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Reflected Best Self Exercise

Reflected Best Self Exercise

BY Michelle McQuaid

Why Use This Tool?

Based on the empirical research from University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations, the Reflected Best Self (RBS) Exercise uses stories collected from people in all contexts of your life to help you understand and articulate who you are and how you contribute when you are at your best. This insight will assist you to feel strengthened and connected to others, experience clarity about who you are at your best, and refine your personal development goals. You’ll be guided step-by-step through the process of identifying potential respondents, making the request for feedback, creating your priori best-self portrait, analyzing your reflected best-self stories, creating a new RBS portrait, and translating that portrait into proactive steps for living at your best.

How To Get The Tool?

You can purchase your copy of the tool by clicking here.*

What Have Researchers Found?

All of us can recall our own extraordinary moments, those moments when we felt that our best self was brought to light, affirmed by others, and put into practice in the world. These memories are seared into our minds as moments or situations in which we have felt alive, true to our deepest selves, and pursuing our full potential as human beings. Over time, we collect these experiences into a “portrait” of who we are and what we do when we are at our personal best.

This “best-self portrait” is a resource you can call on to build confidence, to make decisions, to be courageous, to prepare and see possibilities for the future, to face challenges, and so much more. You can strengthen your best-self portrait with insights reflected back to you from significant others in your life. Your friends, colleagues, and family members have different perspectives, and all offer unique and valuable insights into the ways you add value and make positive contributions.

Research shows that the difference between a weakness-based self portrait and a strong best-self portrait is closely correlated to the difference between normal and extraordinary leadership. This is because while you may remember criticism, awareness of your faults doesn’t necessarily translate into better performance. Based on that understanding, this exercise helps you remember your strengths—and construct a plan to build on them. Knowing your strengths also offers you a better understanding of how to deal with your weaknesses—and helps you gain the confidence you need to address them. It allows you to say, “I’m great at leading but lousy at numbers. So rather than teach me remedial math, get me a good finance partner.”

The theory underpinning the RBS exercise proposes three pathways by which the RBS portrait helps employees to become extraordinary:

  • expanding the constellation of possible selves;
  • facilitating social architecting of the contexts that help them to perform at their best;
  • and enhancing personal expressiveness.

The core premise of each pathway is that individuals’ self-constructs guide their future actions through intrapsychic and social processes. Taken together, these three pathways encompass an increased prevalence of extraordinary thoughts about one’s identity, extraordinary actions that shape the social system, and extraordinary feelings of wellbeing. In turn, these thoughts, actions, and feelings (re)generate resources that enable these individuals, and those around them, to advance along the trajectory of becoming extraordinary.


*We do not receive any payment for recommending this tool. We share it as we’ve found it valuable in our work and thought you might as well.

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