As we reflect on our lives, it’s common to question what advice you might give your younger self. Today, I’d like us to take a different angle on this conversation. First, sit still for 3 or 4 minutes—5 if you can. Just let your mind go quiet.
Then, write about this—without any editing or censorship at all. Just let the words flow on the page, in bullets or fragments or whatever:
- What questions do you have for your Younger Self? What does your Younger Self want to remind you?
- What questions do you have for your Older Self, a version of you 10 or 20 years in the future? What does your Older Self want you to know?
Release any internal resistance to this exercise by understanding that it’s just a vehicle for letting your Inner Wisdom out, letting it know that you respect it, that you invite it and that you value it right now, whether or not you have before.
I had to spend a few day pondering these questions. And even now I am not certain that I really like what I came up with. Yet, in part that is why I would ask the questions so I suppose it is accurate to think that I really do want to know these things.
To my younger self, I want to know when I decided it was not okay to be fun and carefree. When I think back to my childhood and teenage years, I was very free-spirited and spontaneous. I never met a dare I wouldn’t attempt, even if it got me into trouble sometimes. I didn’t know a stranger, and had no problem making anyone a friend. I was the kid who would ride down the steep hill on a skateboard with nowhere to go and no way to really stop if a car came suddenly. I enjoyed coloring, writing poetry, skits and short stories and reading books. I loved to walk in the fields and pick strawberries and blackberries. I loved to jump off the cliffs at the lake. I was never “sporty” but I loved to walk and swim just for fun. I loved to just pop in and visit and have visitors pop in on me, sometimes at all hours of the night to just to hang out. I didn’t have to schedule every minute of my day, week, and month. Where did that go? How can I get it back? I need you to remind me as I miss that part of myself even as much as I desire the structure and quietness that I surround myself with now.
To my older self, I ask “What do you want to leave behind, to be remembered for, and to have carried on after you are gone?” I realize that life is shorter than we think and that without intentional action on my part now, the things that I accomplish will have little lasting value. Am I really spending time on what matters? Am I making the memories with those who matter most? Am I using my skills and talents now for what I want to accomplish or am I just floating along without effort because I don’t want to risk anything. I can not wait twenty years to start building what I want to be able to look back on when I am older. I need to start now. What does that look like? What steps do I need to take now to get where I want to be?
I think I ask these two questions because I want to enjoy life to the fullest. I want to be intentional, but also have fun living. I want to find the voice that has been silenced and begin living the life I want to remember. To quote Dead Poet Society (1989)
Mr. Keating: “You must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!”
This post is prompted by Tara-Nicholle Nelson’s 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders.