life. In a BPS visualization, you imagine yourself in an ideal future where everything is going right: Your career is flourishing, your relationships are supportive, and you’re emotionally and physically healthy.
What are the benefits of a Best Possible Self visualization?
Studies have shown that practicing the BPS exercise can bolster positive affect, future expectations, and optimism. At the same time, it can also decrease goal ambivalence, which has been associated with anxiety and depression.
Visualizing yourself achieving a goal increases the likelihood that you will take the necessary steps to accomplish it. The effects of the BPS exercise are reported to have lasted up to a week.
How to practice the Best Possible Self visualization
Think of a situation that your best possible self might find themselves in. Imagine everything: the sights, sounds, and feelings this version of you would experience.
1. Find a place where you’ll have limited to no interruptions, such as your bedroom or guest room.
2. Select a specific time in the future to focus on – for example, three years from now.
3. Spend a few moments exploring this "future you." Imagine how you’ll feel, where you’ll be, and who you’ll be with.
Note: It's important to remember that the purpose of this exercise is not to visualize your greatest fantasy, but rather your best possible, attainable future.
4. Imagine yourself in a future where things have gone exactly as you’ve planned personally, professionally, and socially.
Examples for each might be:
- Your personal life: The elements that make you uniquely you, like your hobbies, health preferences, and any accomplishments you'd like to go after.
- Professional success: This includes your career and job, what brings you a sense of purpose, any educational pursuits, your income bracket, and what you'd like for your retirement.
- Social life: Your romantic or dating life, the friends you seek and keep, your relationship with your family, and any regular social activities.
5. Imagine your best possible self in these domains for a full minute each.
6. Write about your best possible self in the personal, professional, and social domains for five minutes each.
You can be as vague or as specific as you’d like – just keep the flow of writing going, without worrying about spelling errors or penmanship.
You can also experiment with different versions of this exercise by visualizing your best possible self throughout various timeframes. For some, it’s more useful to visualize the near future and for others, a distant one. You could also choose to visualize the different domains at varying times, e.g. your ideal professional life 10 years from now, but your ideal social life six months from now.
When to use the Best Possible Self exercise
Like meditation, the BPS exercise is versatile enough to be used as helpful for your own personal journey. Here are some ways in which you can use the BPS exercise:
- When working towards a specific goal, such as a promotion, taking up a craft, or learning a new language
- At the start of the week
- When you wake up in the morning
- Before a stressful event, such as a work presentation, exam, or first date
- After receiving disappointing news, such as being passed over for a promotion, performing poorly on exam, or ending a relationship
- In conjunction with other mindfulness exercises, such as Anxiety 54321 or a Gratitude Jar
- While you meditate
- Before you go to bed at night
- At the end of the week
What can the Best Possible Self exercise help with?
BPS can help reduce goal ambivalence, or the state of being torn about which personal goals to pursue (which, in turn, can cause anxiety and depression).
Additionally, BPS may help the following concerns:
Deepen your practice through therapy
Mindfulness exercises such as the Best Possible Self exercise can be utilized on your own; however, when faced with life’s challenges, thinking positively about the future can be difficult. It's easy to think fall into the thinking that if life isn’t going our way now, it won’t go our way months or even years from now.
A therapist who specializes in one of following types of therapy can help you to visualize your best possible self and feel more optimistic about the future:
- Strengths-Based Therapy: This approach to psychotherapy places emphasis on what is going well in our lives.
- Solution-Focused Therapy: The therapist and client collaborate to develop solutions to problems using the client’s personal strengths and skills.
- Positive Psychology: This approach to psychotherapy aims to improve emotional well-being and functioning by building on positive emotions, relationships, and strengths.
Get started on finding a therapist at Zencare.co.