In a perfect future, what would your ideal life look like? How would you spend your time? Who would be by your side? It can be daunting to let ourselves speculate like this about the future. A Best Possible Self (BPS) exercise encourages you to imagine a future in which you have accomplished all your goals and things have gone as well as they possibly can.
BPS can also help with mood, expectations, and optimism about the future. Read on to learn more about practicing a Best Possible Self visualization and imagining your best future.
What is the Best Possible Self visualization?
Best Possible Self (BPS) is a visualization exercise that has 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.
Studies have shown that practicing the BPS exercise can bolster positive affect, future expectations, and optimism, while decreasing goal ambivalence. Goal ambivalence, which has been associated with anxiety and depression, is the feeling that a goal may not be worth pursuing. 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.
- Find a place where you’ll have limited interruptions.
- Select a specific time in the future, for example, 3 years from now.
- Spend a few moments exploring how you’ll feel, where you’ll be, and who you’ll be with. It is important to remember that the purpose of this exercise is not to visualize your greatest fantasy, but rather your best possible, attainable future.
- Imagine yourself in a future where things have gone exactly as you’ve planned personally, professionally, and socially.
- Personal Domain: Skills, hobbies, personality, health, accomplishments
- Professional Domain: Job, sense of purpose, education, retirement, income
- Social Domain: Romantic relationship, friends, family, 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 5 minutes each. Write for the entire time; you can be as vague or as specific as you’d like.
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 6 months from now.
When to use the Best Possible Self exercise
- 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 romantic 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 with a number of issues! Below are a few to keep in mind:
Consider seeking support from a therapist
Mindfulness exercises, such as BPS, can be utilized on your own; however, when faced with life’s challenges, it isn’t always our first instinct to immediately think positively about the future. We often fall into thinking that when 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.