Each January, as I ride the celebration and clarity of the New Year, I write my future self a letter. This letter isn’t focused on resolutions, or what I need to work on, or change. It’s about honoring. It’s about reminding myself that amidst the fast pace of my daily routines and the pursuit of my dreams, I need to stop to do four crucial things. If you’re like me, someone who is always seeking, always striving, you may need to write a letter to your future self, too.
Here is my favorite structure for writing such letters.
You can listen to an audio version of this article, look further down.
First, we need to remind ourselves to be proud. We know better than anyone what skills we take for granted, and what accomplishments we gloss over in our haste to tackle the next thing on our to-do lists. At the start of this letter, we need to tell ourselves how proud we are and why. Proud of who we are, our skills and talents, what we’ve overcome, what we’ve accomplished, and likely so much more. When we dig into this task without holding back, we’re usually surprised at the sheer number of things we name; better yet, when we read this list of accomplishments in the future, it’ll likely be at a time when we could really use another reminder.
Second, we need to celebrate ourselves. We put so much effort into celebrating holidays and loved ones, but how often do we put that energy into celebrating ourselves? How often do we celebrate how we want to celebrate? Remember, celebration doesn’t have to be a party or a fancy dinner – it could be, but only if that’s what we really want. So, at this point of the letter, we need to give ourselves permission to plan a special day just for us. Maybe we do this by giving our future self some ideas; or, maybe we just give ourselves a pep talk. The goal of this paragraph is to get the party started.
Third, we need to reward ourselves. After all, what is a celebration without a gift? This gift can be anything, as long as its significance is deeper than purchasing that practical thing or that shiny bauble. We need to reward ourselves with something that will make us grin, tingle, or maybe it will even make us squeal. In this paragraph, we can give our future self some ideas, or we can give the much-needed permission to really go for that big, zany, risky reward without an ounce of regret.
Fourth, we need to love ourselves. Sure, we can tack on a simple “I love you,” and be done with it, but let’s go further. To close the letter, why not leverage the beauty and power of words like we would with our most cherished partner? Let’s use some romance. Let’s use some poetry. Let’s bathe ourselves in love. As we write these words, it can help to picture our future self reading them. Let’s do our best to make them not only grin, but also glow.
After we sign off and seal the envelope, there are two more things to do. First, we need to put the letter somewhere safe where it won’t be disturbed. Finally, we need to choose a day when we’re going to open it, and mark our calendars so we don’t forget.
I open my January letter on the last day of February because the long winter always gets me down. Sometimes, I write a second letter to myself on the first day of Spring, and I open that one in June after the whirlwind season at work is over. I also write a letter to myself on my birthday, and I save that one for the end of September – right when work gets busy and I start to neglect my self-care.
When could you use a love letter? When you’re at your best, write to yourself at those future moments. You know yourself better than anyone, so you’ll find that you know exactly what you future self needs to hear.
Lean back and listen to the AUDIO version of this article: