Posts Tagged ‘a letter to yourself’

The road to hell is paved with good intentions and New Year’s resolutions.  Often in life, despite one’s best intentions and hard work, success or failure are determined more by fate or destiny than hope and tenacity.

A few years ago I went on a spiritual retreat.  It took place at a monastery in the hills above mission-rich Santa Barbara.  The mission has since burned down.  I think there’s a warning in there somewhere or at least excessive symbolism.

Anyways, as part of the guided experience, I was directed to write a letter to myself.  The letter was to be waiting for me at the retreat the following year.  Whether or not it was just a sales ploy to get me to re-up for another dose of zen, it struck me as an interesting and positive assignment.  I have always wished that I could speak to my younger self and tell him to be less afraid.  So, filled with the self-help élan born of the previous days of small group work, sharing, guided meditation and monk cooking, I wrote to myself in glowing terms about the year both ahead of and behind me in the meta moment.

I returned the following year.  My letter awaited me.  I tore it open — the assignment long forgotten — and read.  It was devastating.  The year had been a brutal series of defeats and disappointments on every front in my life.  The hope and optimism of my words were salt in the wounds reality had inflicted in the months since I had written them.

At the end of the retreat I was faced with the prospect of writing my future self another such letter.  My first impulse was to run screaming from the building.  Sadly, I’d ridden up with someone else, so dramatic exits were a bit impractical.

Instead, I gave it some thought and wrote myself a very different letter.  I didn’t attend another retreat.  The monastery burned down but the hosts saved my letter from the flames and mailed it to me the following year.

I ran across it recently.  It comes to mind as I consider formulating my resolutions for the coming year.  I commend it to you here as you consider the year ahead:

Dear Eric,

Remember to be thankful for who you already are and not sorrowful for who you are not yet.

There was much progress between this letter and the one which came before it, yet the last letter left you sad and disappointed over your fate..

It seems wiser to celebrate the unfolding of your life than to anticipate the happiness winking at you from the horizon.  One never knows the distance to the goals of life and it is the journey that takes all the time.

Enjoy the ride –

I love you and you are doing a great job,


All best wishes for a Happy and Prosperous New Year, unless you have other plans!


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