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A Letter to Myself

Recently, I heard about people undertaking the exercise of drafting a letter they would send to the person they were as a teenager or young adult. Obviously, the concept of sending a letter to oneself decades in the past is absurd and fanciful, but it makes some powerful points and reveals some deep truths. While we are the same person, the ensuing years have hopefully brought us wisdom, experience, perspective, and the elusive element we call maturity.

One of the biggest elements I would write about to my teenage self involves priorities. Things that I knew were important, even critical, when I was a teenager, have proven to matter very little, if at all, in the world I live in today. As a teenager, it’s hard to see beyond winning the big game, going on the right date, or being considered cool among all of your friends.

Today, as I look back on those issues, it’s hard to remember the big game, the dating drama, and trying to be cool—which I gave up on a long time ago. Once I looked beyond my main priorities as a teenager, I had to consider the aspects of life I overlooked at that time that have proven to be critical throughout the ensuing years and up to this very day.

As a teenager, I was certain I would be healthy and live forever regardless of what I did. I was an athlete at the time and was convinced that I could abuse my body without long-term consequences. I think about those decisions, or lack of decisions, on cold mornings when I try to get up and get going through the lingering aches and pains of middle age.

While it’s fascinating to consider the things I know now that I wish I’d known as a teenager, the real imperative today is to consider what priorities I’m emphasizing now that may not matter in the future. What aspects of life am I overlooking that will make a difference down the road?

Life is a marathon and not a sprint. We want immediate results regarding things that matter to us, and we want to ignore consequences in areas we believe are insignificant. For better or for worse, the way we do anything is the way we do everything. If you do the right thing next and the next thing right, you will build a great life for yourself and those around you. If you only look at the things that matter to you in the here and now, you are ignoring the inevitable truth that someday you will live in a different time and place.

As you go through your day today, take actions now that will make you happy later.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082; by email at; on Twitter at; or on Facebook at

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I was encouraged to write a letter to 5 year old me by a therapist. I thanked myself for trying to protect me when I had no tools to draw from and then told her that she no longer had to protect me. It was liberating.

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