“How’s this for a New Year’s resolution?” I said to a dear friend, “I want to bring my best self to 2023.” “It sounds good,” she replied, “but what does it mean?”
Hmm. Good question. One’s best self could mean many things, so I gave her question some thought. After all, I couldn’t very well put my best-self resolution into practice if I didn’t thoroughly know what it was. Finally, after a few days of mulling it over, I got it. Bringing my best self to this New Year simply means that I intend to bring the best of me to every situation I will encounter.
The concept may be simple, but the execution is daunting. Bringing the best of me to a situation means I can’t be grumpy about it. I can’t complain or groan about how hard it’s going to be or how much I don’t want to do it. I can’t put it off or avoid it or otherwise procrastinate. I have to take it on, whatever “it” is, cheerfully, wholeheartedly with enthusiasm. What have I gotten myself into?
How about better health and longevity? More success? Science has long shown that optimists live longer with an increase of easily 11% to 15% beyond their average life span.
In addition, research shows that optimists do better at work, school and sports, recover from setbacks more quickly, and are less likely to become depressed. They are happier, calmer and generally at peace with themselves and life. Overall, studies show that optimists tend to be healthier, live longer and age well.
Among the qualities of optimists are their belief that they have control over their fate and that they can create opportunities for good things to happen in the future. In turn, this means that optimists approach situations assuming that there will be a good outcome.
Not perfect, maybe, but good. As in, good enough.
With success in mind, it’s easier to come at situations with enthusiasm, eagerness and hopefulness. In other words, with one’s best self at the helm – which is what optimists do, time after time.
Take Betty Sandison, for example, who at 84 proudly received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota, an accomplishment she had dreamed of for decades. Although Betty had started attending classes in the 1950s, she was unable to continue with her education at the time, given the need to raise her two children.
One divorce and a decade or so later, Betty became a registered nurse and practiced in the profession for 30 years. In her heart, however, she always longed to get that BA from the University of Minnesota. So, four years ago, at 80, Betty applied, got accepted, and voila. She graduated with her much younger classmates, much to her – and their – delight.
There’s no way Betty could have walked that stage with diploma in hand if she’d allowed anything but her best self to take the lead. Think about it. Applying to university at 80? Studying, taking tests, having to remember all that she learned? And then taking just those few years to earn her degree?
That means Betty had to bring her best self – her courageous, brave, enthusiastic self – to the endeavor. I am sure Betty had some doubts and worries along the way, but she clearly never allowed them to be front and center.
How about you? What defines your best self? As you go into this New Year, start by making a list of your “best of me” characteristics. Include all that is good and hopeful about yourself. It could be your kindness, compassion, smarts, courage, love of adventure, communication skills, positivity or openness.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t exhibit these characteristics all the time or even fully. What matters is that you identify them, that you know your best self well enough, and that you can make the deliberate choice to live accordingly – to the best of your ability, as often as you can.
And with that, you will have a very good New Year!
What are the characteristics that make up your best self? How have your best-self characteristics pushed away negative thoughts and moved you in the right direction? Give an example.