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Margaret Cho In the future, I’m not going to worry about the future. My future self will be so content in moment and knowing that everything is okay.
Dacher Keltner A few years ago, comedian Margaret Cho tried a practice for us on The Science of Happiness. She imagined her best possible future self.
Margaret Cho My future self will be free from worry, from concern, for plotting. I have everything, that everything’s already here.
Dacher Keltner Today we’re going to take a short break together and try and envision our best selves. Like a lunch break or a coffee break, but a happiness break. I’m Dacher Keltner. Welcome to Happiness Break, a series by The Science of Happiness. On each episode, we guide you through research-backed practices to bring more happiness into your life. And then we learn about the science behind each exercise, and we guide you through it, all in under 10 minutes.
Dacher Keltner Today, Justin Michael Williams, a dear colleague of mine who’s a mindfulness teacher and amazing musician, is going to lead us in a happiness break where we’re going to visualize our best possible selves. The literature shows that spending time thinking about and writing about our best selves can motivate us to work towards our goals and make us happier in the present moment, right now.
Ken Sheldon at the University of Missouri and Sonja Lyubomirsky at UC Riverside and Madelon Peters at Maastricht University have all done work showing this simple break of imagining our best possible selves in the future elevates our well-being for some time, increases our social connection, and even can reduce levels of cortisol in our bloodstream, which is the stress hormone. This practice gives us a sense of agency as we move forward in life. After the practice if you can, I’d really recommend that you write down what you’ve visualized. So many studies show that when we write things down, whether it’s what we’re thankful for, what we want our future to look like, it really helps us find more meaning in life. Here’s Justin Michael Williams with his meditation, I Am Enough.
Justin Michael Williams: I’d like you to sit as still as you can right now and focus on a point straight in front of you with your eyes open, and fix your eyes directly on one point without moving your eyes from this one point at all, and then begin to notice everything you can see in your periphery. So without moving your eyes from this one point, notice how far to the right of you you can see and how far to the left of you you can see, and above and below you, all while still focusing on this one point. And notice that what we’re doing with our eyes right now is the same thing that we’re invited to do with our minds when we meditate. We focus our awareness on a point but welcome in anything else that comes into our field of awareness without pushing it down, but creating more spaciousness.
Now I invite you to take a deep breath in and on your exhale, I invite you to close your eyes if you’re comfortable doing so. And then with your eyes gently rested, I’d like you to visualize a future version of yourself who is living the life of your dreams. You can project yourself into any point in the future and bring forth your ideal future self. Every circumstance in your life that is a challenge is overcome. You are living the life of your dreams. Like you can rub a magic lamp. Anything is possible. What do you notice? And if you have more than one idea kind of shuffling through your mind, just try to settle on one, trusting that exactly what’s arising for you in this practice today is exactly what you’re meant to see.
As you imagine this future version of yourself, what color are you wearing? Is there anybody there with you in the vision or are you alone? Are you indoor or are you outdoor as you imagine this future self? And what are you doing? And now keeping this future vision in mind, answer this question using one, two or three words. As you look at this future version of you, who is living the life of your dreams? What energy do you need to cultivate more of in your life now, today, to become closer to being that person you see in your vision?
Now just repeat your word or those words a few times in your mind, welcoming whatever arises. And as you inhale, start to breathe a little more deeply. And imagine as you inhale that you are breathing in the energy of these words, literally, like you are inhaling the energy of your words. And as you exhale, imagine sending that same energy out, spreading it throughout your body and your energy field. Go ahead and take another few deep breaths just like this. Now let’s take one last deep breath in together and a breath out. And let’s take one last deep breath in and a breath out. And when you’re ready, I invite you to open your eyes. And notice that I didn’t ask you, What do you need to do to become the person in your vision? I asked you, Who do you need to be and what is the energy that you need to cultivate? And when you drop into this space, you already know what you need. You have what you need to become that which you want to become. You are enough and you are ready to start stepping into your power and the life of your dreams.
Thank you for practicing with me.
Dacher Keltner: That was Justin Michael Williams leading us in his I Am Enough meditation. Thank you, Justin.
So often we look to others for validation and affirmation, but all we need is these moments of stillness to reset and remind ourselves that we are enough. We have so many answers within ourselves, so many better angels of our nature. We just need to take a little time to find them.
I’m Dacher Keltner. Thanks for joining us on our happiness break. We’ll be back next week with a new episode of The Science of Happiness. How did envisioning your best self make you feel? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or share your experience with #happinesspod. Happiness Break is a production of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and PRX. You can find us on Amazon music or visit us online at greatergood.berkeley.edu/podcasts.
Find behind-the-scenes material behind this podcast on Pocket, Mozilla’s save-for-later and content discovery app: https://getpocket.com/collections/how-to-access-your-best-possible-self-start-with-your-imagination