This is the second in a series of five installments. Each month, I will introduce one or two core skills that clients learn and practice in the PATH Program. Last month, I told you about the Feeling Thermometer. This month, I would like to present the Ideal Self and the Feel-Think-Do Grid.

PATH Ideal Self CharacteristicsThe image we have of ourselves as we would like to be—our positive traits and strengths—is called our “Ideal Self.” It reflects what we hope and strive to be, not necessarily what we might be now. It might also include some of the traits that we used to have and somehow lost along the way. The Ideal Self is really a kind of goal, and for this reason it is sometimes called our “hoped-for self,” the type of person we would like to become more and more in the future.

The decisions and thoughts in your life can be guided by your Ideal Self. For example, if your Ideal Self is someone who is self-loving, then you might be more motivated to take better care of your health. The Ideal Self can dictate the choices you make, the thoughts you have, and the type of life you live.

I invite you to spend some time getting a better picture of what you see as your Ideal Self.

Read through the list of words from the Possible Ideal Self Characteristics. See which words describe the kind of person you want to be. We each have a unique Ideal Self. There is no right or wrong about the traits you choose as your Ideal Self. Your Ideal Self consists of any characteristics that you value, that are especially important to you.

Choose five words that you believe best describe what you see as your Ideal Self. You can click on the image to print the page and write them down.

Now, we are going to bring together the Feeling Thermometer, Ideal Self, and Feel-Think-Do Grid.

On the Feel-Think-Do Grid, list two situations: one in which your thoughts and actions were guided by your Ideal Self, and one in which they were not. For each situation, note where you were on the Feeling Thermometer. For Physical Sensations, note how your body reacted. Note the thoughts you remember. Note your actions.

Looking at the chart for the situation where your Ideal Self guided the process, what do you notice about how your feelings, thoughts, and actions were affected by each other? How do you think your Ideal Self impacted your comfort level, thoughts, and actions?

Looking at the chart for the situation where your Ideal Self did not guide the process, ask yourself the same questions. Now, consider, if you had been acting as your Ideal Self, where do you think you would have been on the Feeling Thermometer? What kinds of thoughts would you have had in this situation? How would you like to have behaved in this situation?

We are often uncomfortable (i.e., high on the Feeling Thermometer) when our actions are not consistent with our Ideal Self. A high Feeling Thermometer reading might distort our judgment, and we might lose sight of our Ideal Self. Subsequently, we experience negative, unhelpful thoughts, which then lead to unhealthy actions.

The next time you are feeling uncomfortable in a situation, you might check where you are on the Feeling Thermometer and decide where you need to be on the Feeling Thermometer for you to be able to think and act based on your Ideal Self. To help you, I have included a relaxation exercise from the PATH Program.

Next month: Short- and Long-Term Goal-Setting

In good health,
Darren McCall, Prevention Program Manager at ASA