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Exploring career mentoring and coaching
Exploring career mentoring and coaching

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3 Visualising my future self

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Figure 3 What does my future self look like?

Visualisation is used in positive psychology, a branch of psychology that focuses on human potential and the things that make life worth living.

This positive psychology coaching technique involves imagining your best possible future self. The more real you can make that future self seem, the more motivated you will be to help them develop – exploring the goals you need to achieve to become that person. From a career perspective, goals might involve changing location, earning more money, finding a better work-life balance, gaining greater job satisfaction etc.

Also, the more connected we feel with our future self, the more likely we are to make decisions and choices that will be beneficial in the longer term. Hershfield (2011, p. 30) explains, ‘when the future self shares similarities with the present self, when it is viewed in vivid and realistic terms, and when it is seen in a positive light, people are more willing to make choices today that may benefit them at some point in the years to come’.

Activity 4 Imagine my best future self

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Pick a future date, perhaps one year, five years or even ten years from now.

For this activity, concentrate on your future self at work. Imagine that everything has gone exactly how you wanted it to and all your goals have been achieved. At this stage, don’t worry about how you got there, just imagine this future as vividly as you can.

For example, are you in your dream job or perhaps running your own business? What work are you doing? Who are you working with? What environment are you in? Do you have an office? What is it like? Are you working full time or just two or three days each week?

In the box below, try to describe your future self in as much detail as possible.

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Ideally, you will repeat this exercise regularly and consistently over a month – really cementing who this future self is in your imagination.

As well as making you feel more motivated and connected to your future, this type of exercise has the potential to make you feel more optimistic and happier.

The important thing is to imagine this person in as much detail as possible. Research shows that we stimulate the same regions of the brain when we visualise something as we do when we actually do it.

The more vivid the images you conjure up, the more easily you can trick your brain into thinking it is a real experience. Your brain is therefore less likely to respond negatively, for example, by introducing self-doubt, and you’ll start to have more confidence about your future.

Many coaches recommend writing a detailed record of what you imagine, or even writing a letter to your future self. If you have a journal, that would be an ideal tool for this type of exercise.

Although the benefits of becoming more self-aware might seem logical, our brains can sometimes put obstacles in our way. In the next section, you’ll explore what those obstacles to self-awareness might be.