At some point, we’ve all thought, “If I’d known then what I know now…” Usually that phrase is followed by, “life could be so different” or “I would have done lots of things differently.” What do you think about when you imagine being able to share wisdom with your younger self? Have you ever taken the time to write this down? Well, that’s what I’m asking you to do this week!
Whether you’re more comfortable with a pen and paper or at the keys of a computer, you will start to realize a ton about yourself by sitting down and actually communicating what lessons and knowledge you value most in your life so far. So, let’s write a letter to the 18-year-old version of you, taking into consideration the steps below.
1. Thank yourself. Before anything else, take a moment to let your younger self know you love and appreciate her (or him). I always encourage expressing gratitude as often as possible. Can you remember the last time you thanked yourself for all the amazing skill, talents, achievements, insights you’ve developed to come this far?
2. Challenge yourself. This version of you is 18 years old and surely dealing with a variety of challenges, from finishing high school to choosing a career or a university or college degree and more. Ask the younger you to take some time away from those typical concerns and spend a little time thinking about what YOU really want. As long as the plan you create is focused to your needs and true desires, you can’t go wrong! Most important message here is always stay connected to your inner voice.
3. Guide yourself. How many helpful personal growth and development tools have you learned since you were 18? What if you had been aware of those exercises when you were young and life really started to become challenging? Share your knowledge and wisdom and give yourself a heads up on the positive power of meditation, or daily exercise, or whatever grounds you in times of struggle. Being able to calm yourself and come back to being content with your being is a very important aspect of finding happiness.
4. Encourage yourself. It’s easy to get bogged down in the everyday events of life and forget what an amazing job you do at being you. Imagine the effect a little encouragement can have, and add a few notes of motivation for the 18-year-old you. I would tell myself: “Pay attention to what you’re passionate about. Don’t neglect the voice inside yourself that speaks your truth. Life may not always look like you thought it would, but it’s still an amazing adventure, be present and live for the now.”
5. Give yourself a break. Can you remember even a fraction of the stress and pressure you felt when finishing high school? You’re 18, and maybe you’re expected to start life as an adult now, but clarity of goals and a direction in life doesn’t come overnight. For anyone. Remind your younger self to be patient with you. Maybe your life plan isn’t clearly laid out right now, and that’s okay. Remind yourself that as long as you’re stepping in the right direction, even if you’re taking baby steps, you’re making progress. Be proud!
Taking a break means also remembering to have some fun and downtime. We all know that “all work and no play” is not really living, we are just existing, and you and your younger version deserve much more than that. Don’t be afraid to pause and spend time finding what you love about life.
6. Remind yourself that everything will be okay. As effective as encouragement and advice can be, and as many things as you undoubtedly have to share with the young you, above all, remind yourself that everything will be okay. We can all use motivation and words of wisdom from time to time, but when life gets difficult, what we really want to know is that we can survive and make it through to the other side. And you know you can, so reassure yourself. Thinking back my daily affirmation as an 18 year old girl would have been – “Everything will be ok, I am safe.”
I tell my clients this frequently; “When you write your letter, treat your previous self as a friend you dearly love and cherish. Be gentle with your advice and know that your 18-year-old self still has a long way to go before growing into the wise, brave, strong and independent person you are now.”
When you finish your letter, contemplate how you feel now that you’ve expressed what means most to you along the route of your life. Then, when you’re ready, read the letter out loud with a clear mind. What effect does it have on you now? How is that different than the way your younger version would react?
I would love to hear from some of you who are comfortable sharing the letters you wrote. These can be such powerful experiences, and I am always happy to share this step in your journey. Share a snippet (or more!) in the comments below. What would you say?