Better Than a New Year’s Resolution: A Thank You Letter

writers-desk-with-cappuccinoIt’s a new year, which brings a new opportunity to create the life you’ve been longing for.

It’s a chance to give deep reflection to where you’re trying to head in your life, and maybe start committing to taking a few steps to get there.

On this blog, we tend to discuss career goals and organizational health. But this time of year is also great for thinking through goals and hopes for your whole life—work, personal, physical, mental, etc.

Lots of people like to make New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you call yours an intention instead of a resolution.

But New Year’s resolutions can be a bit unyielding. If your life and circumstances change, making the possibility of achieving a resolution unlikely, it can be demoralizing. It might feel like failure. And if life opportunities and circumstances change, you want to make sure you aren’t locked into a resolution that doesn’t make sense for your path anymore.

This year, I’m avoiding a full-blown New Year’s resolution in lieu of an exercise I hope will be more forgiving, insightful, and meaningful: a New Year’s thank you letter.

Want to try it? It’s simple.

First, take a few minutes to imagine where you’d like to be headed in your life. Imagine it’s a year or two down the road, and things are really going well for you. How do you spend your days? How do you feel? What have you invested more of your energy in? What have you given up or turned away from? How are your relationships? How is your health, your savings, your career? Sit and picture this for a few minutes, and imagine you are really there, in that better place.

Often, we have a sense of what we want our future life to be, even if that’s just because we know what parts of our lives are causing friction right now. Feel free to really step into the role for a while.

You may find yourself holding back, thinking: That’s unrealistic. I won’t get there in a year, or even more. Try to set those internal fears aside and just imagine, at least for a bit, that your life really can be where you want it to go.

Now, start writing the letter. It’s a letter that future you is writing to current you. And you are thanking yourself for taking the steps you need to take to get to that better place.

Future You might have a lot to say—reassurances that the difficult times will get better, acknowledgement of the hard work and sacrifice that will be necessary. The journey ahead might take some courage, some persistence. But remember to write the letter from a state of deep fulfillment, knowing that you have gone through the hard times and on to the better part of your life. Write as if everything worked out for the best.

It can be useful to describe the life Future You is enjoying. Talk about relationships, career, joys, current challenges, and how things have changed with time.

But remember that this is ultimately a thank you letter. Thank yourself for the work you did. Try to tap into that gratitude.

Then give whatever salutation seems most appropriate and sign it “Your future self.”

That’s it. Be open to whatever you notice in the process. And then close it up and keep the letter nearby and reread it whenever the time feels right. It can serve as a reminder for where you are going and why you want to get there.

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