3 Reasons Why You Should Write a Letter to Your Future Self ( and How to Do it)
When I grew up, my mom always used to carry a journal with her. A diary. Since I could not write back then (and you can make a valid argument that I still can’t) she thought it was a great idea to journal for me. To this day her room is packed to the roof with hundreds of those little books.
A room full of collected moments, a memory room so to say.
But in this memory room is much more than a collection of recorded occurrences.
She did not write in those little books for herself, she wrote them for me.
They were letters to my future self.
My own library full of beautiful moments to be grateful about when I would read them later in life.
Those books contain personal parental advice and guidance.
The hopes, and dreams that a loving mother has for her very young child.
In those journals, she also wrote down warnings, negative developments and things she was concerned about.
Treasure troves of information and an emotional archive that I believe is highly responsible for my self-awareness and my ability to reflect on myself at all times.
I wrote this article today because I want you to invest a little bit of time in sharpening those two abilities, self-awareness and self-reflection.
I want you to become a world expert in knowing yourself.
Writing a letter to your future self is an incredible exercise. It teaches you insight and it lets you evaluate your own life from a different perspective.
Human beings are pattern repeaters. We love routines, this is both good and bad.
In an ideal world, we would make a mistake and then learn from it and not do it again.
One thing that really hurts me to see, is humans doing the same mistakes over and over again, and suffering in consequence.
For my next podcast, I interviewed the psychologist and hypnotherapist Dr. Ivanina Reitenbach, among many things we talk about the power of social imitation.
Why humans all too often seem to imitate everything they see, even dysfunctional behaviors that they have learned by observing their parents for example.
Ever had a friend who was always falling in love with the wrong kind of guy/girl?
The exercise of writing a letter to your future self aims not only at boosting your self-awareness but also at making habitual mistakes more visible.
In this article, I am going to show you how to write a letter to your future self and three reasons why you should do it (and a little bonus exercise at the end).
How to Write a Letter to your Future Self
Before you start writing to your future self you need to choose an age.
When in the future do you want to read this letter? 1 year from now? 3 years from now? 5 years from now?
The next thing you need to keep in mind is that you address your future self in the letter like they are a different person. Here is an example of how mine started:
Merry Chrismas fckface, I’m talking to you, Daniel, 1 year into the future.
How are things? …
The most simple way that you will receive your letter in the future is by making a copy of what you have written and put it into your digital calendar.
This way a year or five years from now you are reminded automatically by your smartphone.
Another simple way to write a letter to your future self is that you use Futureme.org. This site lets you send an email to yourself and have it delivered at a future date of your choosing.
Another website that hosts this service is Five Year Letter. When you sign up, you will receive a real physical letter in your mail. Then you write your personal letter to your future self and put it back in the prepaid envelope and wait. It costs you about 9$.
Of course, you can do this yourself also. But if you are a curious person like me it’s pretty hard to resist the temptation!
What do I Write about in my Letter to my Future Self
One of the best weapons against depression is to practice gratitude regularly.
Our brain is an asshole. It’s that simple.
One of my annoying habits is that the minute I lay down in my bed my brain reminds me of everything that sucks in my life.
To counter this obsession with the negative, I consciously guide my focus on the good things in my life.
No matter how much you struggle, always keep an eye open for the beautiful little things around you.
Writing a letter to your future self forces you to evaluate your life and articulate what you love and like about your present situation and about your very self.
Here are some questions that you can consider answering in your letter to your future self.
- What are you grateful for at the moment? How does that make you feel?
- What are you proud about in your life now?
- What are you committed to in your life right now?
- Who do you love? Who loves you?
- What are you excited about in your life right now?
- What are you enjoying in your life right now?
Do you know that feeling when facebook reminds you of what ridiculous outfit you wore in 2011? Have you ever cringed the fuck out because you saw an old video of your 17-year-old self? It’s, awkward, isn’t it?
When I think back at my younger self my right eye starts flitching, I was this much of an Idiot, and I am sure my 35-year-old future self will say the same about me.
This is a healthy form of discomfort, you are confronted with your own imperfections and shortcomings.
This is a good thing.
It shows you how much you’ve grown over the years. When I read through my mom’s old journals about me I was amazed and dumbfounded at the same time.
About how much my life and I changed over the years, but also how I am apparently still an Idiot from time to time who repeats his mistakes.
“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”
This helped me a lot to spot patterns in my behavior and reflect on my life and ask myself: Do I like the road that I am on right now?
After reading the journals in my mother’s memory room, I took a huge step towards understanding exactly what it is that makes me, me.
Here are some questions that give you an Idea what to write about in your letter to your future self if you want to boost your self-awareness.
- What quest didn’t you already take on because you are afraid, but you would love to jump into?
- What advice would you give yourself?
- What are you worried about your life right now?
- What poisons do you not want to take with you in 2019?
- Which habits of yours are holding you back?
- Who in your life brings out the best in you?
- Who in your life brings out the worst in you?
- What can you not afford to keep doing?
- If you continue to live like you are living now, will you be in 3 years in a better or worse shape?
Create YOUR Future
When you create a letter to your future self, you should write as well about what you want in life.
Maybe the things in your life are not that perfect right now, maybe you are stuck in a job that just sucks.
Maybe you are dating someone who is a pain in the ass and you are planning your escape.
Or you just graduated and you feel lost as hell about what you are going to do next.
When you write a letter to your future self you are forced to find some answers, now.
What do you hope you will have conquered, achieved and experienced by then?
Enjoy this task.
Dreams have no limitation. Instead of getting fixated over the pressure that free unlimited choice brings with it, enjoy the freedom of it.
Run wild, this is not a modesty exercise. Go all out and dream big. The following questions might help you with that.
- If there were no limits economically, what things would you like to possess?
- What values do you hope to have in the future?
- What adventures has your future self-experienced?
- Where have you traveled to by then?
- How much money will you be making?
- What kind of partner would you hope to have in the future? How would her/his character be? How would your future spouse look?
Create your future SELF
Creating a letter to your future self is a great tool to practice introspection and ask yourself “Who do I want to be”?
I am not talking about what your outside expectations are for yourself. What your parents want you to be, what your friends or society think you should do.
This exercise is about what YOU want, and what you want only!
So ask yourself: “What is your ideal self“?
I sincerely believe that if you want anything out of life, that you start with yourself.
Translate your goals, dreams, and aspirations into habits, skills, and values that you need to develop to become the person who will produce the results you desire.
Writing a letter to your future self is an exercise that aims at turning the invisible into the visible.
Transforming your dreams into words is the first step that will allow you to conquer them. I can’t really explain why it works this way, but I believe it does.
Sorry for going all spiritual on your ass but I believe that phrasing is the first step to achieving.
Here are some questions that I asked myself in order to write a letter to my future self.
- If failure was not an option, what would you attempt?
- What would you like to learn?
- What skills do you want to master in the next years?
- What are some character traits you’d like to develop?
- What is your desired social setting? Who are your friends? And why?
- What is your desired mental and physical health situation? What do you have to do on a regular basis in order to get this result- starting today!
- What are tiny things that you can do regularly that will impact your life positively?
- What bad habit that you have is costing you long-term too much in relation for what it is giving me?
Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow
In this last part, I am going to show you one of my favorite exercises from Tony Robbins book “awaken the giant within” which I read for my book club.
This exercise is highly compatible with writing a letter to your future self.
Sometimes it’s easy to lose track of just how far you’ve come – or how far you still need to go in life. In the following exercise, you are going to make an honest evaluation of 10 areas of your life.
The task is to give yourself a score on a scale from 0-10 in the targeted areas. Then describe in one sentence what you were like back then.
You are going to repeat this task 3 times, one time for how things were 5 years ago, one for how things are today and one for how you hope things are going to five years from now.
Take five to ten minutes to do this exercise.
Five Years Ago
|Area of your life||Score||Sentence|
Now, for comparison lets see how far you’ve come, or failed to come in each of these areas of your life.
Again, give yourself a score of 1 to 10 of where you are today, and then write a sentence describing what you’re like in each of these areas of your life today.
|Area of your life||Score||Sentence|
Take a moment and write down for 1-3 minutes what you have learned by this comparison.
Which things have changed? Which have not?
This exercise really put a smile on my face. It feels good to see how far I have come.
This is however not supposed to be a feel-good exercise. The real gold nuggets are hidden in the areas of your life that have not changed the way you would have liked them to change, or in areas where you have deteriorated.
Repeating problematic behaviors are a treasure trove of information.
In those areas lie the missing puzzle pieces to the question why we do not have the outcomes we desire.
Which habits, people or situations are responsible for you not getting the results you want?
This exercise showed me that I was the one who was holding myself back.
Now let’s focus on the future! Do the same exercise again, but now focus on what you want for your life in five years from now. Again, do not hold back! Think big!
Five Years from now
|Area of your life||Score||Sentence|
This was it guys. I hope you enjoyed my article and write a letter to your future self!
Let me know in the comments what the one area is in your life that you want to upgrade!
As always, thank for reading go kick ass in life.