First, let me be clear: the letter posted here is fairly generic. While it's naturally
based on my own life experience, you are welcome to use the letter as
your own. Since some of the specifics may not apply to you, I recommend
you personalize it.
But it's better than no letter at all.
Is the concept even right for you? This I
can't answer for you. Think about the experiences you've had
and seen. Do you have life lessons that you are afraid of losing by
the time you might need them? Is there a family history of, to put it
bluntly, stubbornness? Would you listen to such a letter?
In my opinion the risks of writing a letter to yourself are very
small, and the potential benefit to yourself and to the people around
you, is very large.
Customize the Letter.
Write your own, or use mine as a template, but make sure it's
meaningful to you. Or rather, try to make sure that it will be
meaningful to your future self. In my case, drawing on my parents
story is likely to remain an issue I can drawn on as I age. Perhaps
it'll be something else for you. I believe that your future self
is more likely to accept a personal message than a generic
Keep the language simple, and the message short.
As scary as it is to contemplate, you may not have the cognitive
ability that you do now.
Print it and Sign it. The letter should be on paper,
and you should sign and date it yourself. Besides the risks of various
technologies changing by the time the letter is needed, a real
signature is likely to be another reminder to your future self of the
process that lead you to write the letter, and of it's
Give it to Someone you Trust If there's risk
at all, it's that this letter, asking you to trust the bearer,
will fall into the wrong hands. You know, today, who the right person
is. Probably a spouse or other family member whom you expect to
"be there" for you as you age. (As an aside, I'd
encourage spouses to exchange letters to themselves.) Remember,
it's this person who'll have the task of deciding when to
remind you of your wishes when your actions seem inconsistent.
That's a hard decision for a hard time.
Think of a letter to yourself as a kind of living will. Rather than
providing instructions to those around you when you cannot, the letter
is a way to convey instructions to yourself that you feel are