Last updated on 16th November 2011
I wrote a week ago about assessing one's wellbeing level. It makes sense to do this before exploring how much the following goal renewal suggestions boost your sense of wellbeing and associated life satisfaction.
How might we renew our goals? Obviously there are many options here. One effective one is to adapt the "Best Possible Selves" (BPS) exercise described a couple of weeks ago in the blog post on "Writing for health and wellbeing". I described how Sheldon and Lyubomirsky found that " ... the BPS exercise may be most beneficial (compared with two other interventions) for raising and maintaining positive mood." In this research they described the BPS exercise in the following way: "You have been ... assigned to think about your best possible self now, and during the next few weeks. ‘Think about your best possible self' means that you imagine yourself in the future, after everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realization of your life dreams, and of your own best potentials. In all of these cases you are identifying the best possible way that things might turn out in your life, in order to help guide your decisions now. You may not have thought about yourself in this way before, but research suggests that doing so can have a strong positive effect on your mood and life satisfaction. So, we'd like to ask you to continue thinking in this way over the next few weeks, following up on the initial writing that you're about to do."
Participants were asked to write about their Best Possible Selves for 20 minutes. The researchers found that repeated use of this exercise (rather than only using it once or twice) was associated with better outcomes. Self-determination theory highlights the wellbeing-inducing value of various types of intrinsic goal - personal growth (to grow & learn new things), close relationships (to have deep, enduring relationships), community involvement (to help others improve their lives), and physical health (to be physically healthy). It thus makes some sense to set the BPS writing exercise to focus on several different intrinsic areas one after the other. So, for example, one's first episode of writing might explore how one would like one's physical health to be if one had " ... worked hard and succeeded in accomplishing all your ... goals (for physical health)." In a second episode of writing one could focus on close relationships in the same way - " ... imagine yourself in the future, after everything has gone as well as it possibly could." Further writing could look at one's ideal involvement in helping others to improve their lives, and in personal growth and learning. It's very likely that these "ideals" will be more relevant and helpful if you genuinely want to achieve them because they feel personally right to you - rather than feeling you "should" achieve them because you would feel guilty or ashamed or otherwise pushed into the goals out of some kind of obligation. See the "Motivation questions" lower down the "Wellbeing, time management & self-determination" webpage.
These exercises overlap with the "Goals for roles" exercises also described on the "Wellbeing, time management & self-determination" handouts section of this website. Simply writing about one's Best Possible Selves in this way is likely to boost one's sense of wellbeing. Focussing more on intrinsic goals is also likely to help. However to build on this initial benefit it is important to continue to take this exercise further - see next week's post for suggestions on how to do this.