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’ve known for a long time I, personally, was obsessed with being better. Even as a teenager, I sat down and listed what I wanted to do to be “perfect” (I try not to be so obsessed with perfection these days) and had a checklist I looked at every single day. Ticking off a box was a cause for celebration, falling short was despair (I was a dramatic teenager, what can I say?).
But even with my teenage years behind me, I find myself- almost two decades later- still wanting to be my best self. I have this ideal best version of myself that I dream of being. In the last six months I’ve taken some decent strides towards being that person.
So, what worked? How do you become the best version of yourself? It turns out it came down to asking three simple questions. I also learned a few things to avoid.
If you’re serious about this, I suggest getting out a pen and a piece of paper. They’re simple questions. But you might want to scribble down your thoughts. And you might be surprised how complex the answers turn out to be.
1. If I continue exactly as I am, where will I be in three years?
Take a deep breath. 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. 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 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?
• What will my relationships be like?
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. If I look at exactly what my ideal self was three years from now, what would I be doing TODAY?
Question #2 is the fun one. Picture exactly what you want to be like three years from now. 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 I eat? Are you cooking at home? Did you go out for dinner?
• Did you exercise? Have you picked up a new exercise habit? (Oddly enough, I’ve started ballet moves…just at home and I’m horrible…but I love it!)
• 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 you look at where you want to be, it’s important to be honest. Envisioning some idea that doesn’t fit in with your identity, personality, and talents isn’t going to make you happy. 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.
If you’re having trouble with this, check out my post “Finding Your Way: Guide to Focusing on the Important Things.”
3. Exactly what is different between the answers for Question #1 and Question #2?
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 for my free 2018 Printable Planner below. There is a goal-setting section that includes detailed instructions and worksheets. Trust me, your goals will seem possible after working through this worksheet (well, unless you want to make a million dollars in the next year…I can’t do THAT). There is also a habit tracker and resolution tracker in it.
(Don’t forget to scroll down and read the 4 things you should AVOID doing!
4 Things to Avoid:
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 30 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…but I did it. I’m an introvert and needed to break out of my comfort zone.
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.