How to Be Your Best Self. Find out what you want (and what to do to get there) with three simple questions. Free printable worksheet to help.
In getting my phsychology degree (just a bachelor’s…I’m not a certified shrink), I was struck by how much each psychologist I studied had at one time or another tried to answer the question of “who should we be?”. Not just who we are, but how to be the best self we could be.
I had someone I respect make fun of this concept of “best self.” It kind of hurt my feelings. But then I realized that to her, it wasn’t important. She was already confident. She had grown up in a economically and socially comfortable situation. I don’t know her ambitions in life, but apparently she’s happy with her progress.
But most of us aren’t like that. Most of us want to be BETTER. For most of us, there is some gap, something missing, in our life that we want to improve.
While there are many things that contributed (goal-setting being a key one) to my improving, identifying where I was and where I wanted to go was the first step.
Table of contents
- Questions to Define Your Best Self
- Free Printable Worksheet
- 4 Things to Avoid
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Before we even start on the quest to be our best self, we need to acknowledge one thing.
It is a journey. Not a destination.
It is a day in and day out effort of doing things that are good.
The questions below will help you define what you should be doing in your daily life. Or what your over-arching goals are. But they won’t actually DO those things for you.
Another caveat is that we’re not going for perfection. We shouldn’t waste time on self-improvement for the sake of self-improvement. If it’s not something that you really, really want…don’t make it the center of your life. Some people may want a perfectly sculpted gym-body. But for most of us…it’s not actually that super-important.
Questions to Define Your Best Self
#1: If I continue exactly as I am, where will I be in 3 years?
I had a horrible moment about six months ago (as of writing this post). I was sitting there reading a book. I set it down. And looked around the room.
And realized I might as well be dead.
Yes, seriously. I’m bipolar and was in a down period. But that wasn’t the whole cause. The whole cause was that I was doing NOTHING (and had been doing nothing) that actually fulfilled what I wanted in life.
I looked down at what my life not only was but what it was going to be like if I continued as I was. It was the horror of looking at the future that caused me to change. Drastically.
Hopefully you’re in a much better situation.
Take a deep breath. Make sure there is some quiet around you (it’s too easy to ignore the facts if the television is distracting you).
Look at the decisions you’ve made today. Look at what you’ve eaten, if you’ve exercised, how you talked to people, what you did for work. Look at the attitude and running commentary that has been in your head. Get this clear in your mind.
Now, imagine yourself three years from now if you continue to act like you did today.
• What will you look like in pictures? Are you thinner or heavier? Are you happy with what you see?
• Where will your career be? Did today’s actions lead to higher achievement or are you in the same place? Or worse, did you do so little your career went downhill?
• What will your relationships be like? Did you snap at those around you? Did you take the time to tell you that you loved them?
Write down your answers. Elaborate. Don’t just scribble a single sentence, expand upon what you will be in three years if you act exactly like you did today.
Be honest. If you’re reading this article, you’re clearly already interested in being your best self. Which means you don’t think you’re your best self at right this second. So take a look where your current path is going to lead you.
Psych research has shown “all of us have experienced that ‘nagging sense that something isn’t right’. Optimal humans listen to that nagging.” (from Huffington Post…yes, I hate them, but this article is actually well-researched and tallies with what I learned getting my degree)
It’s really easy to get lost in the every day. To let our everyday habits override what we think is important. In fact, I just wrote a post on how to stop being overwhelmed. If you’re interested, pop on over to “Stop Feeling Overwhelmed: The 80/20 Solution.“
#2: Looking at my ideal self 3 years from now, what am I doing?
Question #2 is the fun one. Picture exactly what you WANT to be like three years from now. Yes, it’s kind of a cliche. You might have been asked this as a student to figure out your career. Or at a job interview. But it’s a cliche for a reason. It works if you really put some effort into it.
Picture yourself in pictures.
Picture where you’re at in your work life.
Picture your relationships.
Don’t worry about if you can achieve it. Don’t worry about the steps to get there. Just envision your perfect self.
Now, look at a single day three years from now. What is your ideal self doing during this single day?
• What would you eat? Are you cooking at home? Did you go out for dinner?
• Did you exercise? Have you picked up a new exercise habit?
• What did you do for work today?
• How did you act with those around you? What did you say? How were your relationships better? How were your actions making those relationships better?
Again, write this down. Not just a single sentence. Elaborate exactly how your ideal self 3 years from now acts during their normal day.
When doing this exercise, try to keep the following things in mind:
• Be honest. Envisioning some idea that doesn’t fit in with your identity, personality, and talents isn’t going to make you happy. Even if saving the whales is great, if it’s not your passion, don’t envision yourself doing that.
• Be selfish. Don’t worry about making everyone else happy. If you’re miserable, it doesn’t matter how much you try to give to others…there is going to be something lacking. So be selfish in this vision and imagine what you REALLY want. Not want you think you should want.
• Your ideal is exactly that…YOUR ideal. Not what someone else imagines you to be. If you’re pursuing something solely for the sake of a good income, or to live up to someone else’s expectations, you will fall short. And don’t let the media tell you what you should be. Hot Girl #1 might look fabulous in that bikini on Instagram…but if that’s not your real ideal in life, don’t try to change yourself.
If you’re having trouble with this, check out my post “Finding Your Way: Guide to Focusing on the Important Things.”
#3: What is the difference?
This question should be self-evident at this point. But “looking at question #1 and question #2, what are the differences?”
So, what do you do? Instead of acting like #1, start acting like #2…right now, today.
You have to take ownership of what you are doing and what you want to do. We ALL have unconscious habits. But we CAN make the choice to be mindful about what we do.
If your goal for some part of your life seems too big, sign up the goal workbook below.
Free Printable Worksheet
• Print options: regular paper works just fine.
• The file is in pdf below. Just hit the “download” button.
• The default size of these is full-page. However, if you want smaller, simply reduce the print size! If you’re not sure on how much to reduce, check out my post “How to Resize Printables to Fit Your Planner.”
4 Things to Avoid
As you start to change your daily habits into being the person you want to be, there are a few things to avoid.
And I mean, avoid like the plague.
Not trying new things
Avoid not trying new things. You can’t let yourself become complacent. Fear of change is your enemy. Kick things up a notch by regularly trying something new and unexpected. You have to, absolutely have to step outside of your comfort zone regularly.
Things I’ve done recently:
I bought a ballet book and actually started doing some of the positions and warm-ups. Yes, I’m overweight right now (though I’ve lost 35 pounds! This “be your ideal self today” thing really works!) and I’m a klutz. But I feel more graceful. I’m becoming more flexible. And I love it. I’ve always wanted to do ballet. And I’m doing it at home, so no embarrassment. If I keep it up, I might even go take a private class!
I went and learned how to shoot a gun. Always wanted to. And it was nerve-wracking…but I did it.
I went to a social gathering. It was a complete bust and I won’t do this particular regular group again (I knew there was a problem when someone got out their phone and started sharing pictures of a house they had housesit of everyone’s mutual friend…to make fun of the friend). But I still tried something new. It just happened to be new people I don’t want to know.
Thinking You Can’t Do It
Avoid thinking you can’t do it. It doesn’t matter if you think you can’t reach your goal. Honestly. You just need to act TODAY as if you can. This is part of the “systems, not goals” mindset. Stick to the system today. You’ll be amazed how far you can reach.
You don’t need to climb Mount Everest today…you just need to hike a couple miles.
Thinking today doesn’t matter
Avoid thinking today doesn’t matter. I read this in a book once and it’s stuck with me:
“Small things were important. Seconds were small things, and if you heaped enough of those on top of one another, they became a man’s life.” – Androl, Towers of Midnight.
One of the biggest things people stumble over is the trap that “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Or “it’s just today I’m indulging (or putting this off or whatever)”. Today does matter. In fact, today is the ONLY day that matters. Because you can’t change yesterday. And you can’t guarantee what you’ll do tomorrow.
forgetting how important habits are
Avoid forgetting how important habits are. Be mindful. Both good and bad habits are easy to cultivate…do something enough days in a row, and it becomes a habit. Think the same thing enough times, and it becomes you life.
Your beliefs become your thoughts.
Your thoughts become your actions.
Your actions become your habits.
Your habits become your values.
Your values become your destiny.
I hope this post was thought-provoking. If not, I need to work on it!
Do you want to share some of the differences between your life today and your ideal life? If so, feel free to comment below.
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