July 21, 2020
I’ve had an opportunity to read a book, although not entirely through it all, called Learned Hopefulness by my dear friend and colleague Dan Tomasulo. Dan is a clinical psychologist, so he knows a lot about how to build hope. The subtitle is The Power of Positivity to Overcome Depression, so there are some great insight tools on how to overcome depression. If you’re feeling depressed, this is the book to read.
While I was reading, Dan reminded me of some research that Martin Seligman had done, and Martin Seligman is considered the founding father of positive psychology. Dan reminded me of some research that Marty had done with his colleagues. Dan’s whole book is about how to build hope, so I want to read this great passage, and with this passage, I want to share with you some of the insights that I had that helped me tremendously;
“What this means for hope is that our very ability to detect and expect control in the future will pull us out of a slump, focusing on what can be done in the future rather than on what happened in the past creates hope. We speculate that it is expectations of a better future that most matter in treatment. Focusing on what’s happened in the past, keeps us sitting in the dark. When we concentrate on future possibilities, we can stand in the light.”
Reading this was a real ‘a-ha!’ moment for me because when I thought about why I was feeling down, it was because I could not envision my future. You see, I’m a speaker, I go to conferences, I go to corporations all across North America, I speak to audiences, live audiences and that all disappeared within a day. It was all gone. So it was tough for me to envision my future. So in the book, Dan asks you to do The Future Best Self Exercise created by Dr. Laura King. It has great evidence and considerable research behind it to suggest that if you do The Future Best Self Exercise that you will improve your wellbeing.
The Future Best Self Exercise has you think about your life in the future. What is your best life in the future? You envision that, and then you write about it for 20 minutes every day for three days in a row. Now, for me doing that Future Best Self Exercise, I couldn’t really envision my future. And that’s when I had this ‘a-ha!’ moment. I’m feeling down because I don’t feel pulled by the future like I usually do and get excited about my future like I typically do.
So, I had to re-envision a new future. Instead of five years from now, I thought of the next six months. And what I decided to do is to write that even with coronavirus, what could I do to make these next six months more fulfilling, more joyful, more meaningful? How can I transform my life to have that today to be doing that today?
I started to think about trips that I want to take because, in Canada, we can do some interprovincial travel. I can travel up North. I was trying to think of how many times I could go to the cottage. I was trying to think of different projects that I could be working on. I started to think of friends that I wanted to see and hikes that I wanted to go on and places in Ontario that I’ve never been to. And with all of this, I started to plan out these exciting things over the next six months. And these are things that I could look forward to. These are things that I could be hopeful about. And as I wrote about this new life, the hope started to rise. I could see my future again, and it felt so good to do that.
And by doing that exercise three nights in a row, it has changed my perspective and increased my hope for the future. So, try it for yourself. I’m going to put the instructions on how to do The Future Best Self Exercise below. If you’re finding that difficult, then think about redesigning the next six months. What are small things you can do every week to raise your level of hope to get you excited about the future? Give it a try. And if you are feeling depressed, this is the book to read.
The Future Best Self Exercise by Dr. Laura King
Close your eyes and envision yourself in the future (whether that is 6 months from now, a year from now or 5 years from now)…Everything has gone beautifully. Everything you have wanted for your life has come true…
What are you doing?
Who are you with?
What is your life like?
How are you feeling?
Write a description of your future self every day for 20 minutes, for three days. Please include as many details as possible.
This exercise has been proven to improve well-being and reduce depressive symptoms.