Two years ago, I started one of my most cherished holiday traditions: writing a letter to myself on New Year’s Day for the following New Year’s Day. Last year, I penned this note on Jan 1, 2014. Last night, on Jan 1, 2015, Don and I sat by the fire and sipped a glass of champagne as we tore open the envelope holding last year’s letter. It began, “Dear Don and Bethany of January 1, 2015, Happy New Year!”
Opening the note is like having a crystal ball. At the moment you wrote the letter, the year that has now passed was “the open and lovely white page on the waiting desk” (a line from my favorite David Whyte poem What to Remember When Waking. See below for the full poem.). You held unanswered questions, hopes, dreams, concerns, and intentions, that you now know the answer to. You’ve lived the year that once laid ahead.
For me, it helps ground my perspective. It helps me see that my greatest fears from last year generally turn out to not be such a big deal. It allows me to appreciate that my greatest hopes sometimes turn into disappointment, and yet, here I am in the present, grateful and content. It gives me a chance to see how I’ve grown through the year and whether I’ve come out on the other side of the calendar living more aligned with who I want to be in the world.
The fun thing about it is that you can really make it your own. You can write it to yourself, your team, your family. You can write it in the present tense or future tense. First person or third. Write with crayons, colored pencils, or markers. Include sketches. Have fun with it! It can be your very own 1-year time capsule.
Ready to give it a try? Here are a few suggestions:
- Write by hand. Writing the old fashioned way forces you to slow down and really be present to the process. I know I can shut my brain off when I’m typing, but find that much harder to accomplish when I’m moving pen across paper.
- Establish the setting. I love to capture where I’m physically sitting when I write the letter and what I notice around me. What do I see? What does it feel like, smell like, look like from the perspective I’m sitting in right now?
- Tell a story about something ordinary that happened today. Remind yourself of something that transpired, even if it was very minor; include details and how you felt about it.
- Chronicle a few of the biggest developments from the year behind you. Answer these questions:
- What stands out most about the year that passed? What did you learn? What emotions were most present for you?
- What are you most proud of as you look back? What stand out as some of your greatest accomplishments?
- Where do you feel you were out of alignment with your best self? What made that so?
- Right at this moment, what do you feel most grateful for?
- Capture your dreams for the year ahead. Who would you like to be? What would you like to do? Consider these prompts:
- What are your greatest hopes for the year ahead? If you’re writing to more than 1 person (in my case, I write to both Don and myself), include a brief note to each person that outlines your hopes for them, too.
- Set a few intentions. Intentions are different from resolutions. For a great discussion on how, you can listen to one of my favorite podcasts here (it’s #26, dated 12/23/13).
- What do you choose? I like to remind myself of this each day when I wake. Examples from years past are: I choose peace; I choose gratitude; I choose empowerment. It’s fun to see what these choices lead to!
- Seal the envelope. Make it a bit of a mystery and keep yourself from peeking early. To me, opening this envelope on New Year’s Day feels like the final Christmas gift.
Happy Writing! And wishes for peace and contentment in this New Year.