Setting long-term goals has long been an important theme in time-management literature. While I have always been good at setting and accomplishing short-term goals, defining goals for how my life will look years from now has been a missing part of the puzzle. That missing link came into focus four years ago. It happened by added a new twist to a well-established practice.
For many years, my wife and I have composed a Christmas letter which we enclose in the cards sent each December. The letters recap the events of the past year so that friends who live in other parts of the country can keep up with what we were doing. The letters also serve to help the two of us reflect on the year just passed.
It was in January four years ago that I did something simple that turned out to be very powerful. One afternoon in January, I wrote the holidays letters for each of the upcoming three years. I wrote them as if those years had already passed and were now being recounted to friends. This act forced me to write with the same level of specificity I have always used to recount the past year. I saved the letters and reviewed them each month. Every month those thoughts were being presented to me. Once a month, I was being reminded of the direction in which I hoped our lives would be headed.
When December arrived and I sat down to write the actual holiday letter which would be mailed, the similarity between what I wrote back in January and what had actually come to pass was remarkably similar. Consciously, I had done nothing differently. Subconsciously, quite a bit was different.
Every day presents little choices that move us either closer to our desired future or farther from it. That once-a-month reminder seems to be making a difference for me. I offer this one simple idea, “Christmas Letters from the Future” for your consideration.