Personal Development

How to Write a Letter to Your Future Self (with an Example)

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Dear future me, I’d love to remind you not to grow old.” These words were written quite boldly in one of my first future self letters. I didn’t have a letter to future self example to work off at the time, but I instinctively knew I wanted to discuss the things that scared me with my future self. 

Perhaps the assumption is that your future self will be wiser and more readily know how to handle your current worries, or maybe it’s important to remind your future self that you didn’t know now what you will know then.  

Either way, a future self letter is a vital tool for self-development and personal growth. It can also be a great giggle in a few years’ time when you read your thoughts and fears of today and realize you worried about things that didn’t happen. 

With my future self letters, I set goals, tracking my progress at different future dates, revising, and growing. What will your future self letter contain?

The When, Where, and Why of Writing a Letter to Your Future Self

A letter to your future self is a record of your life right now, creating a document you can reflect on when you have traveled a few years down the line. It also gives you a way to reflect on your life right now and consider how it will appear in the future. 

I always loved the line from The Terminator, where one waitress tells the other, “Look at it this way: in 100 years, who’s going to care?” A future self letter is about your current self wondering whether anyone will care about things in a decade, or when you’re 50, 60, or older. 

Future self letters are also about capturing special moments or pivotal experiences, so you won’t forget these in the future. Getting the job of your dreams only to quit it a day later because you realize other things matter more may be an example of a “future self letter moment.”

You can write a future self letter anytime, whenever you need to capture some important information or leave a bit of wisdom for yourself in the near future. The where of a future self letter may depend on the situations you experience and what you desire. You may be struck by inspiration while on your morning commute. Whenever an opportunity arises to write to your future self, you should take hold of it with both hands. 

Every person’s “why” of writing depends on what they experience and how they interpret their experiences in life. You may want to write to your future self to be heard, seen, and understood. Or you may write your future self letter to maintain a forward-facing attitude in life. Future self letters can also help you deal with issues and accept that not all worries will come true (in fact, most won’t). 

Pros and Cons of a Future Self Letter

There are several pros and cons to writing future self letters. Let’s consider the pros first:

  • It allows you to reflect and remember.
  • It brings planning into your control.
  • It helps to place life in perspective
  • It shares your daily legacy and records your growth.
  • It develops forward thinking instead of only focusing on the now (and the now can be totally overwhelming).

When you write future self letters, there are also a few cons to keep in mind:

  • You can become fixated on your future self, forgetting to live in the now.
  • Procrastination can worsen when you try to write a “perfect” future self letter—and the point is to just write one (no matter what’s in it).
  • You may try to make your life “epic,” forgetting that your life is unique and amazing as it is, so don’t dress up your life—just be you. 

Writing a Letter to Your Future Self: Step by Step

Ready to write your first future self letter? It can be quite intimidating to know where to start. You may not even know what to put into the letter, and are you supposed to read the letter again, or do you bury it in a dated envelope like some secret mission instructions? 

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A letter to your future self gives you a way to reflect on your life right now and consider how it will appear in the future.

Here are a few steps to help you get started with writing your future self letters and demystify the process: 

1. Decide on Frequency and Reasons for Writing Your Future Self Letters

Before you put pen to paper, decide why you are writing to your future self. Are you hoping to remind yourself of things happening now for when you are living in the future? Perhaps you want to spread gratitude for something special a decade or more from now? 

Whatever your reason for writing to your future self, it’s helpful to know why you write as you can then identify topics you want to write about. 

Also, decide whether your future self will actually read these letters, and when would you like the future you to read them? Perhaps you want to date each letter to a specific age or date you will reach in the future? 

Try this: On a blank page, with no lines, create a spider-diagram where you start with “why” and branch out to reasons why: to remember, to celebrate, to caution, to ask, to feel less alone, and more. 

2. Pick a Medium to Write the Letter

Believe it or not, but how you write the letter (either on paper or digitally) will have a significant influence on the writing process. 

Digital letters are less personal, but you can add images, voice notes, and videos to make these more interactive. Handwritten letters have personality and show how you were feeling at the time of writing the letter. There’s something deeply personal about writing each letter by hand. 

Try this: Why not have the best of both worlds by writing by hand and then scanning these letters to your computer so you can add images, voice notes, and more?

3. Decide on Contents and Your Future Self Age

For the sake of clarity and to avoid letters that ramble on endlessly, choose a few topics to add to a letter. I try not to write about more than two or three topics per letter to keep things as clear as possible. I may also use creative headings to help split where one topic begins and another ends. 

While topic headings are typical tactics used by content writers for Google, you can borrow a leaf out of their book to keep your letter clear. A list of some topics you can write about includes:

  • Events 
  • Feelings 
  • Friends and enemies 
  • Animals or pets
  • The news 
  • Lessons learned 
  • Your health 
  • Spirituality 
  • Hobbies 
  • Gratitude
  • Work 
  • Relaxation 
  • Favorites 
  • Decisions you’ve made
  • Global issues such as climate change and how you are trying to stop this
  • Finances 
  • Food 
  • Forgiveness 

4. Keep It Real and Authentic 

Your future self letter shouldn’t be too formal. Try to assume the tone of voice that is normal for a good friend to use. You want your future self to want to read your letter, so keep it interesting and light without seeming to be pretending. 

Your future self needs to believe you, so keep it real. You can also write every morning, like a journal to your future self if that works best for you.

Try this: When you have finished your future self letter, try reading it aloud and noting your body’s reactions to the sound of your voice and the words you speak. If your letter sounds like you are speaking to an audience, it’s not written for your future self. This is an honest and open discussion, not an Oscars speech. 

5. Use Reflective Questions 

The secret to any speech or talk is to establish a connection. Using reflective questions, words and associations, and real tasks are preserved for your future self to continue your introspection.

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Preserving your introspection for the future can be achieved through the use of reflective questions.

Try this: Ask questions like:

  • Do you remember when …
  • How did you …
  • Was it always like this …
  • Have you forgotten about …

6. Don’t Forget Gratitude and Compassion

When you cultivate the attitude of gratitude, you create powerful forces in your future, namely positivity and creativity. Gratitude is often reduced to a simple word—“Thanks”—when you really need to practice gratitude daily. 

Letters of gratitude also help remind you of all you have to be thankful for now and in the future. 

Having compassion with your future self is also about having self-compassion, which is something most of us desperately lack. Take the opportunity of your letter to record your understanding of your future self and reflect on why you need to be more kind to yourself. 

Try this: Write down what you do each day to show your gratitude for things that happen in your life. Some of us respond better to visual stimuli, so take a day to photograph all the things, moments, exchanges, and people you are grateful for having in your life.  

7. Future Self Example 

Dear Sara, 

Hope you are doing well. 

It’s New Year’s Eve, and as I write this letter, the fireworks and rowdy singing of the neighbors echo across the neighborhood. This year, I chose to spend the holidays alone, not traveling to my family for the first time. I wanted time for reflection and to find more inner peace. 

I’ve discovered this year that there are too many people in my life who are here simply in a transactional nature, leaching time from me. Do you still find people like that? Have you stuck to the plan I’ve made today to only have people in your (my) life who reciprocate with love and kindness?  

My spiritual journey this year has been huge, and I wish I could share it with someone. Are you still on the path of enlightenment, or have you given up and returned to easier roads where you know exactly what to do and what lies ahead? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with returning to your previous beliefs, but I do hope you stayed the course and have really discovered your own inner light.

How has your health been? Have the yoga sessions I started this year helped? I really didn’t like feeling so tired and lethargic this year, so I hope you followed through and kept up the stretching. It’s not always easy to keep doing physical exercise when you’re tired, but I know you can do it and succeed in completing the yoga classes. 

I have to talk to you about Ben and our relationship. Lately, Ben has been very clingy and needy, and I feel stifled. While I spoke to him about his behavior, he showed little interest in listening or changing. I feel lost, but I know you get me. 

Please don’t fall for guys like Ben again. You are so much worthier than what he is like. I know you can find real love where the other person communicates in your love language, and they show you the respect you are so worthy of. 

On the job front, you know the hell I’ve been through the last few years, and I really appreciate all you’ve done to encourage me. Have you found a better job? I am proud of you, regardless of what you’ve chosen. Have you set a few career goals, and how are you planning to reach them? 

As always, stay strong, keep your chin up, and eyes bright while fighting your battles each day. 

Final Thoughts on How to Write a Letter to Future Self Example

Before you know it, the future is here. While you may color your hair and botox your face, you are still aging, and you are not the same person you were 20 years ago. The future you, who is reading the letters written by you in the past, will appreciate the learning opportunities and moments for reflection that your letters bring. These letters create a bridge between the past and the future. 

Writing a letter to your future self also reads much easier when you use clear headings or themes to keep some structure in your letter—otherwise you are writing gibberish which nobody can decipher, least of all your future self. 

Sometimes, you need to write a letter of sympathy and empathy to your past self that has suffered greatly to help you feel that you were seen, understood, heard, and “gotten.” Your own empathy can be the best gift you can give yourself with a future self-letter. When you read this future self letter in 10 or 20 years’ time, you may better understand yourself and the decisions you are making right now. 

To find out more about the power of writing letters, why not read my article writing a letter to your disrespectful daughter? Happy writing!

Finally, if you don’t know the “right” way to journal, then check out this seven-step process for building a journaling habit that sticks.

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How to Write a Letter to Your Future Self (with an Example)

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