Being Our Best Selves

Why do we wait until people die to tell them about the difference they have made in our lives?  Living Eulogies are a way of sharing our appreciation for the difference others have made in our lives… while they are still alive.

Many people can imagine doing this for someone dear to us in our personal lives: a spouse or a parent perhaps. But the thought of doing so in our workplaces can feel terrifying. Our relationships rarely allow the time for deeper connection and communication like this. For many people, the idea of proactively asking for positive feedback is even worse. “Wait, why are you fishing for compliments?! How needy are you?!”

Yet research shows that receiving this kind of feedback can help people be more creative, have a greater sense of wellbeing, be more engaged with their work, and create better outcomes for customers. Oh, and it feels great too.

Years ago, researchers at the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business developed the Reflected Best Self Exercise. You can think of the RBSE as a strengths-based, story-based 360-degree personal and professional development tool. The RBSE process facilitates asking friends and family for stories of when they have seen you at your best. It then helps you make sense of the findings so that you make the adjustments needed to be at your best more often.

As Professor Dan Cable describes in the video below: connecting with who we are at our best literally lights up people and workplaces.

The RBSE is a powerful emotional journey. It’s impact – as Dan Cable’s TEDx talk described – is deep and long lasting.

Of course, I am biased: I have taken the Reflected Best Self Exercise twice myself. Both times, I learned something new and valuable. The insights about what I am like at my best helped me better pay attention to the things that matter for those around me. It helped me become a better leader, and a better person. I have facilitated groups of between five and 80 business leaders at a time in understanding their own data, and interpreting it. I have seen the impact it has on individuals and their personal and professional relationships.

Why do we wait until someone has gone to tell them about the difference they make? Maybe organizations can help change this cultural norm for the better.