Lately, I have closed my keynotes by writing a letter from the future to the audience. The idea was inspired by Matthew Quick's book, "Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock". Like George Bailey in the holiday movie "It's a Wonderful Life", Leonard is contemplating suicide, and a caring teacher encourages him to write letters from the future to himself to remind him that he matters, to give him hope to live his life.
In both the book and the movie, we are reminded that life can be hard. There are challenges and obstacles that will continually confront us. And, there are beautiful moments, incredible people, and important lessons that can truly, positively, change our lives for the better. Life is hard, and we can live this life well if we pay attention to what's really important to us.
Here's a sample of a letter that I have shared with an audience. This one was a part of a keynote I had the honour of delivering to CAPSI's PDW 2017 (Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns, Professional Development Week). The room was full of pharmacy students. and I chose in this letter to write it from me to each of them. The theme of their conference was 'Beyond Boundaries' and my message was filled with strategies for psychological resilience and positivity.
Dear (insert your name here):
You might not remember me - I was the keynote speaker at PDW 2017 in Winnipeg.
Over the years, I have heard such wonderful things about the work you are doing in Pharmacy. You have truly embraced the message of 'Beyond Boundaries' ... you know that the biggest boundaries in life are those that exist in your own mind ... you also know that is the same place to find the greatest opportunities awaiting your creation.
You clearly know what is important in life...it's not the grades you got in school, but the people you worked with to get them; it's not the material possessions you acquired when you started working, it's the small moments sharing a laugh with a friend or helping someone in need that add the most to your life. You know that life is not a contest to be won but is instead a beautiful dance to create and enjoy with people around you. You know that with every boundary there is a pathway through, over or around - if you just pay attention - and remember why you are here.
On behalf of all the people you touch - the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the young adults on their own for the first time, and the senior citizens fearful about a changing world - I offer you our heartfelt gratitude. Thank you for caring, and thank you for connecting.
You will never know how important one smile, or one moment of kindness and compassion can matter to another person. It mattered to me when I visited your pharmacy the other day. You did not recognize me...I am much older now ...but I recognized you and you made a difference to my day...and to my life.
You Matter. Please continue to believe that.
Sincerely, Deri Latimer
Whenever I have done this for the audiences I have the privilege of working with, it has been a highlight for them. I add in some humour - generally reflecting on something that I shared in the keynote; but overall, people like the idea of the letter from the future. Many audiences ask me to send it to them after the event. We all need a reminder that we matter in this world; that we make a difference by the thoughts we think, the feelings we generate and the actions we take.
I encourage you to do this for yourself. Write yourself a letter from the future.
It's the beginning of a new year. 2017. Bright, shiny and new. Why not write a letter to yourself from your future self; yourself on this day in 2018. What will you say to yourself...what has transpired, how have you lived, why are you grateful, who has mattered to you, and how have you impacted others?
Notice what happens.
(I am so saddened to hear of 12 year old Katelyn Nicole Davis's suicide on December 30. Perhaps a letter from the future might have helped her choose differently that day.)
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