Most of what I’ve written about in the last few months has focused on change management from a macro-perspective, which is completely natural given my inclination to try and change the “whole” of the system, rather than one piece of it. However, today I’d like to focus on the micro-perspective of change management – the individual.
In 1959, a geologist put a message in a bottle and buried it in the Arctic. The note and a companion note nearby explained that they were buried a specific distance to the edge of a nearby glacier. The note(s) then asked the person who found them to measure the current distance to the glacier and then mail that information to researchers at Ohio State University.
The notes weren’t found until… 50+ years after written. [Spoiler, but not really a spoiler: the glacier had retreated over 200 feet in that timespan.]
There have been so many technological advances since 1959, so we don’t necessarily need to look to put our memories on paper and bury them in a time capsule to be opened 60 years from now. Instead, we have tools that have reduced the legwork (to essentially zero) allowing you to use the very same device on which you’re reading this to write yourself a letter and have it sent to you on a date of your choosing. Pardon?
Have you ever wanted to send yourself an email weeks or months into the future? Well, as it happens, you now can à https://www.futureme.org/
The interface is relatively simple. You begin writing yourself a letter and then you can choose when you want it to be sent to you. They prompt the user with 1 year, 3 years, or 5 years, but you can also choose the specific date (so if you want 2 weeks, 6 months, 18 months, etc.). Then, you decide whether you want to keep your letter private or release it to the public (anonymously). Lastly, you enter your email address, press send, and reap the benefits of knowing that you ‘put something out into the universe’ that you’ll be receiving at a later date.
There’s a lot of potential uses for this kind of a service, but I’m going to focus on the micro. As a person reading this, there’s a good chance that you have (at least one) goal for yourself. These goals probably involve some degree of change, most notably, within you. Maybe you want to learn how to code in Python. Maybe you want to learn how to be better with budgets. Maybe you want to expand your network.
Beyond the surefire way to make change (cue, reward, routine), it also helps to hold yourself accountable for that change. To aid in helping you make progress in this regard, you could send yourself a letter at some of the different times into the future. Maybe at the 4-week mark, your email to yourself details some of the reasons why you’re trying to make the change (and to maybe re-motivate you?). Maybe at the 6-month mark, the email talks about all the things you think you’ll be doing with this newfound skill/ability. When you see the 6-month email, you might have fallen short of where you thought you’d be, or maybe you’ll be on a different track altogether.
This exercise can be aspirational, but it can also be semi-reflective. Meaning, maybe you want to put your thoughts down “now,” but be able to review those thoughts 10 weeks from now. For instance, have you ever made a decision and then many weeks later, wondered what it was you were thinking when you made that decision? This tool gives you that opportunity to bare your soul (to yourself) and here’s the important part – without any confirmation or hindsight bias!
So, take a chance and give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Write your (future) self a letter.