Sometimes it helps to write a letter to yourself.
When you come to think of it, it is not such a weird idea.
The idea of writing a letter to myself came from Shaunta Grimes post How To Be Your Own Business Coach. Although her post is about sharing techniques she learned from a business coach, there was a gem right in the middle of it which intrigued me.
Shaunta’s coach asked her to fill out a form at the end of the month with standard questions regarding how she was going towards meeting her goals. She thought the form was a bit limited in describing what was going on. So, instead of filling out the form, she wrote her coach a detailed letter.
She was not clear whether her extremely thorough letter impressed her coach or frightened him, but it ended up being so profoundly helpful to her that she wrote one again the next month and the month after that.
She called them end-of-the-month letters.
That was a fascinating idea.
What if, instead of a coach, one write such letters to oneself.
These end-of-the-month letters could be a great way to assess how one is fairing against one’s goals and life in general.
“My end-of-the-month letter provides me with a real overview of how my business is doing — not just how I think it’s doing. I have a tendency to think everything’s okay, even when things are clearly not okay. Maybe I just don’t want to believe that things are heading downhill, or I’m so focused someplace else that I don’t even realize I’ve dropped a ball somewhere. Conversely, every once in awhile, I’ll find myself certain that the sky is falling, when really, everything’s holding pretty steady. Writing allows me to take a dispassionate top-down look at what’s really going on.”
I am the exact opposite of her. I have a tendency to think that everything is no okay and that I have achieved nothing. I concentrate on the things I have not done and tend to forget the ones which I have accomplished.
When I made a shift from competitive to a creative life earlier this year, I set myself some rules.
The prime one was that I will not waste time. As one grows older it becomes quite evident how little time one has left. Annie Dillard puts it so succinctly that, ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.’ that was one thing I wanted to be aware of.
The only way to make sure that I don’t waste time was to keep a tab of it. I started keeping track of what I do each day in my daily journal. That journal is now a great tool to assess where my time goes each month and what I have achieved.
I sat down to write myself a letter at the end of September.
I wrote about what I was working on, what I was succeeding at and what was proving difficult. I realised that I hadn’t met the goal I had set myself for September. I hadn’t met it not for the lack of effort but because I had set it too early. Its time hadn’t come yet. I listed the new things I started in September and a number of things I accomplished. They were all there in my daily journal and I had forgotten about them. It was an eye-opening exercise, allowing me to see how far I had come in just thirty days. Because there were so many things that still needed to be done, I was feeling overwhelmed and underachieved. It was not a reason to beat myself.
The end-of-the-month letter made me realized I need to be kind to myself.
It made me recognise that I need to give myself more credit for the things I had achieved.
I noticed I was doing too many things which are diluting my efforts and adding unnecessary stress.
I have decided to concentrate my efforts on one to two projects at a time.
The end-of-the-month-letter helped me understand the importance of celebrating.
Life is short and art is long.
It might take me my whole life to get where I want to be. But that is not a reason to not celebrate little victories along the way. Each milestone well celebrated inspires us to achieve the next one.
Afterall it the journey which brings more joy than the destination.