Last summer I was instructing a Seamanship Course for Outward Bound on the coast of Maine. The program is rugged and designed to build character, develop leadership and self-reliance, and encourages teamwork. One of the course elements is a Solo. Students spend three days alone in the wilderness with sparingly few things: a rain tarp, sleeping bag, clothing, water jug, a bagel, small block of cheese, apple, a bag of nuts & raisins, and a journal. They don’t even get a flashlight. In addition to their journal writing, one thing they are expected to do while ‘on solo’ is to write themselves a letter, which will be mailed to them six months after Course completion. As an instructor, I also like to write myself a letter.
I just received my Six Month Letter today.
Dear Teresa, this is your Six Month Letter, coming from Burnt Island and frantically written because I’m running late to hike out and pick up the students from their solo…
I note how great my co-instructor is and that the group of students I’m working with is also fantastic. Then, I get down to business:
Six Months Letters are about goals—to make sure I’ve met them. And about reflection—to make sure I remember what is important and what I’ve learned out here.
- Get your but in gear and finish writing a book! It’s about time.
- Keep working out daily—so I will have a hot body—because its possible!
- Read every day, not only to learn about the things that are important to you, but also the things that are important to the world. It will make you a more understanding and better citizen.
Things to Remember (because sometimes you need reminding):
- The sights, sounds, and smells of the ocean.
- That getting into nature daily is absolutely necessary for the soul.
- Take Benji birding and teach him the songs and birds.
- Take ocean dips, even in the cold waters of Maine. They will be uncomfortable at first, but it’s important to maintain your tolerance for cold water.
- Keep looking forward and putting energy into the things you love, because you are worthy of something great.
Yourself, six months ago
At a time when New Year Resolutions are still fresh on my mind, I received this letter and was reminded how important it is to set goals and reflect on them often. Many of my goals are still the same, but I also have new goals now to add to those from six months ago. Two years ago Ben and I sat down in the cockpit of Elizabeth and together wrote our Manifesto which documented our shared lifestyle goals. Last summer at our wedding we had our friends and family put notes in a time capsule, which will be unearthed in ten years. I wrote a 10 Year Letter to Myself and a Letter to My Future Children (if I have any). Then, in September, I made a new friend who introduced me to the idea of a Life Mission Statement.
Whatever you call it:
— a letter to yourself
— a life mission statement
— a manifesto
— a time capsule letter…
It’s important to set goals, write them down, visit them often, and revise them as needed. Document your goals in creative ways so reminders come as surprises, when you least expect them. Today it was absolutely fun and refreshing to read this letter to myself written six months ago. It keeps me on my toes, focused, and always moving forward!
What’s going to be in your letter to yourself?