A Dialogue with Yourself: Past, Present, and Future

When the world—inner or outer—seems upside-down, journaling is often what saves me (here’s a real example).

My girlfriend recently found a gem in “The Isolation Journals,” a project by Suleika Jaouad (@suleikajaouad) intended to be “a 30-day creativity project to help make sense of challenging times.” Each day for 30 days, you receive a journaling prompt from some of Suleika’s favorite writers, artists, and musicians.

Below is a sample from Rachel Cargle (@rachel.cargle) that I simply loved. You can sign up here, and you can find past prompts here. Full disclaimer: I don’t know Suleika at all, nor her future plans, but I think this 30-day project is a wonderful way to stay and feel connected… both with others and yourself.

Both Suleika and Rachel have given me permission to share the below.

Enter Rachel Cargle

Lately, I’ve found comfort in appreciating the various versions of myself thus far. That younger me who was brave enough to make the big move to the city. Child me who opened her heart to curiosity and found hobbies that I still indulge in today. Teenage me who was scared often and instead of pushing myself into discomfort I cared for myself with a confident “no” to things I preferred not to be a part of. That version of me just a few years ago who found little morsels of joy even in the midst of what felt like the biggest storm. 

I smile and look at her (those younger versions of me) with my mind’s eye. I hug her, I dance with her, I tell her I am proud of her, I forgive her for the things she was pitting against herself, I let her in on secrets about her future that she can only imagine.

I also have been indulging in the practice of praying to future versions of myself. The version of myself next year who will be fresh off of surviving a global pandemic. The version of myself who is 40 and will be benefiting from the choices I’m making now. The version of myself who is 50 and taking stock of how I’ve been existing in this world. The version of myself who is 70 who may be celebrating deeply in the friendships I am investing in now. 

I pray to those versions of me. I ask her to be gentle with me, I coax her for hints on what’s to come, I list for her all the ways I am caring for her, right now—with that expensive face cream, through weekly therapy, by taking a few risks in business. I make promises to her, I speak my desires for her. I get energized and inspired knowing that she—that sage and grounded version of me—is waiting to meet me finally. 

Take some time to reflect on all versions of yourself. This is a deeply intimate and revealing practice that can offer healing, insight, and hope. 

Your prompt for the day:

Write a letter to your younger self. Thank them, praise them, scold them, comfort them—engage in whatever way you feel led with one or many versions of your younger self. Whatever comes to mind. 

Now, let’s shift to exploring your older self. What would you want to say? To ask? To request? Tell your older self what you are doing now in service of them. Tell them what the ideal situation might look like when you finally meet—where might you be living, what type of work might you be doing, who you might be spending time and space with. 


Quick afterword from Tim: Here’s one more related prompt that I regularly use myself: “Imagine that you’re suddenly the older version of you — 5, 10, or 15 years in the future. If you sat down over wine or coffee with the current, younger you, what advice or observations might you offer?”

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

Leave a Reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

23 Replies to “A Dialogue with Yourself: Past, Present, and Future”

  1. Thanks, Tim. Always love hearing your thoughts on journaling. By the way, Tim, are you still journaling with the Morning Pages & 5MJ or has that changed now?

  2. As a follow up question, when putting pen to paper, any ideas on how to alleviate privacy concerns as to allow for honest, care-free thought expression when journaling?

  3. I know im going out on a limb here but as a family I’ve advised my family to stay away from media ,much like 4 hr ww and self isolate and keep media to a minimal or we will all end up like lemmings .Ta for the advise .

  4. What resources (articles, books, etc.), practices or epiphanies have you found most helpful in the journey of self love?

  5. Another great prompt is to ask what behaviors you’d change over the past five years and how that would change you today.
    Re-imagining the past engages neurological connections for your future past. This exercise will literally rewrite your past so your future is more inline with what you want out of life. It will help your subconscious mind make decisions that line up with your envisaged you. It’s not law of attraction wishful thinking either, it’s well reviewed science.

  6. The concept of your “past, present, and future” selves is complementary to former U.S. Navy SEAL officer Chris Fussell’s framework of paying close attention to (a) someone superior to you who you admire (b) someone in your current position who is doing a better job than you (c) someone younger who is in a role you used to have and is doing it better.

  7. Seems like this post wasn’t as popular for the usual commentators.

    Tim, if we’re just starting with this challenge would you recommend we start in the middle or is there an order to the madness in starting at prompt #1?

  8. Again, you surprise and delight, Tim.
    I’ve already had a lot of fun with the past, present future dialogues, bringing novel questions into meditation and sharing this concept with friends. I enjoy the range of perspective and content you’re sharing with us. One day, perhaps we’ll hear a conversation about buttkicking, too. Doesn’t that sound like it’s right there in your wheelhouse?

  9. Quite thoughtful and an interesting way of giving a real exercise of the past and the future to the mind 🙂 Journaling can come easy with such tasks. Thank you Tim for sharing such nice tid bits!!

    God Bless
    Your reader from India

  10. I can’t think of a greater display of personal robustness than the ability to entertain critical conversations with oneself. Thanks for the post.

  11. That’s almost exactly what is in the self authoring suite. Why have you not hosted a podcast with Jordan Peterson yet? Is it because of the controversies around him? I think it would be a good show, anyways.

  12. Hi Tim,
    I’ve become a HUGE fan of your books, podcasts and interviews. Only wish I saw the light earlier in life. Your interviewing style and ability to communicate is extremely appealing, addictive and engaging. It just takes awareness and effort to achieve. I want to help promote this to my 16 yr old who is showing signs of self awareness and setting life goals. Could you recommend podcasts who’s message mirrors yours that a driven, inquisitive high school junior would benefit from? Something not more than 30 min (would need to fit in between her sports and digital social media time 🤣). Thanks again for the great content. BTW, your 5 Bullet Friday’s are cherry!!!!

    Thank you,
    Steve K.

  13. Love this, tried writing for a month using prompts and it’s actually much harder than I thought it would be. Haven’t given up though, I’ll check these tips out. Thanks for sharing 💚

  14. Thank you Tim. Closing in on 60, I’m guy who has also overcome a lot. I’ve learned to manifest like a motherfucker. I’ve made the most of what I have by simply believing in myself and visualizing my future. However I feel as though I’ve lost my guardian angels the past couple of years. Uninspired and afraid to dream at this age. I’m getting a spark from your work and life’s mission. Thank you.

  15. I don‘t know if you‘ll ever read this. But I‘ve gotten really interested in memory, time travel concepts, etc. and this whole idea of a future self meeting yourself or giving your 20-year old self an advice. So I stumbled upon an interesting read I thought you might enjoy, so here it is: „By His Bootstraps“ (1941) by Robert Heinlein.
    Greets from Germany