Imagine you are 80 years old, it’s your birthday and you are looking back on your life with happiness and contentment. You have had an incredibly fulfilling life over the years, loving what you did and how you lived.
You have a chance now to send a message back to yourself in October 2013 – you remember back to the challenges you were facing then and the dreams you had. What words of advice and encouragement would this 80 year old, wise, loving, content version of you, with the benefit of hindsight, send to the you of today – what guidance would you offer yourself?
I give a very similar exercise to this to every person I coach before we have our session together. When I get to the part where they send a message back to themselves today, what I find is that they often come out with some incredibly wise, loving and powerful advice. It often stands in stark contrast to the negative, fear-driven, confused and panicked things they are saying to themselves day to day.
Which brings me back to one of my major points and one of the core foundations of my coaching approach – that deep down we all know what is best for us, we all know what we need to do, what changes we need to make in our lives so that we can feel free, happy and well. It’s just a matter of accessing it.
The problem is that few of us are in the practice of stopping and asking ourselves for guidance from that calm, wise, timeless side of ourselves that stands back from the madenss of our day to day lives and sees the bigger picture. But when you try it you might be surprised at how easily you can access that side of yourself.
I did this letter writing exercise as a blog post two and a half years ago (here it is if you want to read it). I still remember writing and then reading the letter back to myself and genuinely feeling huge reassurance, love and encouragement from the message I’d written to myself. In those days I was pretty harsh on myself in general so to hear myself speak to myself with such love, understanding and encouragement was powerful stuff.
And then yesterday I stumbled across it again and I was blown awayThe words I had written then, the guidance I had given myself and the forecast for a then unknown future was so spot on…part of me now looks at it and thinks how did I know? At the time of writing it I was a whirling ball of nervous, restless energy that had plenty of experience of euphoria and excitement but very little of calm contentment. In fact it felt like a place I couldn’t access at all. And yet I had faith that I would. I even knew how to get there.
And that is why I believe that we can all be our greatest source of wisdom and guidance, we just have to practice at accessing that side of ourselves. This exercise is a great place to start.
So put aside some time this week in your diary and take yourself off to somewhere with no distractions – a cafe, a park, a library and imagine you are your wiser 80 year old self, writing to you as you are today – what guidance, reassurance and encouragement do you want to give yourself?
Write it down and see what comes up for you.
I’m going to be writing another one for myself too.