In high school, my English teacher had everyone bring in a self addressed envelope. She gave us some paper and told us to write a letter to our future selves. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I realize now that she was doing us all huge favor. She was giving a gift to our future selves.
After we wrote the letters, she took them and said she would mail them in five years, just as most of us would be graduating from college.
I will never forget reading that letter when it came back to me, exactly five years later as she had promised. It was a rare chance to reflect honestly on the passage of time and on my own personal growth over that formative period in my life.
This is an incredible exercise to do no matter how old you are. Writing a letter to yourself gives you insight and teaches you valuable life lessons that will stick with you long afterwards. Think of it as a time capsule.
1) Cultivate gratitude.
One of the best things for your emotional health is to practice gratitude regularly. It reduces stress and helps you realize what you have. If you’re going to write a letter to yourself, an expression of gratitude is one of the wisest things you can include.
This letter is a message in a bottle. When you open it years from now, you likely have forgotten what you wrote. So give yourself a gift relive some of the same thoughts that you feel today..
Fill it will positive affirmations and appreciation for the person you are. When it’s time to open it up, your future self will thank you.
2) Increase self-awareness.
Do you ever go back and scroll through your old Facebook posts? It hurts, doesn’t it? Like listening to a recording of your own voice.
It’s uncomfortable, it’s a healthy discomfort, because you’re confronting your own shortcomings. You’re embarrassed by your own naivety and your lack of self-awareness. This is actually a good thing, because it shows you how much you’ve grown.
When I opened my own letter after five years, I was blown away by two things– how much I had changed, and how little I had changed. It’s incredible how we can grow and shape who we are, but we are still fundamentally and unalterably ourselves.
All of your quirks and thought patterns will show up as plain as day. You take one step closer toward understanding exactly what is is that makes you authentically YOU.
3) Create your future.
Where will you be in five years? Who do you want to become?
Maybe you’re stuck in a dead-end job, or you just graduated and you’re uncertain about your future. It can start to feel like your best days are behind you.
This exercise helps get your thoughts out of the present and keeps you focused on what is yet to come. Sit down and address a letter to yourself in 3, 5, or 10 years and tell me that you don’t feel hopeful and excited for your future.
Let your mind run wild. Think big and give yourself permission to be wildly ambitious. What principles will guide your life? What do you hope to accomplish? How are you going to do it? If you vividly imagine your future in concrete terms, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
4) Appreciate the passage of time.