The honest letter that whipped me into shape

Oct 21, 2015 by

notebook-and-pencill-2Every so often, I sit down and give myself a talking to. On paper.

It’s different from journaling.

And it isn’t a to-do list or an I did list.

It’s something else.

It’s part pep talk, part strategy, part intention-setting, and a whole lot of heartfelt, touchy-feely what really matters to me in this lifetime sort of stuff.

I wrote myself a letter about five years ago, when I was just launching my private practice.

(It’s kind of creepy what I predicted in that letter from five years ago. Just about everything panned out as I had written it.)

My fear of missing out

This past June, I needed another talking to. I needed another letter.

This one wasn’t handwritten and folded carefully into thirds. It was hastily typed with one hand between diaper changes and feedings.

It was the reality check I needed as a new parent, a business owner, and a therapist.

I was in the throes of maternity leave,

missing my work,

feeling oddly out of sync with the season and the hasty rhythms of life I could see coursing through my inbox and on Facebook in the form of

continuing education training pitches,

birthday party invites,

friends’ vacation pictures,

enviable photos of delicious meals out on the town.

I felt the tug of my old life, watching other people live theirs. FOMO (fear of missing out) was in full swing.

What I did

One day, after a particularly thick morning of voyeuring on Facebook, I realized I had a heart full of anxiety about all the things I wasn’t doing.

This was mostly related to business & work.

If you haven’t already gathered, I love working as a therapist and supervisor—my work is a cornerstone of my life. So I can’t say I was surprised that this happened.

So, I sat down and typed out this letter. But here’s the cool thing.

The letter I typed out in June was something I came back to in July and August and September. I read it, and I added to it, with little dates and notes.

It’s on my desktop and it’s called “Big Picture Goals.”

Here’s how my letter starts…


Spend time with family.

Do things that are fun.

Take trips.

Be creative.

It’s okay to enjoy work, but it’s not the only reason you are here. Work will always be here. But Bean will not always be small. You and Duffy will not always be young.

Enjoy what you have now. Don’t do too much work, please.

That being said, here are some things you’ve been thinking about with work.”

And then the letter launches into a conversation about each aspect of my practice—clinical work, supervision, workshops and consultations, and my goals for each of these domains.

I laugh at myself as I read this now, mostly because it starts by admonishing me not to work too hard, but then basically goes into a description of all the aspects of my work life.

But here’s the thing. The letter really is all about work—but it’s written in the service of supporting my life outside of work.

By doing this, I put work in its proper place—in service to me and my life.

I still enjoy the hell out of my work. And I really enjoyed getting back to see my clients, when the time came.

But this little letter really kept me honest during my months away, and even now after I’ve returned.

I open it and read and re-read it, sometimes adding and editing pieces of it. But the first section always remains the same.

Your turn

2015 is drawing to a close.

Now is as good a time as any to take a big picture look at things, to set an intention, to put a few kind words on a piece of paper, just for you.

Take some time to write yourself a letter.

Put it on your desktop, front and center.

Give it an interesting title.

See what happens over the next couple of months.

I think you’ll be surprised what happens next.

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