Jan 4, 2022

This content was originally created for audio. Some elements such as tone, sound effects, and music can be hard to translate to text. As such, the following is a summary of the episode and has been edited for clarity. For the full experience, we encourage you to subscribe and listen— it's more fun that way.

Scot: It's the "Who Cares About Men's Health" Sideshow, and today, we're going write letters to our future selves. Because it's the start of a brand new year, we could do the typical "resolution" show. But you know what, Troy? We're not going to do that show.

This is "Who Cares About Men's Health." My name is Scot. I bring the BS, and the MD to my BS, Dr. Troy Madsen.

Troy: That's me, Scot.

Scot: And producer Mitch is in the mix.

Mitch: Hey, there.

Scot: Yeah, resolutions, if they work for you, that's great. But we have had episodes in the past where we've talked about resolutions, and we've talked about what it takes to actually be able to make some changes in your life. And if you want to check out the "Resolution" episode, there was one a couple years ago, 2020, you can check out.

And if resolutions work for you, that's great, but we've discovered some problems with resolutions. Maybe you're not resolved today, right? Just because it's January 1st, or the first part of the year, maybe now is not the time for you to make that change. So then where does that leave you?

Resolutions kind of demand an immediate change, right? It's asking you to make changes in your life right now, going from somebody you've never been to somebody that you want to be, and we know that doesn't work.

For example, you're going to go from eating how you did to eating healthier, and then if you don't do that immediately, it's a failure, right?

Resolutions generally recognize reflection about your shortcomings, but they don't necessarily acknowledge where you are, or your successes, or what you're building on.

And resolutions, another issue is they have this yearlong time frame. We don't reflect on them until the next year. And then we end up, if you're like me, you're making the same resolutions again next year. "I need to work on being more active, eating more. I'm going to work on my finances."

So I came across this website called futureme.org, and they encourage you to write a letter to a future you, and I thought maybe we could do this. So what do you guys think of that idea for our new year's show? Mitch, are you on board?

Mitch: I am definitely on board.

Scot: All right. Troy, have you written your letter yet?

Troy: Scot, I have. And I'll tell you, I started it out by saying, "I'm writing this letter only because Scot made me do it." That's how it started. But that got me into it. At least it got me going. And after writing that, I kind of settled in and wrote some things that were a little more substantial than that, but I did it.

Scot: Yeah, why did you have to start your letter out that way, Troy?

Troy: Honestly, I wasn't that into it. I kind of thought it seemed a little bit gimmicky, and I kind of thought, "I don't know. I can't." Probably the biggest thing for me, it felt kind of like "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure," like I was introducing myself to my future self and talking to future Troy, like future Bill and future Ted. So it was just kind of tough to get into, but once I did that, I was like, "Okay, yeah, this is kind of where . . ." And I sent it so it will come to me in a year. I'll get an email in one year.

Scot: Well, I have to talk about something about that.

Troy: Oh, no. Was it not supposed to be a year?

Scot: Well, we'll talk about that, I guess.

Troy: Okay. Well, I set it for . . . That was the default, so I just like typed it and it said it'll come to me in a year. So I said, "Okay, cool."

Scot: Do you have a copy of that letter somewhere else?

Troy: I did not save a copy. I can tell you roughly what was in it, but I just typed it and it said, "Send to you in one year." I said, "Okay. Here's my email address." And then I confirmed, so I should get it in a year.

Scot: All right. I'm going admit . . . So you thought it was kind of cheesy going into it. I thought it was a great idea going into it. I thought, "This is a great way to reframe something everybody does, these New Year's resolutions, or even just reframe thinking about where would you like to be in the future." And I think sometimes reframing something can work for somebody where something else has failed.

But as soon as I started writing it, I'm like, "This is the same old crap I talk about every year." That's when I thought it was cheesy. You thought it was cheesy going in. I thought it was cheesy coming out.

So I wanted to talk about these letters a little bit, talk about the plan. The website is futureme.org. We're all going to write a letter. We're all going to send it to futureme.org.

One of the downsides of New Year's resolutions is you have to wait a year, and then you reevaluate. So I was thinking maybe three months, future you. I don't know if that would change your letter or not, Troy. We can talk about that in a second, but . . .

Troy: Yeah, it might.

Scot: Yeah. Mitch, have you written yours, did you say? What did you say?

Mitch: Not yet. I hadn't started, but I thought it was cheesy going in.

Scot: Okay. Fair enough. Let's work through this so maybe it's not cheesy.

Mitch: Absolutely.

Troy: But I will say . . .

Scot: Maybe it will bring some value to our listeners.

Troy: Yeah. So I thought it was kind of cheesy going into it, but then doing it, I thought, "I don't know. Maybe I would use this in the future." And maybe I would do it like a one-month kind of thing, and maybe it would not be a letter like, "Dear Self." It would be more like, "Hey, how are things going with trying to have a more regular sleep pattern?" or something.

We've talked about it before, where if you really set a goal, and you say I'm going to commit to this for four weeks, or one month, or whatever, then you're more likely to succeed with that, and then you can reassess at that point.

So I thought maybe I might do it with that kind of thing where I said, "Hey, I'm going to try this for four weeks or a month." And then I'll have the letter come to me in a month, just an email, just a little reminder like, "Hey, how are things going? Congratulations if you've done it." I don't know. That might be a little cheesy too. But maybe. We'll see.

Scot: No, I like that. And one of the problems that I ran into was how to actually execute this letter, because in the Scot true-to-form overthinking things, there are a lot of different approaches you could have. You could have the letter arrive to you and say . . . You could approach it from this "Who do you want to be?" sort of a perspective. Or do you want to write it from the perspective of, "You accomplished your goals. Congratulations on being this person"? Or you could have it be a snapshot of what things are like today, and then that would be something you could review a little bit later.

We all read through some of them. Mitch, what was your thought on how to construct your letter? How were you going to approach it, and were there any letters that you are modeling yours after?

Mitch: So that was kind of the thing that really changed with me. I went in thinking that it was going be cheesy. And I think it was because I assumed that the letter was going to be like what we've talked about a little bit, like, "Hey, future Mitch, you're doing great. I'm sure you're a bajillionaire now and have abs. I hope everything is well," and I didn't like that. I didn't like that kind of positive thinking thing.

In the last year, all through the previous year, I've been starting my own little mental health journey. And a big part of it is to abandon toxic positivity, this idea that you're not acknowledging some of the things that have happened and the growth that you've made.

The concept of toxic positivity is this idea that you only look at the good things, and you downplay the negative things. And in doing so, you also downplay where people have taken advantage of you. You downplay the negative feelings that you have. You downplay the struggles. And that can be really, really negative.

So when I started looking at some of the other examples of letters, I found one that suddenly changed my whole mind about the whole exercise, because it starts out, "Greetings from January and a slightly younger, but hopefully more tired and more bitter version of you. What I mean by this is that today I am tired and bitter, but a year from now, I hope to be pleasantly surprised by how life has unfolded over the last 11 months." So there's a positivity there, but also an acknowledgement of where they are now.

And as the letter goes on, they reflect not only on the good things that have happened in the last year, but things like, "I know that we've struggled with love the last few years, and I'm proud that you took a few leaps."

Recognizing those negative things is huge, for me at least, because the last couple years have been really tough. And I think that when it gets time for resolution, it's easy to say, "Oh, last year? Ugh, that was terrible. But this year is going be the absolute best." That doesn't offer reflection. That doesn't offer a positive look at your own growth. Yeah, it's fan service. It's dream boarding.

Troy: It's funny you mention that, because I think that was my biggest hesitation going into it. I'm going write this letter to future self, and say, "Hey, I hope you're doing this. I hope you're doing this." And then future self is going to look back and say, "Wow, your year-ago self is just so disappointed in me because I couldn't do all these things."

Mitch: And even if we look at the last two years, 2020 forward, there were a lot of things that were outside of our control. It wasn't any problem of ours that . . . I didn't hit my fitness goal, but I was also surviving a pandemic. This kind of idea of shooting a year forward and being like, "I hope everything is amazing," I didn't love that.

The one other thing I've been trying to work on this last year, and we've talked about it a couple times on the episode, is the positive self-talk. And I love the fact that there are a few letters that have been sent that not only acknowledge the troubles that have happened, but are very kind and compassionate to themselves. "I recognize that this was really hard for you to do."

There's one where the person congratulated themselves on making steps towards getting out of debt. Not that they actually got out of debt, but they made steps. Rather than beating themselves up for one goal, it's, "Hey, good job."

And so I'm going be writing this this week. I didn't have a chance the last couple days after the holiday, but I'm going to be using it as an opportunity to avoid toxic positivity and do some positive self-talk.

Troy: Hearing Mitch's perspective on this, now I'm wondering if there's any way I can cancel the delivery of my letter in a year. Is that an option?

Scot: You don't want hear from past Troy anymore?

Troy: Yeah, I like that. Hearing this now, I almost like sending a letter to myself in a year saying, "Hey, regardless of where you are, this is what I'm grateful for at this point in my life, and I'm hoping I'm still grateful for these things in a year," almost something like that.

Recognizing that, "Yeah, there are going to be ups and downs and maybe things are better than they were a year ago, maybe they're not, but this is right now what I feel grateful for, and hopefully in a year, I still feel that gratitude." Almost something like that where it's like, "Let's not focus on everything you're going do and just be super this next year, but let's just focus on what you have now, and hopefully you still have those same feelings in a year."

Scot: As I'm looking at my letter, thinking about it from your standpoint, Mitch, I love toxic positivity because I think that we can tend towards that sometimes. We probably should do a full show on it because I think that there might be something there for the core four, your emotional health and that toxic positivity.

I'm reading my letter, and I'm finding myself being a little . . . I don't know. Like, "I hope that you've done this, and I hope that you've done that," and that was what I was getting disgusted with. So I'm not exactly sure what I'm going do with my letter.

One of them that I liked, though . . . And it's kind of funny that you talk about toxic positivity and then I kind of agree with you, but one of them that I liked, actually the person was kind of positive. I think it probably ties in with Troy, and maybe there's this balance. So it said, "Anyway, I hope you take time to celebrate your special day today." It was their birthday. "This is the day you were introduced to the world and the world was introduced to you. You're so lucky to have been born into this beautiful, wonderful, and crazy chaotic world. You don't even realize how fortunate you are. Just to be alive and living is truly a miracle. Please realize that." Is that toxic positivity in your mind? I don't know.

Mitch: I don't think so.

Scot: But I like that. I like that instead of it being about what I want to do, or what I want to accomplish, or, "These are my shortcomings I want overcome," just acknowledge that the fact that you exist and that you are doing the things that you're doing, and where you are right now is a pretty amazing thing really.

I think a lot of us have a lot to be grateful for. I certainly know I do, and that comes back to the problem in New Year's resolutions. They tend to focus on the negative, and they don't focus on, "Where are you right now?" Did I put on 10 pounds over the past four months? Yes, but am I in a good position to lose that weight? I am, because I have the knowledge, and I have the past experience, and I have access to things, and I've done it before.

Anyway, Troy, did you have one that you liked that you kind of modeled yours after, or that you just liked that you'd like to share?

Troy: No, I did not.

Scot: Okay.

Troy: No, I didn't.

Scot: I did ask you to read them, didn't I?

Troy: I couldn't find where they were. I just read the reviews on the website, and I read, "Featured on 'USA Today' and in 'The Washington Post.'" So that's all I saw. I could not find . . . Maybe I should have searched around more, but I did not see the letters people had sent.

And when I sent it to myself, I saw where I could make it private or make it public without my name on it or something like that. Obviously, I made it private, but I guess there is some way to do that.

So I just kind of jumped in and was like, "Yeah, okay, let's do this." Honestly, I focused a lot on more goals, and goal-setting, and kind of where I want to be with fitness goals, and diet, and that kind of stuff in a year. But again, hearing this, I think maybe I'll do a second letter and do it a little bit differently. I don't know.

Scot: I think what this process is going to do for me . . . because I've started my letter and I have not been happy with it, and maybe that's part of this process. I thought, "Oh, this will be easy. I'll just write this letter and . . ." I think I focus a lot on the same things, which is my fitness and my . . .

But I think that there are some other aspects of going through this process and writing for 10 or 15 minutes I want to focus on, like my tendency to overthink things. I will talk myself out of stuff all the time. How does that impact the core four? I'll be like, "Well, it's a little cold out today. I don't think I'll go exercise." I do that kind of stuff.

So I'm going to try not to overthink it. I'm going to try just to just do instead of thinking myself out of things, and maybe after writing for another 10 or 15 minutes, I'll come up with something else.

Troy, you up for rewriting your letter, and then in three months we'll all share them with each other?

Troy: Good question. I don't know about that.

Scot: Wow, really? You're going deep.

Troy: I didn't love it that much, though. That's the thing, Scot. I did it, like I said, and as I did it, I tried to take the same approach I took with the cooking that we did, and also with the decluttering, stuff I was not excited about going into it. I was kind of like, "Okay, I'm just going to do it. I'm just going to jump in and do it." But honestly, I'm still not super excited about it.

But maybe this is why. This is something I kind of do anyway, but I don't do it as an email that comes to me. I'll just jot notes in my phone, like different thoughts I have, things like that, because at certain points, you may just have different moments where you have different thoughts.

For me, it's often while I'm running. I'll have different thoughts as I'm working through something in my mind or whatever, and I'll kind of just jot my thoughts down. And then periodically, I'll read back over certain things and be like, "Yeah, I thought that at that time. That makes sense." So I kind of do it a little bit already without the email coming to me. So I don't know.

Scot: Maybe it is addressing it to oneself that does feel a little weird for all of us.

Troy: Yeah.

Scot: I mean, Troy, you had to have that first sentence that said, "Because Scot told me so."

Troy: Exactly.

Scot: "I don't want future Troy to think that I was the one that came up with this dumb idea."

Troy: "This was not my idea." Exactly.

Scot: "Future Troy, don't forget that."

Troy: "Don't forget Scot made me do it."

Scot: All right. Well, for sure, Mitch and I . . . Mitch, you good, three months?

Mitch: Oh, yeah.

Scot: Okay. So, for sure, Mitch and I will share.

And even though I was jazzed on the idea at the beginning, I'm still not completely sold on it, but I think we owe it to our . . . This is other thing I'm trying to work through. I'm going to personally go through this process, and then in three months I'm going to see how I feel about it then. I'm going see, "Did it impact me on the journey? Was there any influence knowing that I've written this letter and I was going to be reading it in three months to our listeners and to all of you? Is that going to have affected any of my behaviors or my decisions?" I'm curious to conduct this experiment. I'm going to go ahead and conduct the experiment, and it looks like Mitch is on board. Troy, you get . . .

Troy: Mitch is on board. I feel like this could really backfire too. That's kind of what I'm worried about. I'm little concerned about that, saying, "Hey, I hope you're still running every day." And then I'll be like, "I'm getting this email in three months, and I'm doing it for that reason." Then I'll just be like, "I don't want to do it for . . ." And then I'll just stop running or something.

Scot: Yeah. I don't know about the "I hope" language. I haven't figured out the language on this yet.

Troy: I don't know.

Scot: All right. Anyway, I guess we'll go ahead and do these letters. We'll throw them out there. If you'd like to participate, get past the silliness. Actually, maybe you think this is a great idea and it really resonates with you, which is cool too. We would love to hear your experience with this whole process.

And then in three months we will share what we wrote, and we'll see how we feel about it then, and how it impacted our behavior in between now and then, and maybe what we do differently.

So, Troy, how could somebody participate? How can somebody reach out and get a hold of us?

Troy: You can contact us at hello@thescoperadio.com, facebook.com/whocaresmenshealth. Our website is whocaresmenshealth.com. We are just waiting for people to call us on our listener line. Mitch is staffing it 24/7. He's ready to talk to you.

Mitch: Yep.

Troy: It is 601-55SCOPE. You will hear Mitch's voice as he answers. Please reach out to us, and let us know what you think. I would love to hear if people really like this, and how it worked for them, and if they enjoyed using it. Like I said, I'm not sold on it. And I would love to . . . if it works for people and it's a tool that's helpful, then great. I'd be interested.

Scot: All right. Thanks for joining us. Here's on to 2022. Notice I didn't add any adjectives or anything to that.

Troy: We're on to 2022. That's what it is.

Scot: We are on to 2022. Thanks for caring about men's health.


Relevant Links:


Contact: hello@thescoperadio.com
Listener Line: 601-55-SCOPE
The Scope Radio: https://thescoperadio.com
Who Cares About Men’s Health?: https://whocaresmenshealth.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/whocaresmenshealth

For Patients