In today’s day and age of texting, direct messages, and email, when is the last time you actually wrote a letter?
My grandmother faithfully wrote me a letter every week for four years while I was away at college, including my semester abroad. I excitedly walked to the post office on campus eagerly awaiting her next letter, which would inform me of the happenings in my rural Ohio hometown and always ended with an expression of how much she loved me. Now as a working adult decades later, I’ve tried carry on her tradition of brightening someone’s day by sending a couple of short handwritten notes to different friends each week to encourage them, wish them well, or just to say, “Hi, I miss you.” So letter writing is not foreign to me. However, as I wrapped up my coaching program this month, one of my final assignments was to “Write a Ten Year Letter” to a friend, and it had a profound impact on me.
Our assignment was to write a letter to a close friend and date it ten years from today.** In writing this future letter, we were asked to assume that everything had gone exactly according to our hopes, dreams, plans, and desires. We were asked to recap in our letter all that has happened in our lives and were encouraged to be specific about personal/business goals, promotions, family, spiritual growth, and achievements. As I sat down to tackle this straightforward assignment, I really had to stop and think.
Where did I really, truly see myself in ten years—starting with, YIKES—how old would I be in 2028?! What would my family and personal relationships look like ten years from now? What anticipated new career moves and challenges might I encounter and overcome? As I began to write this letter (I chose to write it to my sweet coaching partner, who has become a dear friend), I began to reflect on how I might look back in ten years to this moment right here, right now in December of 2018. This year has been more blessed than I could have ever imagined. I made a major career pivot and embarked on a totally new direction in coaching. I strengthened relationships and established new ones. And I’m so grateful for each and every one of the people who have contributed to my life and well-being along the way.
As I wrote, I tried to anticipate challenges of the future, knowing that “life happens,” and it rarely turns out the way we want (Thank the Good Lord for that!). But I found myself getting excited at imagining what might be, what could happen, and how I could grow, achieve, and accomplish some big, scary professional goals I have. I also included a couple of paragraphs about some obstacles I might encounter along the way, and thanked my friend for her part in supporting and praying me through them. I reflected on what I might possibly learn on the journey of the next ten years.
The letter I wrote wasn’t terribly long. It didn’t go into the depths of any anticipated gory details of the next ten years of my life, but it did give me a profound sense of optimism, joy, and gratitude about my future and my past. I started to really envision the picture of what life might have in store for me, if God wills it. And I started to think more boldly about just how far on my new coaching journey I might actually go, all because I took the steps this past fall to join my coaching program and make an intentional change.
If you are feeling stuck, are considering something new, or want to make some profound changes in your life, I would encourage you to take 15 minutes and write a ten year letter to the person you’ve been talking to the most about how you’re feeling right now. What letter would you like to be writing in December 2028 to him or her? There is no right or wrong answer. You cannot fail! Pick up your pen and start writing—2028 will be here before we know it!
**Gary R. Collins, PhD, Christian Coaching, Helping Others Turn Potential into Reality, 2nd Edition.