Studies have shown writing about positive life goals topics to be hugely beneficial for our well-being and help us achieve our goals, so take some time to explore your future self and what you want to accomplish with the exercises below.
In 2001, King asked students to write about either a traumatic experience, their best future self, both topics or any non-emotional control topic for twenty minutes a day, across four days. The student’s mood was measured before and after journalist and followed up three weeks after the initial test. King found that writing about life goals – or best possible future self – was associated with a significant increase in feelings of well-being compared to writing about trauma.
1. The ‘Perfect Groundhog Day’
Create a day you will never get bored of, that you could happily relive over and over. Do one ‘Perfect Groundhog Day’ for your work/school day and another one for your downtime.
You’re aiming to create a detailed description of your ideal average day. Really think about the pace, interactions, activities and behaviors that occur in your ‘Perfect Groundhog Day,’ and stay grounded in reality, without adding any unlikely events (i.e. teleporting around the world, winning the lottery).
Below are some prompts to help you get started.
- When and how do you wake up?
- Do you snooze for 20 minutes before getting up?
- What do you wear?
- Is there music, the radio, morning TV in the background?
- Do you go to school or work – what does that look like? What are you doing when you’re at work/school? Or is the perfect day staying at home?
- Who do you talk/text/video conference with throughout the day?
…..and so on
If you are really honest with yourself, you should discover your ideal future, what you truly value and cherish through this exercise. Next, ask yourself what prevents you from living your ‘Perfect Groundhog Day’ everyday. Are there habits that you need to change? Skills you need to build? Your answers are possible ideas for your next quest!
2. The ‘X Years from Now’ Exercise
This exercise is similar to King’s research experiment of asking students to think about and write down what their best possible future self might look like. You think about what your dream life might look like one year, five, x years from now.
‘X Years From Now’ works to switch up your perspectives. If you’re feeling stuck or failed on a quest previously, try this tool to switch up your quest approach and formulate an improved Grand Plan for your quest.
Basically, you reverse the traditional goal setting process. You start with the ultimate end results in mind. But instead of figuring out what the first step might be, then the second, third, etc., you work backwards and identify the key milestones that are necessary for getting to the goal. This can help you clarify what you truly want, and can help you create a strong action plan for achieving success.
You can do this exercise alone or with family or a close friend. It can be really rewarding to share your ideas with someone you trust, who will also challenge you to stretch your comfort zone.
Make sure you consider the areas below:
- School/Work – What job will you be doing?Where and what will you be studying? How will you be working towards what you want this to look like?
- Home – Who lives with you? Do you own a home? What kind? Do you live in the city, suburbs or country?
- Finances – How much do you have in your bank accounts? Do you have some debts you want to pay off, once and for all? Are you saving for something in particular?
- Relationships – Do you have a tight group of close friends? Are you happy in love? How much value do your friendships bring? Do you need to work more on connecting with people?
- Yourself – How do you want to feel about yourself one year from now? Mentally, physically, socially, personally? What does that look and feel like?
Once you’ve created your version of “What X Years From Now,” figure out the steps required to achieve those things.
Be reasonable. Don’t be greedy and even try to tackle everything at once. Pick one or two achievable and measurable goals (no more than three) and build a quest for each. Again, you can write this down here or in an old-fashion paper notebook. Just make sure it’s written and you can refer back to it and add to it if necessary.
3. The ‘Map To My Treasure’ Exercise
In ‘Map To My Treasure,’ a spin on vision boards, you give your visualizations a physical form with pictures, painting, collage, or digital art.
Start by clarifying the goal you want to work towards–visualize what this looks and feels like. Is it a personal achievement or more tangible, like running a marathon or getting a promotion?
What happens when you’ve achieved your goal? How will you celebrate? What do your friends and family say? What will be different?
After you write all this down, it’s time to create! Grab your art supplies, glitter, magazines clippings or whatever else you want to use to create your treasure map. Spend enough time looking for images, phrases, any visual representations of what reaching your goals look like. You can collect as many images as you like-–there is no wrong or right way to do this. There’s only one requirement: All the images you choose should make you feel and remember the visualization of your goal.
Next, move your clippings in a way where you can see how they connect. You may connect them with yarn, by marker or digitally. Your ‘Map to My Treasure’ should be highly personal, and make you smile and feel great. This will help imprint how you are going to achieve them in your mind. You reap the full benefits of this ‘Map To My Treasure’ exercise when you go beyond just completing the physical map. Look at your treasure map and brainstorm what you must accomplish to achieve that ultimate goal.
Use these exercises here as a jumping board, and try a few to find out what you respond to most and works best for you. All these activities focus on identifying your most important quests. It’s worth trying a few activities, and revisit them over time to see how your ideas change.