Tip #41: Write a letter to your future self.
The Why: For someone with anxiety, the future can be a great source of fear and stress.
Most of the worries we have are in the future tense:
What if x happens?
What if I’m a failure?
What if x goes wrong?
What if there are bees?
What if there’s no exit?
But what if I told you there was a way to make the future seem a wonderful, exciting and adventurous place?
What if I told you that there’s a simple and easy technique to achieve this?
I realise that I currently sound like one of those badly made infomercials you see on T.V but stick with me here.
Write a letter to your future self.
Not the kind where you ask if there are flying cars, if robots have taken over yet or if you ever did achieve that childhood dream of becoming the world’s most prolific ice-cream taster.
Write down all the things that you want to achieve in your life, write down all your hopes, desires, goals, dreams, all the terrifying, death-defying, extreme activities you’re going to do (once the anxiety is out the way), all the places you want to travel.
But most importantly, tell them the kind of person you want to be.
Even if you have no idea what specific career you want, how many children/dogs you wish to have, what goals you’re aiming for, this is still a great exercise.
In fact, it can help you determine what you truly desire, and what’s important to you in life. Even if you just write down general ambitions such as ‘a creative job’ or ‘lots of money’ or ‘helps people’ or ‘travel around South America’ or ‘to be fearless’, these are all incredibly valid things to put in your letter.
One piece of advice while doing this: throw off all social and self-limiting constraints and visualise and write down the future that you want. Dream big here. Go all out.
“Okay, this sounds fun and all, but how does this help me overcome my anxiety about the future? If anything, thinking about my future is making me feel slightly breathless. Is there a paper bag around here?” I hear you say.
Dear reader, this letter’s purpose isn’t to write an iron-clad destiny for yourself stamped and sealed by the Lord, co-signed by fate and the universe.
The purpose of this letter is for your worst days.
You know the ones. The ones where things seem so dark and so bad you’re not sure if you can continue to fight. The ones where you can’t picture a happy future. The ones where it all seems a bit hopeless.
I keep mine in a drawer next to my bed, and on those kinds of (rare) terrible days where I can’t remember why I attempt to claw my way out of a panic attack, or why I am motivated to develop myself as a person, or why I do what’s hard and necessary even when I am so exhausted:
I read it.
I read it and I see all my big plans for the future, the kind of person I want to become, all the places I want to travel to, all the things I want to achieve.
I read it and remember why.
I’m doing all this because I want that future, and I’m not going to let anything stop me. Especially not myself.
Even when you’re having a good day, sometimes reading over it and reminding yourself of your purpose in life, or what you wish to do with your years can solidify your motivation and determination right now.
It feels great to read it and feel excited about all the possibility in life!
But, I know that writing such a monumental letter can be quite a daunting task, so I’ve made a little guide for doing so:
First, divide your letter into five or six sections (or as many as you want really).
For instance, mine is divided into: Love, habits, achievements, adventures, goals, soul.
Second, try to write down at least four things under each section that you want to accomplish (or again, as many as you can think of).
Then, put these all into full sentences and proper words.
Oh, and don’t forget to sign off politely at the end, you don’t want to anger future you more than they probably already are for eating that four-pack of muffins, not reading for two hours every day and not going to the gym like I promised (though maybe that’s just me).
Write a letter to your future self. Remind yourself all the hope you have for the future and the person you are going to be by the end of this long journey.