Marty McFly did it...
The one thing most of us fantasized about when we were kids; he travelled through time.
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to go back and visit a younger of yourself?
All the things we know now - how to make the right choices, who to trust, what to worry about, what's not worth stressing over.
Marty had the help of a souped-up DeLorean and a crazy professor type to help him with his journey to the future. But all you need is a notebook, a trusty pen and a few pointers on how to start future self journaling.
Why Start a Future Self Journal?
I've always enjoyed writing in my journal, but then a friend suggested I pen a letter to my future self.
At first, I was sceptical. In my mind, it felt like a namby-pamby exercise.
But after a bit of research, I realised, writing to your future yourself comes with perks. Here's just a few of them.
1. We can reimagine our lives over and over
Most of us have limited insight into our future behaviour. We tend to think that the person we are today is the person we will always be.
We get stuck in a pattern of catastrophic thinking.
We convince ourselves that change isn't coming anytime soon:
'I'll be single for the rest of my life'.
'I'll never get the job of my dreams'.
'My life sucks, and it always will'.
'I love pasta, and bread, and custard cream biscuits way too much... I could never give up carbs'.
But we're not the finished article. Not even close.
Our personality, skills, likes, and dislikes all change over time.
Writing to the future version of yourself frees you from these beliefs.
It helps you see yourself in a different light.
And if you're not happy with anything you see, you can work to actively change that, by changing the stories you tell your future self.
2. We can make better choices
You'll be writing to yourself in your current guise. Which means, you've got the opportunity to plant little seeds of guidance.
And, hopefully, these will begin to sprout as you grow into your future self.
Do you have an inkling of what kind of life, or skills you'd like to have a year, five, or 10 years from now? Maybe you'd love to be fluent in a language, or become an accomplished guitarist. Maybe you'd want to have more money, develop new healthy habits, or be more sociable.
Use your journal to instruct your future self on the steps you need to take now to transform your later life.
With those steps written down, you're more likely to make choices today that will benefit you in the future.
3. We can remember more clearly
When it comes to remembering past events in our lives, our memories aren't very reliable.
I mean, can you remember what you were like 10 years from now?
How about five years? One year?
You might be able to remember bits and pieces, but it'll be vague.
The entries you write to your future self can serve as a time capsule -- making note of any major events, challenges, thoughts, feelings, and obstacles you were facing years before.
It's a good way to keep track of the past versions of yourself.
4. We can see how much we've grown
It's a satisfying feeling. That feeling you get when you realise how much you've grown over the years. But it's even more rewarding to read your own written account of that growth.
Not just in the things we've achieved, but in how far we've come in our thinking, character, and attitude.
What better way to receive a comforting pat on the back, than from a letter you wrote years before. And what better way to use this as inspiration to continue to grow through the next chapter of your life.
How to Do Future Self Journaling?
Getting started isn't always easy, but hopefully, these tips will help.
1. Understand your purpose
Figure out your reasons for writing to yourself.
Is it for self-reflection?
To offer advice and support, share stories, and milestones.
Or express self-compassion and love.
Perhaps it's a combination of the above.
Or perhaps it's something different.
Knowing what you hope to achieve will make your journal entry more meaningful to the future you.
2. Decide on the format
Some people like to write in a paper journal (that's my preference).
Others choose to write digitally.
While this article is geared towards paper users, you can choose to write digitally. You can use a tool called Future Me for this. It has the added benefit of providing storage for your future-self entry once written.
3. Be positive and hopeful
Okay, but what if you're feeling sad, or angry at the time of writing?
Remember there's a time and place to process negative emotions. And your future self journal is not it.
Ask yourself this:
If your future self is the person you want to become one day -- a happier, more confident version of you -- it's in your interest to write with a sense of hopefulness.
You want to feel like you're in a good enough place to do this.
4. Write your journal entry
Write as though you were writing an actual letter to yourself, as a friend.
Fabricate a persona, it that helps.
When you write a letter that's addressed to yourself in this way, it creates an expectation of content and tone. You expect this letter to be personal, familiar, supportive and direct.
What Should You Write to Yourself?
Not sure of what to include in your letter? Below are a few suggestions.
You don't have to write all these in a single letter. Pick a theme that interests you, and run with that.
Write about mistakes you made that you overcame, and what you learned through the process. How did you go from being that person to who you are today? What steps did it take to get there?
Was it hard to overcome your challenges?
Write that all down.
How these have shaped you into becoming the person you are today. Tell stories about your family, and memorable moments.
Write about who your friends are, and why they matter to you. And what you hope your friendship circle will evolve into in the future.
Describe your current relationship with that special person, and what you hope that relationship will look like in the future.
Or if you're single, write about whether you intend to stay single, or be in a relationship. Describe what your ideal partner will look, and be like.
Remind yourself to spend more time with the people you care about and offer advice on how you can improve these relationships.
Milestones you've reached
Did you get married, have kids, buy your first home, start a business? Include whatever milestone you feel is significant in your life.
Reflect and celebrate these life-changing events in your letter.
Things you'd like to change
Part of growing is recognising things you'd like to change.
Maybe you want to focus on improving your health, getting a better job, making more money. Or spending less time on social media, and more time reading and learning about yourself.
Be as candid as you can. Remember, your future self will thank you for it.
Question, question, question
It's so much easier to talk about ourselves when we're responding to prompts. So pretend someone else is asking the following questions:
I use a very casual salutation, but you can address it however you like:
Dear Future Self, Dear [Name]... whatever works for you.
And don't forget to sign and date it.
You don't need a time machine to have a conversation with yourself in the future. All you need is a pen, and a notebook to journal in.
Write to your future self so you can remind her or him of your goals, give yourself advice, and celebrate how far you've come.