Your ideal self: the best version of yourself

Young woman with black hair up in a bun, smiling at the camera

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Occasionally you can lose sight of what’s important in life. You can’t see past the pile-up of day-to-day hassles. So the concept of an ideal self can help focus your goals. It can direct you towards developing positive qualities and skills, and so form the basis of a self-development plan.

The ideal self

Your ideal self is just that: an ideal. It’s an imaginary, best version of yourself with no flaws.

Of course, it’s impossible to reach this ideal. But don’t let that stop you from trying!

Let it be your inspiration. Something you’re aiming towards. It’s only by striving that you reach worthwhile goals.

Use as a motivational tool

So you can use your ideal self as a motivational tool. You can compare where you are now with your ideal self.

That can point out areas you need to brush up on. Or personal habits you’d like to either develop or get rid of.

You may want to learn a range of skills. For example: how to be more organised, or flexible or empathic. Or how to communicate better, and improve your relationships. Or even how to be yourself and stop trying to impress others.  

Use your ideal self to guide your overall self-development plan, and keep working towards the best version of yourself.

What’s your ideal self?

So how do you know what your ideal self is? And how do you use it as a tool for change?

Read through the whole process before you start, to get an idea of how this works. See this as a long-term project you return to year after year.

1 Define your ideal self

Firstly, you’ll need to work out how you define your ideal self. This could take some time, so find a quiet spot. Have a notebook handy to scribble down some ideas.

Read the following questions, and sit for a few minutes. Allow your thoughts to circle round these ideas for a while.

Then jot down ideas under each heading or question. You can choose how much or how little you work on this now.

You can add to your notes whenever you’re able. In addition, you could focus on one area, and work on others later.

2 Imagine you can be anything

So get comfortable and close your eyes. Imagine you have no limits on what you can do. No limits on your friends, finances, living conditions, travel, work, or personal style.

You are free to do or be whatever you want.

Allow your mind to run free. Brainstorm different aspects of your ideal self. Keep hold of all ideas, no matter how silly they seem.

Notice any tendency of your mind to reject some ideas. Thank your mind for trying to help, and then ignore its criticisms.

3 Form a vision of your ideal self

Now let a vision of your ideal self form in your mind’s eye. Imagine yourself in an ideal future. Don’t be discouraged if this takes a few tries. With practice, you’ll find this easier.

Think of what kind of person you’d love to be. What would be the best version of yourself? Can you begin to see a clear vision of this ideal self? 

4 Imagine aspects of your best self

Now imagine various aspects of your best self. For example, what would your ideal physical, emotional, social and achieving selves be like? How would each of them look, think, feel and act?

In addition, define which important values and personal qualities you’d like to possess. 

Here’s a guide to help you imagine becoming the best version of yourself. 

a) Ideal physical self

What would you look like? How would you dress?

How would your ideal physical self walk, talk, act?

What would your physical health be like?

How would you maintain your physical health so that you’re energetic and alert?

Where and what kind of housing would you have?

How would you organise your living space?

Would you share your living space with anyone?

b) Ideal thinking self

How would you think of yourself as a person?

What worth would you believe you have as a person?

What possibilities would you see for your future?

How would you see the world and/or others around you?

How would you stop unhelpful thoughts from hijacking your well-being?

c) Ideal emotional self

What mood would your ideal self experience most days?

How would you keep your emotions in check when needed?

How would you cope with setbacks or disappointments?

How would you deal with intense emotions: e.g. anger, sadness, jealousy, disappointment, grief, rejection or anxiety.

How would you look after your emotional health, and remain positive in mood?

d) Ideal social self

Would you enjoy work or other activities with large groups, small groups, or a few people?

Or would you prefer the freedom to do things your way?

How would you interact with others generally? Are you naturally more of an introvert or extrovert?

What kind of people would you have around you?

How would you maintain good relationships with others?

How would you react to people in authority such as bank managers, bosses, lawyers, police, doctors etc?

How would you manage those who are derogatory to you?

What relationships would be important in your life?

Who of your current social group would you see more often? 

Who of your current acquaintances would you see less often? What kinds of people would you be with instead?

How much time out would you need to recharge? How would you achieve this?

e) Ideal achieving self

How would your financial position be?

How would you spend your days? Your leisure time?
What kind of work, study and/or volunteer work would you do?

What would you be doing that you haven’t done yet?
What have you left behind from your current life?

Which of your current activities would you be doing more of?
Which are you doing less of? What would you be doing instead?

What dreams and goals would you want to achieve in the next 1 – 5 years?

How would you go about starting to fulfil these wishes?

f) Ideal self: values and qualities

Which values would you hold?

Which personal qualities would you nurture?

What would make you proud of yourself?

Which of your current behaviours would you build on?

Which behaviours or habits would you drop? How would you behave instead?

What would be the most meaningful and fulfilling things in your life?

What aspects of your present life would you leave behind without regret?

Take the challenge

This is a challenging exercise. It’s worth spending several periods of time doing it.

However, this only gives you an idea of how you see the best version of yourself now. In ten years, your ideal self may look completely different. Your self-development plan needs to be flexible and change as your wishes, needs and dreams change.  

So don’t see this as fixed forever. The ideal self is a fluid concept, that changes as you change. 

Remember, it’s an ideal

Your ideal self highlights the person you’d like to be. As such, it’s an ideal – an inspirational vision to use as a guide on the path to a better life. You’ll never actually manage to reach this ideal. But that doesn’t make it less useful. 

So use it as a guide to point you in the direction you want to go, but don’t feel pressured by it. 

Everyone can improve

Everyone has room for improvement in different ways.

Some people need to tone down their anger. Others need to learn to be more tolerant, or more assertive.

Life is about bettering yourself bit by bit, and mastering new skills. So you can use your ideal self to help with goalsetting.

How to set goals 

Read through your vision of your ideal self again.

1 Choose an area to work on

Pick one area or one behaviour you’d like to work on.

Make it either an easy area to work on, or one that really needs attention right now.

Think of how you’re doing in that area now.

What’s working and what’s not?

What do you want to change?

What do you want to achieve in the future?

Be very specific in setting your goals. And write them down using the SMART goal format.

You’re probably tempted to skip writing them down. But you’ll forget them if you don’t, and you won’t be able to chart your progress either.

If you want to make success more likely, write your goals down. Have a special exercise book that you keep private.

2 Work out steps in between 

Work out your start point and an approximate end point. Write the start point at the top and the endpoint at the bottom of the page.

Then write down all the steps in between. Break each step down into smaller ones if you need to.

3 Make the steps even smaller

Now make the intermediate steps even smaller. The smaller, the better. That way, you’ll reach more goals, more quickly. And you’ll get a sense of moving forward.

If your goals are too big, it’s too daunting to even start. So you put off working on them, and never start.

Make it easy, and give yourself the best chance of success. However, this isn’t a cop-out as some people feel. It’s being sensible, and working with human nature.

If you never start, that’s even more counterproductive. So do what works and reach your goals, little by little. 

As mentioned already, start with one area at a time. Then you can make small changes without messing up your whole life. Avoid embarking on a self-development plan that requires you to make sweeping changes all at once.

Unless you’re incredibly well-prepared, you’ll sink under the chaos and pressure. 

4 Keep records

You’ve already written down your goals and the smaller in-between steps. Now keep tabs on how you’re doing as you start to work on your goals. 

Measure changes if you can.

For instance, say you want to walk 1 km in 15 minutes. For each day you walk, write down how long it took you to walk 1 km. Or record how far you walked in a certain time.

Try to measure your progress, no matter what kind of goal you’re aiming for. You can even count the number of times you were nice to people in a day. Or how many times you fought off the urge to eat chocolate.

5 Reward yourself

Make sure you recognise every little gain you make. Acknowledge how much effort it took to achieve this tiny win.

Tick or cross goals off you reach them for a more visual reward, or give yourself a brightly coloured sticker.

6 Keep the process going

Read over your vision of your ideal self often – at least once a week. That gives you a clear idea of where you’re headed, and reinforces your efforts to change.

Once you reach one goal, look for the next small goal. Then note down exactly what you have to do for this one.

Your ideal self changes over time

As already mentioned, your vision of your ideal self may change. Don’t worry; take this as a sign of growth. You’re continually seeing new possibilities and ideas ahead of you. Maybe you’re less interested in some areas than before. Maybe others have taken on more importance.

Integrate your new priorities

Redo the exercise of imagining your ideal self 1-2 times a year. Incorporate your new priorities into your renewed vision. Then you can derive new goals that will lead to your revised ideal self.

Ideal self as a tool

So the ideal self is an important tool in your self-development plan. Allow your imagination full rein to design the best version of yourself, and use it to realise your goals.

Explore the myriad possibilities open to change your life.

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