Plan Your Future
You may find it wise to plan your future, in order to further develop your happiness life skills. Whilst we can never fully guarantee that our future life plans and aspirations will materialise exactly as we planned, developing clear ideas about a positive and happy future sets us up very well to identify and develop the happiness life skills we need as we move forward in life.
Here’s a simple but very powerful happiness building technique that you might like to try out – the “Letter from the Future”!
Most of us take time to plan our holidays but not our future. At the very least we think about where we’d like to go, how much we can spend on the trip and when we can find the time to go. We think about what clothes to take, if we need visas or not for that overseas trip, what to do with the family pets. As we do this, we form mental pictures of the holiday. We see ourselves in the future enjoying it. In a way, we enjoy it even before we get there! As we sort out the arrangements and preparations, we might find ourselves getting frustrated, but the mental picture we have about the trip acts as an internal guide, keeping us on track and motivated.
It’s strange that we put all that effort into planning for a holiday, yet rarely take the time to do that with our lives – even when we want to develop a meaningful and happy future! That’s where the “Letter from the Future” comes in. It is the ultimate tool for creating future positive possibilities. Here’s how it works:
Chose a date in the future. This could be between three months, one year of even five years’ time. Imagine that you had travelled forward in time and now you are writing a letter to yourself describing how things had changed, and how you had managed to get rid of the things that were dragging you down or bugging you. Describe how your happiness life skills have helped you develop resilience. Describe the things that are bringing you meaning and joy in your life. Write about how your personal strengths of character helped you make positive change. Include your core values. Allow your mind to roam. Describe what is happening in your life. Reflect – What you are thinking, feeling and doing? Write about every area of your life that you can think of – health, finances, romance, career, travel – the lot! Focus on whatever is most relevant for you personally. Dream big! If you put yourself right into this, you will find this a very powerful experience.
This exercise has been done with literally thousands of people (Szabo & Meier, 2009) including captains of industry, school teachers, accountants, and builders (Grant & Green, 2004). Anyone can do this and start planning their future. It really works!
By taking the time to envisage a happy, meaningful future, by exploring different ways of bringing meaning and happiness to other people and to ourselves, and by taking the time to develop happiness life skills, we can consolidate our well-being and build on the happiness foundations we have today. It is important to remember that our levels of happiness and well-being will fluctuate and change over time. Every day will not be “perfect”. Rough times come to all of us. That’s life. But happiness is found in rising to meet these challenges, in moving towards our goals, and in helping others along the way.
If we can incorporate these aspects into our “Letter from the Future”, if we can live these principles in our day to day lives, we can significantly increase our experience of the life well-lived. Enjoy!
To aid in planning your future, also check out:
Content adapted with permission from:
Grant , A. M., & Green, J. (2004). Coach Yourself.London: Pearson.
Grant, A. M., & Leigh, A. (2011). Eight Steps to Happiness: An Everyday Handbook. Melbourne: Victory Books: Melbourne University Press.
Frisch, M. B. (2006). Quality of Life Therapy: Applying a life satisfaction approach to positive psychology and cognitive therapy. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Grant , A. M., & Green, J. (2004). Coach Yourself. London: Pearson.
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change. Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 111-131.
Sheldon, K., & Elliot, A. J. (1999). Goal striving, need satisfaction and longitudinal well-being: The self-concordance model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(3), 482-497.
Szabo, P., & Meier, D. (2009). Coaching plain & simple: Solution-focused brief coaching essentials. New York, NY: W W Norton & Co.