The Best-Self Exercise
Student Instructions
1. Write Your Own Best-Self Stories
Think about three times in your life when you were at your best (your happiest times or
best performance). Specially, recall a time when you were facing a challenge that required you
to invest a great amount of energy, effort, and skills, you managed to achieve good
performance at last and really enjoyed the process. Allow yourself to think of stories from all
contexts and time periods. For three of these memories, write the story of what happened.
In the story you could describe the context, the role you played, the actions you took, the
characteristics you displayed, the results, and the reasons behind your actions.
2. Request Best-Self Stories from others
2.1. Identify potential respondents
Select 5 people whom you will ask to write stories about you at your best. Choose
people who have seen you at your best and people who will give you their honest
opinion. This exercise is most effective when your respondents come from a mix of
colleagues (former or current), superiors or subordinates, friends (old or recent),
family members, customers, and anyone who has had extended contact with you.
Please note that past participants have found that their respondents have been quite
willing, even eager, to assist with this exercise.
Request best-self stories
I am asking people who know me well to provide me with three stories of when I
was at my best in their eyes. What was my positive contribution in each story?
3. Analyze All Best-Self Stories
3.1. Read and reflect on each story.
In a table like the one below, note key insights into who you are and what you do
when you are at your best. You’ll have an opportunity to analyze the context of the
story. Please focus on your actions, contributions, attitudes, etc.
3.2. Analyze the stories in aggregate
Look for patterns and themes (i.e., Recurring behaviors, contributions, etc.,) that
emerge from all the stories. These patterns or themes will help you write declarative
statements about you at your best. These declarative statements will represent
anchoring “truths” about you at your best and can later be woven into your reflected
best-self portrait.
4. Compose Your Best-Self Portrait
The portrait is meant to be an aggregated articulation of your personal and reflected
best self which you can refer to and revise well into the future. It should synthesize
the themes and declarations you identified in the tables above.
Reflected best-self portraits are often represented in the form of written narratives (see
below for an example). You are also encouraged to employ a variety of media to create
your reflected best-self portraits. For example, you might represent your portrait in a
picture, a video, a song, or a poem. You may even choose to use multiple formats.
Sample Best-Self Portrait
When I am at my best, I tend to be creative. I am enthusiastic about ideas and I craft bold
visions. I am an innovative builder who perseveres in the pursuit of the new. I do not waste
energy thinking about missed opportunities or past failures nor do I take on the negative
energy of the insecure or worry about critics. I stay centered and focused on what is
possible and important.
I use frameworks to help me make sense of complex issues. I can see disparate ideas and
integrate them through “yes and” thinking. So I make points others do not readily see. In
doing so, I frame experiences in compelling and engaging ways. I paint visions and
provide new ways for people to see. I use metaphors and stories to do this. I find the
stories in everyday experiences, and people find it easy to understand them. The new
images that follow help people to take action.
In helping others, I try to empathize with them and understand their needs. I give them my
attention and energy but I allow them to be in charge. In exercising influence, I try to enroll
people, not force them, in new directions. I invite people to work with me. I use dialog to
help people surface their ideas, and then I weave them together with others until we create
knowledge in real time. I ignore symptoms and focus on the deep causes. I help people
and groups surface the darkest realities and the most painful conflicts. From these
emergent tensions comes the energy for transformation. I liberate people from their fears
and help them embrace new paths. In all of this I try to model the message of integrity,
growth and transformation.
Bringing the Reflected Best-Self to Life
Make an action plan to maximize the potential for your best self in the future:
How can I use this knowledge to enhance the quality of my work and my life?
How can I incorporate my best self into my current job, relationships, and future
career plans?

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