The time capsule is a great journaling tool you can use to raise awareness about the direction your life is taking, as well as capture your current wisdom and memories. More than that, it allows you to have this valuable knowledge delivered to your door in the future. Oh, did I mention it’s also a lot of fun?
In its simplest form, a time capsule is just a letter you write to yourself to be opened in the future. All you need is to write it and set a target date to open it — say, five, ten or twenty years later. No matter how mundane your letter is, you’ll be amazed at its contents when you open it.
Take a Picture of Your Mind
To create a time capsule, write a letter just as you would to your best friend. Be conversational and friendly; have fun with it. Write about whatever you want, but always remember to capture your current reality as thoroughly as possible.
Just like a photo is a snapshot of your body, think of a time capsule as a snapshot of your mind. Be aware that just like your body changes, so does your mind. Remember that each ‘version of you’ has its own wisdom. Things that we know we won’t forget are indeed forgotten as the different winds of change come and go in our lives.
Remember that when the letter is read, you, as you know yourself today, will not be around anymore. Your current self won’t be there to answer any questions. So, don’t focus much on predicting the future, but rather on describing your present time. Focus on capturing ‘how it feels to be me today’ — your private zeitgeist, so to speak.
Here are a few specific suggestions to consider including:
- Lists of favorites. What do you like most today? What are your favorite movies, books, television shows, songs, moments, people, celebrations, surprises, lessons, quotations or achievements?
- Important questions and feelings. What are the big unanswered questions currently in your mind? What feelings predominate in these times? How do you feel about your life and the world around you? What do you enjoy about today? What are you thankful for?
- Goals and aspirations. What do you pursue today? What is the vision for your future life? What are the things you’re looking forward to? What are your hopes for your future self? How much or in what way do you expect to be different when you get the letter?
- ‘A Day in the Life…’. How’s your everday life? How’s a typical day at work? At home? Who do you interact with daily? What do you enjoy doing every day? What are the daily trivialities you’ll miss tomorrow?
- Highlights of the year. Which funny facts do you want to remember or laugh about in the future? What were this year’s 10 best things/worst things that happened to you? How would you describe this year in one sentence? In one word?
- Lessons learned and advice for yourself. What advice would you give to your future self? What important lesson did you learn recently and don’t want to forget?
When to Open the Time Capsule
For each different time span you set, you will get different feelings associated with reading the letter: the emotions evoked when opening a 5-year time capsule are of course radically different than when opening a 30-year capsule. Although it might be amusing to open an ancient time capsule, we want to make the experience not only fun, but also useful from a personal development standpoint.
Having just recently opened my first time capsule, I can say that a 5-year time span worked great for me. Five years is long enough for having had major life shifts, and short enough for the letter to be still meaningful and actionable.
If you get into the habit of creating time capsules — every year for example — one nice side effect is that after you open your first one, you’ll then have an ongoing supply of time capsules to open. What a nice ritual to keep — creating new capsules and opening past ones: couldn’t this very well replace the habit of making and breaking New Year’s resolutions? And what about giving yourself a time capsule every year as a birthday gift?
Another interesting idea is setting to open the letter on a specific event, instead of on a specific date: How about ‘To Open When My Son is Born’ or ‘To Open Before Committing to Marriage’? Wouldn’t it be interesting to take a look at your former thoughts, opinions and beliefs in these events?
Don’t Limit Yourself
Another interesting feature of the time capsule technique is that it’s very versatile. Use your imagination and make it fun by inventing your own variations. Here are a few suggestions to get started:
- Experiment with different formats. Instead of sending a letter, send a colorful mind map of your life, or maybe a drawing.
- Reply to the letter. Now that you got the letter, why not connect back with your former self by replying to it? This brings an awesome sense of change and temporal awareness. Keep both the letter and the reply together to review them again in the future.
- Involve others. Create an annual tradition in your family to create and open family capsules; ask your kids to contribute. Write a letter to your spouse. Write a letter to be opened by your kids when they’re the same age you are now. Use time capsules as holiday gifts for your loved ones. Involving others opens an entire new dimension to the technique.
- Create a REAL time capsule. Make the experience of opening your letter even richer by including mementos of the times you’re living in? Real time capsules are everywhere, so why not create yours? Take a shoebox (or a more durable container, depending on the capsule target date) and include photos, receipts, admission tickets, magazines and any other meaningful items alongside with your letter. What car do you drive? How much memory do you have on your computer? Have fun collecting different tidbits of everyday life!
Do It Today, Be Glad Tomorrow
While the idea of intentionally sending information to the future is not new, it’s a great fun way to provide yourself with valuable material for self-reflection.
For a great time capsule that is both inspiring and useful, Trent of The Simple Dollar recently shared a letter to his 10-year future self. Do you think there’s any chance of not enjoying yourself when receiving one of these?
Get cracking and create one time capsule now. Your future self will thank you — guaranteed.