Next Christmas Give Yourself a Gift

Curious this week to visit a local bookseller and see an eye-catching journal type thing titled “Letters to Future Myself: Write Now, Read Later.” Very cleverly designed, it was a group of envelopes bound together in an actual book. Each envelope had instructions on it for writing different letters to yourself; “Where I want to go…” “These are my roots…” “It was an extraordinary day…” Once the letters are written you are to seal them in the envelopes and open sometime in the future. The title tag line said “a paper time capsule.” Priced at just under $15, it felt nice in my hands.

yourself-giftI didn’t end up buying the book. Although impressed by the idea, I was somewhat disappointed that I hadn’t created it, you see, I’ve used this concept of writing a “Letter to Yourself” for years; both in my retreats and with people I’ve mentored. The instructions for my letters are a little different; “Where am I today on my spiritual Journey…” or “What new discipline would I like adopt this season …” or “What I’ll do differently next Lent …”

Not having a cleverly produced book, I simply have the participants self-address an envelope and seal up their private letters. I have a special place at my workspace where I keep the letters and I mail them out a year later. It is a great exercise and one that never fails to surprise. It is amazing to read your own words, written to yourself, in your own handwriting. Hindsight is an interesting gift. Having that ability to reflect on how you were feeling, and compare it to how things actually unfolded.

I thought it would be fun to share this idea with you. We don’t need the clever journal, just some paper and an envelope.

Before you begin, take a minute and think on your hopes and aspirations for the next year. Think also on the uncertainties the next season will bring. Maybe you have fears and anxiety about an unresolved issue? Maybe something special is going to happen this year? Whatever is going on, capture your thoughts, ideas, and feelings as they are – today.

Now, as you write your letter to your future self, be encouraging.

Encouragement is important to our mindset and to inner peace. Deep within each of us is the desire to have someone say, “You’ll figure this out.” “You’ll get through this.” Be that person and say encouraging things to your future self.

Because we’re doing this virtually, I can’t offer to hold your letter at my desk until next year. So, I had a thought, as you clean up your Christmas decorations, tuck your “Letter to My Future Self” in a box. You’ll discover it next year around this time. I know you’ll find those encouraging words, from yourself, in your handwriting, a welcome gift.

Mine will begin something like this, Dear Future Lisa, Surely, 2017 won’t be as difficult as 2016! I know you’re worried about …

Drop me an email or leave a comment here if you’re going to write a letter to yourself. I’ll make a note in my calendar so that I’ll remember next year to ask you about it. If you’ve worked with me before, you know I will.

17 thoughts on “Next Christmas Give Yourself a Gift

  1. Very cool idea. We did something similar at our wedding–we asked people to give us their best advice for our first anniversary, our fifth and our tenth. We opened the envelopes on those dates–and it was amazing the lessons contained therein. Much truth, too. How wonderful to remember the old friends, as well. I’m going to try something like this for myself now.

  2. I recall looking at past years’ financial records–how I remembered the nail-biting I experienced during the hard months. And yet, my fears were only phantoms. God was faithful, and somehow there was money enough for our needs. I was very encouraged.

    So perhaps I’ll list things I’m apprehensive about as I begin 2017, put the letter with the Christmas ornaments, and then in December compare my worries to what actually did happen. 🙂

  3. I’ve done similar activities with students–it’s been a long time since I did it. Yeah, I think this could be useful. It’s on my “to-write” list now.

    I like that this activity can be done in both directions. Writing to our future selves, but I also recall the first you-led retreat I attended, in which we wrote letters to our little girl selves, and that was equally powerful.

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