Hello, Future You

Have you ever written your past self a letter? It’s usually done as an exercise where you tell your past self things to do or not do based on what you’ve learned in the meantime. For example, you might say “Don’t spend so much time worrying about what people in high school think. You’re going to go on to become a billionaire and they’ll all wish they hadn’t teased you.” Or whatever actually applies.

The point

Usually, the point of a letter like that is to reflect back on what you thought and did then compared to what you think and know now. It’s also a way to look back at what you wish you’d done differently, and suggest possible changes. Financially speaking, you might say things like “Open a 401k when you start your first job, and you’ll be a lot better off. Retirement planning isn’t something to put off.” Or “Hey, you’re really going to struggle with debt if you start off by looking at it as free money instead of something to avoid. So don’t take that free t-shirt offer in college.” You’ll usually talk about some good decisions too — risks you took that paid off, or things that changed your life in a positive way.

Write future you

But what about if you wrote future you a letter, right now? Not in a “What I think life will be like then” kind of way, but exactly as if you were writing to a past self?

Think about one thing you’d change if you could, and write to yourself about how you might successfully do it. For example, suppose you didn’t start saving for retirement years ago. In fact, you haven’t started setting aside anything at all yet for retirement — but you wish you had. Now pretend you’ve done it. It’s 10 years later, and you’ve got a hefty sum socked away. How did it happen? (Of course, you can do this with anything, not just retirement.)

What to write

Write about the changes you future you would have made to make that happen. If you don’t know, ask people who really have made whatever it is happen. What steps did they take, specifically? WWhich one was first? What did they avoid? What worked out best and worst? Did they ever feel like giving up? What kept them going?

Then actually take your own advice. Starting right now. And re-read your letter regularly until you’re living that future life.

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