Insight article

A letter to my younger self

Imagine you could go back in time, to a point in your life at which you faced a decision. Using the benefit of your wisdom and experience, you could advise your younger self as to their future – not to change history, or to alter the course of events – but to reassure them that the journey they are undertaking will come good in the end, or that their efforts will one day all be worth it.

It has become quite a popular exercise – Google ‘Letter to your younger self’ and up will come scores of blogs and articles written by people who have obviously been on such a journey, and have found it cathartic to imagine a world in which such a letter might be possible.

A world in which an angst-ridden spotty 16-year-old could read a letter from his 30-year-old future self (perhaps with an accompanying photo depicting him with stylish facial hair and a clear complexion), and be reassured that Sharon Granger from Number 17 isn’t destined to be his one true love, his broken heart will mend in uncanny correlation with the start of the new football season, and advising him to spend less time on the Xbox and more on his homework if he wants a fruitful career in Graphic Design.

A world in which a lonely pensioner could advise his younger, busier, self that he should spend more time playing with his children and telling his wife he loves her, because one day he will have all the time in the world but that world will have moved on.

Or a world in which a stockbroker who has lost everything could go back to her ambitious, hungry graduate self, and teach the lesson of caution.

What a great opportunity – sadly impossible. However, it’s a great exercise – looking back at the issues that worried, confused and saddened you in your past, and reflecting on how those issues resolved themselves, for better or worse. You should try it.

It got me thinking about what we do as a business. Generally, our clients are on a journey – they have a destination in mind, and a way in which they are going to get there. Imagine if, at the end of their journey, they could go back to the start and reassure themselves that their destination was indeed reachable, attainable, and everything they imagined it might be. They might be able to warn of a few hurdles, dead ends or errors, and outline some of the lessons they’ve learnt along the way. Or they might leave their younger selves to make those errors anyway, knowing that it’s only experience that allows both people, and organisations, to grow. But how inspiring for that CEO, or any employee, regardless of their position in the company, to know that their future self does embark on that journey, and come to the end, however that destination ends up looking. Motivational or what?

Whilst none of us can predict the future, we’re all able to tell the stories of our past. And we can probably learn more about ourselves, our ambitions and goals, from looking back into our past and seeing how we dealt with the struggles we’ve faced in our journey to date. So perhaps it’s a good exercise for us all to carry out, on a personal or professional level. And if in the future some brainiac does discover how to send items, or people, back in time or space, our letters will be ready for the first post.

Nailia Tasseel