How?

Writing A Letter To Yourself

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 template.

  • 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 authenticity.

  • 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.

Thing 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 important today.

A Letter To Myself is Copyright 2004 by Leo A. Notenboom.
All rights are reserved, however permission is granted to use the example letter as a template or starting point for your own letter to yourself. This website may not be otherwise copied or reproduced without prior written permission. Contact leo (at) notenboom.org for more information.