The New Year is quickly approaching. Every year, millions of people will make New Year's Resolutions.
Most will have broken them before February. Guilt and shame are usually quick to follow.
I don't think that having a laundry list of changes where you fail if you slip up once is healthy. (Others may disagree. I'm okay with that.) But don't we have enough guilt and pressure already? Why voluntarily add one more thing to hurt ourselves?
I have a different approach. I feel it's more realistic, healthier, and more effective.
It's a Goodbye/Hello Letter.
It can be done anytime you want to make a change or transition, but I find it a wonderful alternative to the New Year's Resolution tradition. It has two components.
THE "GOODBYE, OLD SELF" LETTER
This letter is done first. Write the letter as you would to a friend you are fond of, but you know you need to part ways. Recall your good times and what you love about your old self. Then list what you aren't happy about, and then sign off saying you wish them well, but you have to move on.
THE "HELLO, NEW SELF" LETTER
Now write a letter to the person you want to become. Introduce yourself, like you would to a new pen pal that you would meet soon. Explain that you are just leaving a long-time relationship (which you are, with your Old Self), but you are happy to meet this new person and get to know them.
What are the qualities you want to see in your new self? Eating healthier, spending more time with loved ones, finishing your degree - whatever it is, describe it. See the person you want to become.
If you falter, it's okay. You are "meeting" (becoming) someone new. Every new relationship has hiccups along the way. It's fine. It's not a Resolution. It's a Redirection. And every traveler uses a compass to course correct along the way.
Keep these letters. Save them. Look back on them. See how you've changed and grown. Remember what you have overcome. And save them for future generations to learn more about you (if you choose).
Thanks for reading!
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of 52 Questions to Answer for Your Child.
2020 is coming to a close (thank the stars), and so it's time to say goodbye.
Rituals are very therapeutic. Saying goodbye to a traumatic year can provide some closure and bring a fresh perspective to 2021. This has been a dumpster fire of a year, so don't feel guilty about wanting to put it all behind you.
Here's how to use your free "Goodbye 2020 Letter" template:
Be sure to fill in some details.
Print one out for every member of the family. It will be a unique time capsule for future generations.
Here's an activity you can do anytime, but the New Year is the perfect time. It's a great activity for a fresh start, and I like it so much better than New Years Resolutions.
You'll write two letters. One is a "Goodbye, Old Self" letter. The other is a "Hello, New Self" letter. You don't have to do both, but I find it's better to do them both because it is a ritual that shuts one door and then opens another. It creates a sense of closure.
The Goodbye letter is a chance to reflect on your past and see things that you won't miss or you'd love to change. Maybe you were less patient with the kiddos than you'd like to be. Maybe you didn't take enough time for self care. Maybe you struggled with something/someone. Your Goodbye Letter is just that - a letter starting with "Dear Old Self" - and then saying goodbye to everything you want to. You can burn it if you'd like (rituals are important for humans), but you can also save it to look back on (which is what I recommend). It's not meant to be sent to anyone. It's for your own personal growth.
Your next letter is your Hello letter. It starts with "Hello, New Self" - and it continues to speak to the person you want to be for the next year. It's like introducing yourself to a new friend, because that's what you're doing. And you'll get to know this new friend better as time goes on. It's like a compass, not a map. A map tells you exactly what to do and how to get somewhere. A compass is a guideline. It gives you direction, but there are many paths to get there.
If you stumble, no problem. You simply write the two letters again, acknowledging that you stumbled and that you forgive yourself for it. You may not even need to write them again - unlike a resolution, you're not creating a set of rules to follow. You're growing into the new self you want to be, and that's a process. If you stray from your path, you just use the compass to adjust your sails and get back on track.
You can use pen and ink (my preference), but you could also use a Google Docs or another digital format.
Need help? Please reach out to me using my Contact Page.
An Ethical Will is also known as a Forever Letter or an Eternity Letter. It has its roots in Jewish tradition, where it dates back thousands of years.
An Ethical Will is much different than a legal will. The legal will expresses your wishes for the distribution of your assets and possessions. It's legally enforceable and can be done on your own (through a kit, an attorney, etc.). An Ethical Will shares your values, wisdom, and love. It can also be a way of asking for forgiveness. It can express thoughts and emotions. It's not generally a place for anger or revealing family secrets. (That can be done with a separate letter, and I highly recommend that they are kept separate.)
Unlike a legal will, an Ethical Will can be written at any time and can be shared while you are very much alive (if you choose to do so). In fact, it's a good idea to write an Ethical Will at various milestones in your life: milestone birthdays (20, 30, 40, etc.), upon retirement, when you become a parent/aunt/uncle/grandparent, when a life-altering event happens (such as a major career change, gender change/affirmation/realignment, LGBTQ announcement/affirmation/reveal, an accident, or a health issue), or whenever you feel moved to write one. Some people choose to write an Ethical Will each year during a holiday or their birthday.
An Ethical Will shares your values, wisdom, and love. It can also be a way of asking for forgiveness. It can express thoughts and emotions that are difficult to say out loud.
If you aren't sure what to write or how to start, I would be happy to help you. Please use my contact form to request a free consultation.
A Legacy Letter of Instruction is a necessary document that is a labor of love. It provides guidance and reassurance for your family during a difficult time, and everyone should have one.
A Legacy Letter of Instruction is like a compass, giving directions to your family if you are unable to communicate with them. It's not legally enforceable, but it is full of information to let your family to know what to do if you are unable to provide the answers. It's an estate-planning document that conveys informal details that wouldn't be included or perhaps would not be appropriate for a will.
Here are a few things that can be conveyed in your Legacy Letter of Instruction:
Personal messages, life lessons, and blessings are more appropriate for an Ethical Will, but the two documents can be combined if you'd like.
There are other things you can state, such as bequeathing small items that might not be included in a legal/formal will. You should not include items with great sentimental value, since that should be included in your legal will. The Letter of Instruction is a document to accompany a legal will, not something to replace a legal will.
If you would like help with creating a Legacy Letter of Instruction or an Ethical Will for your family, please use my contact form to request a consultation.
L. Shay Bradham is a Family History Preservationist specializing in Legacy Letters, Legacy Books, and Ethical Wills.
Having a Will means that your assets are protected. You control who gets what. Your last wishes are honored.
But what about you? Your values, your beliefs, your hopes, your dreams? And, yes, your regrets? Those things are what make you, well, you. How long will those things remain?
I lost two grandparents when I was pretty young. I have some memories of them, but they are fading. I lost those grandparents decades ago, and my kids never met them. How I wish I had a way to learn about what they valued, what their hopes and dreams were, what they were proud of accomplishing, and what they wished they had done differently.
Another thing to consider: your observations today are living history. Future generations would love to know what it's like to live through these times, just like we are looking back at written accounts from people who lived through the Pandemic of 1918.
Your Legacy Letters are an important part of your legacy. Please contact me so we can work together to preserve your legacy.