2009 Intention Review: a letter to myself

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Good morning and happy new year! I know it’s a few days past the actual ball drop, but I’d like to start 2010 off by sharing how I celebrate new years with intention. Not to be misleading, this New Years Eve night I happened to have a party with close friends and definitely didn’t do any major soul searching.

But during the month of December and over the last few days, I have started to create a vision of what I’d like 2010 to hold.

Where it all began

Writing a letter to my future self is a yearly tradition for me which started out in 2006, during a very difficult time. Back in my junior year of college, I faced a lot of hard realities, and needed to rebuild my belief system from the ground up. While at home on Christmas vacation that year, I stumbled upon a dusty copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey* sitting on my bookshelf. The First Habit suggests writing a letter to my future self explaining all that I would complete in the time between writing the letter, and reading it at a future date. I thought it was a pretty good idea. So I sat down at a Caribou in my hometown on January 1st of 2006, and wrote what I’d like to accomplish before January 1st, 2007- as if I had already achieved my intentions.

Given my mental funk and insufferable lack of self-esteem, I did not genuinely think I would be able to accomplish most, if any, of what I wrote. Nevertheless, I did not let that stop myself from sharing what I really, truly wanted to be and do in the following year. After writing the letter in a Word document I used as a journal, I pretty much forgot that it existed for most of 2006.

I continued to read and practice the Seven Habits however, and it helped me build a solid mental foundation. And that 2006 vacation is where I also discovered my purpose, which is currently in the form of this blog, MakeunderMyLife.

Now back to that “future letter” I wrote. As I said, I forgot about the letter most of that year but in November of 2006, I rediscovered the journal entry – and I began to cry. I was amazed at how much of what I wrote actually happened. As I mentioned, I did not really think I was capable of all that I laid out. But nevertheless there I was 11 months later, with most of the letter fulfilled. On January 1st of 2007 I revisited the letter and counted the number of statements that I wrote which could have happened. Then I counted the number of events or situations which did actually happen that year.

83% of the statements I made came true.

At that point I decided I would continue this annual “future letter” to envision what I’d like to do each year. And each year following 2006, I have indeed written a “future letter” and achieved the majority of the statements I make.

My 2009 Annual Letter

So you might be wondering about my 2009 inventory. I just took a look at my past year’s letter and was surprised by what I found. Some of the most specific statements came true while some of the more general ones landed in the dirt. Here’s a sample of a few of the true and false statements:

True Statements:

I have the perfect place for the business, either in my spacious apartment or in low rent office.

The apartment is nice with a large kitchen where we [Erwin and I] love to cook and a great living area we enjoy a lot. We have a new living room couch and the white loveseat is in the bedroom.

We continue to spend time with each other working out, during date night, and we go to church almost every week.

I write three times a week on my blog, Makeunder My Life. I blog about my journey as a small business owner and as someone taking the road less traveled to the life I love and want. I enjoy writing and have a loyal following.

False Statements:

Jess LC has a PR team and we have been in Lucky and O Magazine.

I have done a few trade shows in 2009 with Jess LC and we are gearing up to do them on a grander scale in 2010.

I love taking bubble baths to relax.

I am looking into getting a puppy (if I find that I will be around enough to care for one responsibly).

After doing some math, I found that I made 82 statements in this 2009 letter. Of those statements, 51 are true, 6 are mostly true, and 25 are false. Which means about 60% of my intentions came true. And when I look closer, there is more to the story. 12 of the false statements came in the portion of the letter where I talk about Jess LC. And the parts which are false did not happen because I changed my strategy and direction for the company. These changes have made Jess LC more purposeful, fulfilling, and profitable. So those things which did not occur happened for the best and intentionally did not come true.

So… if I subtract the false Jess LC statements from the mix, I again get about an 80% fulfillment rate on my vision!

What I’ve Learned

Over the past five years, I have found that I can in large part, predict or complete much of what I set forth in these visions. I also know that some of my intentions will not happen. And after seeing the turn of events with Jess LC this year and the growth of MakeunderMyLife, I now submit this vision to God with a disclaimer: If any of these statements are not meant to come true, please help me to be flexible and thankful for the other awesome blessings that will come in their place.

How to Write an Annual Letter

Though there certainly is no wrong way to write an annual letter, I can share how I prefer to write my own. I begin each letter with “Dear Jess, As I see myself walk into the door in 2011, I see a ___________. ” Then I talk about what I have done in 2010 in past tense. For example: “I have decorated my bedroom with crisp bedding, nice side tables, and pretty, modern lamps.” or “I am kind and compassionate, not just with other people, but also towards my own shortcomings.” I also try to describe what I have done in all of my roles, such as: personal growth, Jess LC, MakeunderMyLife, spirituality, and relationships.

After the letter is written, I keep it in a place where I can find it easily, but only try to reread it every few months. Two years ago I tried to read it frequently but found that it was more stressful than inspirational. As the saying goes, we overestimate what we can do in a day, but underestimate what we can do in a year.

In Closing

I hope that sharing my personal story with “future letters” is helpful. If you decide to write your own letter, I suggest keeping in mind that these are “intentions” – which means that your motivation is genuine, but you are not tied to a specific outcome. I know I personally can become discouraged by the word “goal” or “resolution” in front of something that I want to incorporate into my life. Because to me, the moment that goal or resolution I made does not get fulfilled, I see it as a personal failure. Whereas an unfulfilled intention is something to keep working towards.

Happy New Year and thank you for reading MakeunderMyLife!

*Stephen Covey, his father wrote the original book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – a great read, and the book I most highly recommend reading.

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  1. this is a really good idea – i like the way you frame the things you want as if they have already happened, rather than as goals, which makes it easier to imagine them. i might try it.

  2. megan

    this is such a great idea! what a wonderful way to put positive thoughts out into the universe!

    i’m not sure if you’re still planning on doing any trade shows with Jess LC, but i thought you might be interested to know that I started a new blog (craftMBA.com – business thinking for designers and makers) and today’s post is actually called, “should you do a trade show in 2010?” – might be worth checking out!

    meanwhile, i’m off to check out seven habits of highly effective people – i haven’t read it since my freshman or sophomore year in college (8 or 9 years ago) and it sounds like its time for a revisit!

  3. Diane

    love this idea! will be making one of my own on my lunch hour, thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  4. Jill

    I actually did this for the first time ever this year! Mostly with blog related goals, although perhaps I should revisit some personal goals as well!

  5. Jill

    I actually did this for the first time ever this year! Mostly with blog related goals, although perhaps I should revisit some personal goals as well!

  6. Erica

    I started doing this when I started Graduate School and was going through a rough time. I even got my Mum and sister to do the same thing! It is now a family tradition to read our letters to each other at the end of each year and reflect on what we accomplished.

    I wrote my letter on Sunday night and feel totally ready to kill this next year!

  7. This is such a great idea! I am definitely doing this. I have so many goals for the next decade but so little for the next year, so I need to figure out how to get to the point I want to be in order to accomplish those things I want in the next decade. Writing it down in this way will really help me not only to do these things but to track my progress. Thank you!

  8. rose

    i really love your thoughts on the word ‘intention’ as opposed to ‘resolution’. intention is much more inspiring, it’s a great action word. thanks, i might even get brave and write my own letter later tonight 🙂

  9. pve

    Why am I not surprised one bit with this?
    Just because I expect so many good things from you!
    That is why!!
    pve

  10. Laina

    I remember you telling me about this back in school. I have always thought it was an awesome idea, but never got around to doing it. I think I will for 2010 though – might even write it later today. Funny how you say that more of the specific intentions actually happened vs the more general/vague intentions – similar to what we learned in out social networking class senior year 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration, Jess!

  11. Jess

    @ all: Thank you ladies for sharing your thoughts on the Annual Letter! I am doing my best to answer your comments in email form. So please be patient and be on the lookout for a response in your inbox. 🙂

  12. kristy

    Very inspiring! Great idea and oh so simple… Thank you for sharing! – kristy

  13. OK, I published (most of) my letter on my blog & scheduled it for 4:30a Eastern tomorrow! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

    You are such an inspiration. So glad that 2009 led me to you, Jess LC!

  14. Andrea

    This is such an inspirational way to look at the new year. I am going to sit down tonight to work on my letter. Thanks for the posting! I just came across your blog and am going to put you on my blog feed. I look forward to reading more!

    Cheers,

    Andrea

  15. Leana

    Thank you for such a great suggestion. I am drafting my letter this week! A new tradition to begin for the new decade.

  16. Thanks for sharing this. I wrote my letter today and it really meant alot to me. I felt like it really helped me envision where I want to be in a year – not in terms of to dos and rules, but the spirit of it.

  17. Carmen

    I love this idea so much. I started writing my letter a few days ago… I need to finish it up and put it away for safe keeping.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    Carmen

  18. Heidi Lyn

    I LOVE this idea! As a coach, it’s something that I have my clients do in order to really get a firm grasp on what they want and to put themselves in the driver’s seat for the upcoming year. After reading yours, I realized it’s been a few years since I’ve done this exercise myself! Thanks for the important reminder. I’m off to write!

  19. Wow – what a wonderful idea! I’m currently stuck in a rut with my career and where I want it to go…I think this might be a good way to put some of my ideas on paper so I don’t forget!

    Thank you for sharing! I wish you all the best as you achieve your 2010 intentions! 🙂

  20. I really liked that post.I will be reading a lot more of this blog.But I am a little confused, and have a quick question. May I send you an email?

  21. Rebekah

    I love the 7 Habits system. It’s so effective, and when you really apply the principles, your life truly does change.

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