I’ve been writing letters to myself for the past few years. It usually reads something like this:
Dear Future Tim,
Here’s what is going on in your life right now. These are some of your successes. Here’s what you’re worried about at the moment. How did this turn out? Did that go the way you wanted it to?
Obligatory Positive Encouragement,
It takes me just over a month to completely forget about having written a letter to myself. Part of me believed that with time the ‘time-capsule’ awe of speaking with your former self would wane. So far it’s been four plus years, and I’m still surprised and shocked each time.
Most letters I send a month into the future. Some are put years into the future. Heck, I have a letter written to the future father version of myself giving brief advice on remembering what it meant to be a kid.
Here’s why it works:
- We lack any shred of objectivity about ourselves. I’ve found the only way to view yourself without blinding bias is to let time distance the various versions of you.
- No one spends as much time thinking about you as you do. It’s humbling experience to get a verbal slap in the head from your past self, or to get a simple but much needed reminder to maintain perspective. Worried that in X days/months/years you might _____? Send an email to yourself to keep it in check.
- In general, we tend to overplay our failures and forget our successes. Reading about just how far you’ve come reminds you that “yes, you haven’t just been wasting your life on the internet” or maybe that “yes, you’ve done nothing in two months”. Either way, it’s a motivational tool.
- It makes our imminent problems seem less and less scary. Ever chuckle at the fact that getting a certain AIM message or having a date to the middle school dance was at one point a matter of life or death? Hearing about your past problems always help you realize just where you should have worried more, but usually that you should have worried less. Stress management for the win.
A couple observations I’ve made thus far: I change much more often and regularly than I thought in many ways (e.g. writing style, mannerisms, interests) and in others, I change slowly (ambitions, insecurities) — but I’m always changing. To be honest, I have no idea how many letters I have out there scheduled to come back, but it’s a bit of a time-jump every time one appears in my inbox.
To the @futureme team, keep it up. (And add some security to your password storage!)