When you were in middle school, you might have just written in a dairy to vent about the fact that your crush didn’t even look at you in the hallway that day. But plenty of adults keep journals to reflect on their day to day lives, deeper issues that they might be grappling with, and the dreams they have for the future—and hey, wallowing in unrequited love is still fair game.
Writing in a journal on a regular basis is good for your mental health, and it’s a great way of working through any problems that might be on your mind. Sometimes when you’re feeling stressed out and confused, getting all of your thoughts down on paper is a good way to figure out your next steps. This is why journaling is part of a daily morning or bedtime routine for many people—it’s an opportunity to clear your head before diving into your responsibilities for the day, or unload any problems before getting cozy in bed at night.
But sometimes, just writing down whatever happens to be on your mind at the moment doesn’t really work out your creative muscles. Sure, going with the stream of consciousness flow is great, but every once in a while, you might want to take a slightly different approach to journaling. If you want to challenge yourself to try something new, you might want to give “future self journaling” a shot.
Future self journaling is essentially just writing letters to your future self. We’ve probably all done this at some point—for example, when I attended my college orientation at the start of my freshman year, we all had to write a letter to ourselves that we would get back at graduation four years later. Needless to say, reading that letter was quite an emotional moment, but even though reading the thoughts that had been running through my head four years ago was bittersweet, I was so glad that I had written them down.
At the beginning of last year, I gave future self journaling a try once more. I was starting my first year of working full-time as a freelance writer, and I was definitely nervous about going down this new path. I wrote down some encouraging words for myself and my hopes for the coming year. In December, I went back and read the journal entry, and although I didn’t accomplish everything that I had written down, I still felt pretty proud of myself overall, and even though my writing revealed that I was clearly nervous about choosing this path at the time, I was happy that I followed through with it.
Future self journaling is especially useful for transitional times in life (which is when I generally turn to this practice). It’s for those moments when you’re standing at a crossroads, and you wish that someone could just step in and reassure you that you’re making the right choice. Well, sometimes you have to be that person for yourself, and future self journaling is one way to do that. You can give yourself a pep talk, write about how the conflict you’re experiencing will be resolved in the future. And eventually, it will be great to look back on what you’ve written and see how far you’ve come!
So, how can you get started with future self journaling? Decide if this is something you might want to do on a regular basis—maybe once a month, once every two to three months, or once a year—or if you’d rather just do it whenever the mood strikes. You can write a general letter to yourself, or you can write about something you’re envisioning for the future in a certain area your life, like your love life, your friendships, your career, or where you want to live. Visualize your future and let your imagination run wild!
Set this entry aside and decide when you want to look at it again. Maybe you want to wait a full year or two before checking out what you’ve written about a long term goal. Maybe you want to read it six months from now. Or maybe you want to wait until you’ve reached a certain turning point in life before checking it out again. Whatever works for you is the right answer! When you do read it again, allow any emotions to come up without judgment. If you’re not quite where you want to be yet, treat this as an opportunity to reflect and reevaluate your goals. And if you’ve achieved what you set out to do? This is your chance to celebrate and pat yourself on the back!
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