Back to the Future: 7 Ways to Use Your Past to Guide the Present

Last week I posted about advice we get from our “future selves” – our elders. Today I want to look at the reverse: advice we get from our past selves…

Have you ever found an old journal and been amazed at what you were thinking and feeling? Or have you ever wished that you could go back to that day when you were feeling super passionate and excited about life and bottle that enthusiasm? Well, now you can!

I have just finished reading Jon Acuff’s awesome book Quitter (side note: If you are trying to balance the tension between your day job and your dream job, this is the book for you!) Anyway, in the book, Jon refers to a website called which really captured my imagination.

The idea behind the website is so elegantly simple that it is easy to miss its brilliance… lets you send emails (to yourself) at a specified date up to thirty years in the future. You simply put in your email address, type an email, and then decide what date in the future you want it delivered to your in-box. It even lets you edit the address of future emails, should you ever change accounts.

Why is this such a powerful tool?

Well, because we all have passions and dreams and hopes for the future. Unfortunately, life has a funny way of knocking those hopes right out of you, and every now and then it’s good to remind ourselves of those dreams.

Receiving a letter from your past self can be a powerful exercise in refocusing your attention on the things that matter most, reminding yourself of the passion and intensity you once felt for those things, and giving you that much-needed encouragement to carry on.

Here are just a few ways you can use to live a more intentional life:

  1. After you attend a conference or seminar, write an email to yourself six months down the road to remind yourself how you felt, and of the key takeaways and action points.

  2. Think about the seasons ahead during the year that you typically experience lulls in enthusiasm or periods of high stress. On a day when you are feeling great, send yourself a series of emails to encourage yourself in those times.

  3. Write the classic “Where I see myself in five years” email, and have it delivered to you in five years time. I’ve heard it said that we generally overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in five.

  4. Write an email to yourself about enjoying the true meaning of Christmas and set it to be delivered at a time when things tend to become most crazy during the holidays.

  5. Send an email to yourself on those “anniversary” days in your life to remind yourself how lucky and fortunate you are.

  6. Send yourself emails about more practical matters (birthdays, anniversaries, car services, doctor check-ups etc.).

  7. Use it as a general memory pool (the contrast of what you now think about your current situation and what you will remember about it in a few years can be stark)

Real generosity toward the future consists of giving all to what is present. may just help you use your past to live more fully in the present.

QUESTION: What other uses can you brainstorm for


Thanks to Jason Fountain for his inspiration.

13 Replies to “Back to the Future: 7 Ways to Use Your Past to Guide the Present”

  1. This was a great post Tom. Thanks. I love hearing from “real” people who have experienced something good instead of from “marketeers” who just simply want to sell their product. This seems like a worthwhile site to visit. God bless. Darryl.


  2. This post is great. I loved the site. I just used it to remind me of the great things I have to do with my free time when I finish this project I’ve been working on. I think too often we want free time but when we get it, we don’t do what we wanted to do with it. We forget time is scarce once we have plenty of it.


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