Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Best Possible Self

Positive Psychology is the study of human thriving and activities that promote positive functioning and well-being.  The Best Possible Self Exercise (BPS) is a Positive Psychology intervention that has been studied since 2001.  A meta-analysis of 29 studies involving 2,909 participants found that BPS can improve well-being, optimism, and positive emotions. 

BPS is writing about one’s best possible self, in the future, after everything has gone as well as it possibly could.  It is a visualization exercise done either weekly or daily, often for 4 weeks. 

Below are two approaches:

  1. Think about the areas in your life that matter most and the positive changes you would like to make.  Focus on your authentic vision, not expectations of others.  You can highlight the small steps you can take to create your ideal future.  When you have a clear picture in your mind, spend 10-15 minutes writing about it, including as many specific details as you can.
  2. Write: Imagine and describe your best possible self in three domains: personal, professional, and social.  Personal can focus on health, skills, accomplishments, personality, hobbies. etc.  Professional can include skills, purpose, meaning, education, job, etc.  Social can highlight relationships, friends, loved ones, and social activity.  Reflect: Spend 5 minutes each day visualizing one of the domains, rotating each day.  Imagine the sights, sounds, and feelings you might experience as your best possible self in that domain.

Takeaway: To enhance optimism and positive emotions, try BPS journaling and reflection.  Consider putting a reminder on your phone or calendar to trigger your BPS practice.

Sources

Alba Carrillo, María Rubio-Aparicio, Guadalupe Molinari, Ángel Enrique, Julio Sánchez-Meca, and Rosa M. Baños, Effects of the Best Possible Self Intervention: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, PLoS ONE, Sept 23, 2019, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0222386  

The Best Possible Self Exercise, The Wellness Society, https://thewellnesssociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/The-Best-Possible-Self-Exercise.pdf.

Best Possible Self Worksheet, therapistaid.com, https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/best-possible-self.pdf

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