Sentence Completion II

The following thirty-week sentence completion program, from Dr. Branden’s recent book “Taking Responsibility: Self-Reliance and the Accountable Life,” is designed to help you take more responsibility in all areas of your life.

When doing sentence completion exercises, it is best to work with a journal or computer. That way, past entries can easily be accessed for reflection.

Instructions for Sentence Completion Programs

Sentence completion is a technique I have developed in my clinical practice that can be used to facilitate self-understanding and personal growth. The essence of the sentence completion procedure is to start with an incomplete sentence, a “sentence stem,” and to keep adding different endings, between six and ten, with the sole requirement being that each ending be a grammatical completion of the sentence.

I use sentence completion in therapy, where clients complete sentences orally. I have also developed multi-week, written sentence-completion programs that can be done at home. In each week of a program, you are given a block of four to six stems. Every morning, you write completions for all the stems in this week’s block. At the end of the week, you reflect on your answers for the week and perform another completion exercise to help you solidify what you have learned. The next week, you move on to the next block of stems in the program.

Suppose the first stem in this week’s block is:

To me, self-responsibility means…

In the morning, before proceeding to the day’s business, write this down in a notebook or on the computer, then, as rapidly as possible, without pausing for reflection, write as many endings for that sentence as you can in two or three minutes – never less than six, and ten is enough. Do not worry if your endings are literally true or make sense or are “profound.” Write anything, but write something.

After doing six to ten endings for the first stem, go on to the morning’s next stem, and continue until all the morning’s stems are finished.

When you are finished with the morning’s stems, proceed with your day’s business. Do this exercise every morning, Monday through Friday, before the start of the day’s business. Do not read what you wrote the day before. Naturally there will be many repetitions. But also, new endings are inevitable.

Sometime each weekend, reread what you have written for the week, reflect on it, and then write a minimum of six endings for this stem:

If any of what I wrote this week is true, it might be helpful if I…

As with the weekday stems, the trick is to work as rapidly as possible, not pausing to “think,” inventing if you get stuck, without worrying if any particular ending is true, reasonable, or significant. Any ending is fine: Just keep going.

The next week, move onto the next block of stems in the program.

When doing sentence completions, the idea is to empty your mind of any expectations concerning what will happen or what is “supposed” to happen. Do not impose any demands on the situation. Try to empty your mind of anticipations. Do the exercise, go about your day’s activities, and merely notice any differences in how you feel or how you operate.

The art of doing sentence completion well is to maintain a high level of mental focus combined with a complete lack of internal censorship. Doing sentence completion on a daily basis as described here is a kind of psychological discipline, a spiritual practice, even, that over time achieves insight, integration, and spontaneous behavior change. People sometimes ask, “How do I integrate the things I am learning in sentence completion?” The answer is that practice itself, done repetitively, brings about the integration. The speed of your progress depends in part on the level of focus and consciousness you bring to the work, both while doing it and later when reviewing and reflecting on your endings.

Remember: Your endings must be a grammatical completion of the sentence, and if your mind goes absolutely empty, invent an ending, but do not allow yourself to stop with the thought that you cannot do this exercise.

An average session should not take longer than ten minutes. If it takes much longer, you are “thinking” (rehearsing, calculating) too much.

General program for improving self-esteem: This program is aimed at raising your self-esteem. It focuses on helping you to practice better what I have identified as the “six pillars of self-esteem”. These six practices lead to higher self-esteem and are described in detail in my book, “The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem.”

Program for increasing self-responsibility: This program is designed to help you take more responsibility for for all areas of your life: your career, your personal relationships, your finances, your happiness. It is based on the belief that self-responsibility is an important source of personal power. The multiple meanings and applications of self-responsibility are explored in my book, “Taking Responsibility.”

Many other applications of the sentence-completion technique, some discussion of the thinking behind it, and other stems for other purposes may be found in my book, “The Art of Self-Discovery.”



Week 1

  • Self-responsibility to me means…
  • Independence to me means…
  • Thinking for myself means…
  • Trusting my own mind means…


Week 2

  • If I operate five percent more self-responsibly today…
  • If I think for myself today…
  • If I bring five percent more awareness to my deepest needs and wants…
  • If I bring five percent more awareness to what I truly think and feel…
  • I am becoming aware…


Week 3

  • If I am more straightforward about what I think and feel today…
  • If I operate five percent more self-assertively today…
  • If I treat my wants and needs with more respect today…
  • If I express myself calmly and with dignity today…
  • If I want to translate these ideas into action…


Week 4

  • If I pay more attention to my inner signals today…
  • If I am more truthful in my dealings with people today…
  • If I am five percent more self-accepting today…
  • If I am self-accepting even when I make mistakes…
  • If these ideas start working in my subconscious mind…


Week 5

  • If I disown what I am thinking and feeling…
  • If I place other people’s thoughts above my own…
  • When I look at what I do to impress people…
  • If I fake who I am to make myself “likable”…
  • I am beginning to suspect…


Week 6

  • If I am more accepting of my feelings today…
  • If I deny and disown my feelings…
  • If I am more accepting of my thoughts…
  • If I deny and disown my thoughts…
  • I am becoming aware…


Week 7

  • If I am more accepting of my fears…
  • If I deny and disown my fears…
  • If I were more accepting of my pain…
  • If I deny and disown my pain…
  • Right now it seems obvious that…


Week 8

  • If I am more accepting of my desire to be liked…
  • If I deny and disown my desire to be liked…
  • If I learn to manage my desire for approval…
  • If I can acknowledge my desire for approval without being controlled by it…
  • If I want to translate these ideas into action…


Week 9

  • If I am more accepting of my deepest self…
  • If I deny and disown my deepest self…
  • If I am more accepting of my intelligence…
  • If I deny and disown my intelligence…
  • If I allow myself to understand what I am writing…


Week 10

  • Self-responsibility means…
  • If I am more accepting of my thoughts and feelings, whether or not anyone shares them…
  • If I deny and disown thoughts and feelings others do not share…
  • If I betray my thoughts and feelings in action…
  • If I honor my thoughts and feelings in action…
  • I am beginning to suspect…


Week 11

  • If I imagine being more self-responsible…
  • If I imagine being more independent…
  • If I imagine looking at things through my own eyes…
  • If I take five percent more responsibility for the ideas I live by…
  • If these ideas start working in my subconscious mind…


Week 12

  • If I honor my judgment today…
  • Sometimes I keep myself passive when I…
  • Sometimes I make myself helpless when I…
  • If I pretend to be less than I am…
  • If I allow myself to absorb what I am writing…


Week 13

  • If I bring five percent more integrity into my relationships…
  • If I take five percent more responsibility for my choice of companions…
  • If I take five percent more responsibility for my personal happiness…
  • If I take five percent more responsibility for the level of my self-esteem…
  • I am becoming aware…


Week 14

  • If I lived five percent more authentically today…
  • If I treat my thoughts and feelings with respect today…
  • If I experiment with being more self-assertive today…
  • If I am willing to see what I see and know what I know…
  • If I fully face the meaning of what I am writing…


Week 15

  • If I hold myself accountable for my promises and commitments…
  • If I stop all excuse-making and alibiing…
  • If I refuse to surrender to helplessness…
  • If I were willing to say “yes” when I want to say “yes” and “no” when I want to say “no”…
  • I am beginning to suspect…


Week 16

  • If I were willing to let people see who I am…
  • If I took more responsibility for delivering on my commitments…
  • If I operate five percent more self-responsibly at work…
  • If I operate five percent more self-responsibly in my relationships…
  • If I choose to translate these ideas into action…


Week 17

  • If I stay connected with what I truly think and feel…
  • If I take more responsibility for fulfilling my wants…
  • If I refuse to blame anyone…
  • If I make my happiness a conscious goal…
  • Right now it seems clear…


Week 18

  • If I look people in the eyes and tell the truth today…
  • If I refuse to be ruled by fear of disapproval…
  • If I refuse to hide who I am…
  • If I am simple, honest, and straightforward today…
  • If I allow what I am writing to fully penetrate…


Week 19

  • If I bring five percent more integrity to my relationships…
  • If I remain loyal to the values I believe are right…
  • If I refuse to live by values I do not respect…
  • If I treat my self-respect as a high priority…
  • I am becoming aware…


Week 20

  • If I accept responsibility for my life and well-being…
  • If I accept responsibility for my choices and decisions…
  • If I accept responsibility for my actions…
  • If I accept responsibility for how I deal with people…
  • If I choose to translate these ideas into action…


Week 21

  • If I want to grow in independence, I will need to…
  • If I want to grow in self-esteem, I will need to…
  • If I want to be more authentic, I will need to…
  • If I want to outgrow dependency, I will need to…
  • If I am willing to experiment with these ideas in action…


Week 22

  • If I look at things through my own eyes today…
  • If I am willing to see what I see and know what I know…
  • If I am truthful today, even if it’s difficult…
  • I grow in self-respect when I…
  • I am becoming aware…


Week 23

  • If I operate five percent more self-responsibly today…
  • If I operate five percent more self-assertively today…
  • If I operate five percent more authentically today…
  • If I operate five percent more honestly today…
  • Right now it seems clear that…


Week 24

  • As I grow in self-responsibility…
  • As I grow in independence…
  • As I learn to say what I truly think and feel…
  • As I learn to look at things through my own eyes…
  • If these ideas start working in my subconscious mind…


Week 25

  • Sometimes when I am afraid of self-responsibility I…
  • Sometimes when I am afraid of independence I…
  • If I want to outgrow any fear I have of self-responsibility…
  • If I want to outgrow any fear I have of independence…
  • I am beginning to suspect…


Week 26

  • One of the things I’ve been learning through this program is…
  • As I notice when I am being self-responsible and when I am not fully…
  • As I notice when I am being authentic and when I am not fully…
  • As I notice how I feel when I am honest…
  • I am becoming aware…


Week 27

  • I feel most proud of myself when I…
  • I feel least proud of myself when I…
  • If I give myself credit for my willingness to struggle…
  • If I give myself credit for my dedication to personal growth…
  • If I allow myself to understand what I am writing…


Week 28

  • As I learn to translate what I am learning into action…
  • As I continue the struggle, even when it’s difficult…
  • If I choose to persevere, no matter how long it takes…
  • One of the ways I am changing is…
  • I am beginning to suspect…


Week 29

  • As my understanding of self-responsibility deepens…
  • As my understanding of independence deepens…
  • As I learn to be more authentic when dealing with people…
  • As everything I am learning takes root in my subconscious mind…
  • I am becoming aware…


Week 30

  • As I learn to operate at a higher level of self-responsibility…
  • As I learn to operate at a higher level of independence…
  • As I learn to pay more attention to what I truly think and feel…
  • As I learn to treat myself with more respect…
  • As I go on translating these learnings into action…