The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

16 January 2008

Write a letter to yourself is a website where you can write yourself a letter and have it delivered to you at some later date which you specify. This could be in at the end of the year or in two years time or after ten or even twenty-five years. What you put in your letter and when you receive it is entirely up to you to decide. You might want to write to yourself about your aspirations and what you would like to have achieved, or the sort of person that you would really like to have become. You might want to write about the threat of global warming from today’s perspective and what you are doing to counter it. You might want to give yourself some advice for how to live the rest of your life.

Here is a letter selected at random from the FutureMe website. You can also buy a book containing a selection of Dear FutureMe letters.

Three decades ago, you were sitting around, browsing the web, (does that even exist anymore?) checking out, and writing to yourself. Damn you were boring.

Your birthday is in a week. You're gonna be how old? The 'right now' me is going to be 25 in a week's time. That means you're gonna be 55 years old!


What have you done with the last three decades? Did you make a change in the world?

You used to be a political fire-brand. An unabashed liberal. Not afraid to stand up for what you believed in. The big question is, are you still???

Or did you wuss out, buy a house, start a family and get old, fat and lazy? Did you get content? Please tell me you didn't.

If you did, why?

Ahh well...

Visit the website. Write a letter to yourself.

Remembering a great man

A great man died in January 2008. It was not just that he undertook a truly heroic event in the 20th century; but it was also the work he did subsequently for the Himalayan people. In a world full of media celebrities and “instant heroes”, here is a person we should admire and remember.

Edmund Percival Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest on 29th May 1953. Hillary died on 11th January 2008.

Since this successful expedition led by John Hunt, and with the advance of mountaineering technology and better knowledge of the problems of the impact of high altitude on the human body, Everest has been climbed many thousand times. By 2006 there had been 3050 ascents by 2062 individuals, and the mountain is now a tourist destination for those wanting an extreme experience. In 1978 Reinhold Messner (Italian) and Peter Habeler (Austrian) made a successful climb without using oxygen. In 2005, Frenchman Didier Desalle landed on the summit in a helicopter.

The Himalayan Trust: In the years that followed the 1953 Everest expedition, Edmund Hillary returned repeatedly to Nepal and to his friends the Sherpas, the mountain people of Nepal. They are some of the most friendly, generous and tough people on earth, but their lot is a hard one, living at high altitude, without most resources that we take for granted in the west.

Inspired by his admiration and respect for the Sherpa people, Hillary established the Himalayan Trust in 1960. At that time, the Everest region was very isolated from the outside world and lacked many basic human needs such as education and health care.

During a journey with his Sherpa friends across a mountain pass in early 1960s, Hillary asked if there was anything he can do for the Sherpa people. A Sherpa friend immediately replied, “Burra Sahib (big Sahib), our children have eyes but they are blind and can not see. Therefore, we want you to open their eyes by building a school in our village of Khumjung.” Hillary began to raise funds and was able to build a school in Khumjung village in 1961.

This was the start of the work of the Himalayan Trust in the Everest region. Since then, the Trust has been involved in education, health services, reforestation, building airports, trails, bridges, water supplies and preservation of local cultural monuments.

About the Sherpas: The word Sherpa does not mean mountaineer, guide or porter, but is the name of a race of people. Tibetan in origin, they inhabit the southern flanks of the Himalayan range in north-east Nepal. Few who visit them can remain indifferent to their loyalty, affection and charm or be unimpressed by their remarkable toughness and courage. The Sherpa language is a dialect of Tibetan; their customs and dress are basically Tibetan and their religion Buddhist.

Potatoes are the basic crop of the Sherpas and they rear Yak in Alpine pastures up to a height of 17,000 ft. Deforestation, much of it due to the growth of tourism, is a major problem, it results in the loss of topsoil, threatening crops and contributing to flooding downstream.

Many of their basic needs, such as foodstuffs, building materials and medical supplies, have to be carried for many days over wild terrain on a man’s back – this work is also undertaken by women. Some Sherpa children, eager for education, walk for two hours a day each way to attend school.

Find out about the work of the Himalayan Trust, and support it: in Nepal, and in the UK, and in Canada.

Stickk to your promises is a recently-launched website which allows you to create a contractual commitment with your family, friends or colleagues at work, to help you achieve a personal goal – such as keeping to your new year resolution, losing weight, giving up smoking, doing regular exercise, running in a marathon or improving your grades at school or college.

“We are trying to motivate people to accomplish personal goals by having users literally put something on the line. We’re not simply a motivational site. We’re actually giving them the necessary tools for success.” – Dean Karlan, co-founder of

The name of the site comes from its use of the “carrot and stick” approach, but it is also about making commitments and “sticking” to them.

On, you draw up an official commitment contract that binds you to achieving a personal goal, be it big or small. By agreeing to this contract, you publicly state your goal and commit to achieving it. In this way, you are staking your reputation on success.
To make you accountable as you work towards your goal, you file weekly reports on your progress. You are also asked to appoint someone you know as a “referee” to verify the accuracy of your reporting! You also enlist as many supporters as you like to encourage you.

To keep yourself focused on your goal, you are asked to record your progress daily in a personal journal. 
And if you
want to up the ante, you can gamble on your success. If you accomplish your goal, you get your money back. If you don’t, your money goes to charity or to someone you’ve designated in advance. The website has been designed to make you more likely to stickK with it until your goal is accomplished.

How to create a commitment contract in four easy steps

Step One: Choose your goal
Write down what you pledge to do. Or you can click on one of the popular commitments on the website. And then select one of the following two commitment categories, which will determine the structure of your contract:
a. A one-shot commitment 
to achieve something very specific, such as to quit smoking or to complete a given task by a certain date. At your deadline, you will either have succeeded or you will have failed.
b. An ongoing commitment, such as committing to using reusable shopping bags whenever you go shopping or giving up drinking bottled water. For an ongoing commitment, you select the timeframe of your choice, up to a maximum of 52 weeks.

Step Two: Choose your stakes
This is what you are willing to wager on achieving success. You can choose to bet money on this. You decide how much and who will get the money if you fail your commitment. This can work in two ways, depending on whether your goal is one-shot or ongoing. For example on a one-shot commitment, you might decide to bet
$500 and choose a friend as the recipient of the money if you fail. You pay the money now as a bond. If you succeed, you will receive a $500 cheque. If you fail, the $500 cheque will be sent to your selected beneficiary. For an ongoing commitment, you can bet a sum of money each week.
For example, if you commit to jogging three miles four times a week for a period of 8 weeks, you might decide to bet $25 each week. You pay an up-front total of $200, and then each week that you don’t fulfill your pledge, $25 is sent to your selected beneficiary; and at the end of the 8 weeks, whatever balance remains is returned to you.

You have three recipient options:
Charities, where the money is pooled and sent to a selected group of charities selected by

Anti-charity, where
you select a cause that you DON’T believe in from the list provided. For example if you believe in gun control, your losing bet would go to the National Rifle Association Foundation. The less you believe in the cause, the harder you will want to work to ensure that the organization does NOT get the money.
• A friend or foe, where
you designate someone you like or dislike to receive the money. then notifies the person via email and requests their mailing address, so that they can be sent them a cheque. If the designated person declines the money or doesn’t respond to repeated emails within a week, the money will go to charity instead. A group of friends might want to create a group contract in which each commits a certain amount of money to a pool, and the entire pot going only to those who accomplish their goals

Step Three: Choose your referee
This is the person you designate to hold you accountable to your goals. You can choose a friend, a family member or a colleague. It helps if your referee is someone you really don’t want to disappoint… someone who’ll stickK it to you if you start slacking! Being accountable to someone other than yourself gives you that extra push. When you report success, your referee’s job is to confirm the accuracy of this. If you report failure, there’s no need for the referee to confirm this. If you report success when you actually failed, and your referee blows the whistle on you and reports failure, then the week is counted as a failure. And if you neglect to file your weekly report, you get an automatic failure for that week.
If you trust yourself implicitly and absolutely insist on going at it alone, there is an alternate of an honour system, where your reports are accepted without referee confirmation.

Step Four: Choose your supporters

These are friends, family members and colleagues who you designate to support and encourage you in achieving your goal. They will receive updates on your progress as you make your weekly reports and journal entries. They can respond by sending you messages of encouragement. Never underestimate the guilt factor. The more people to whom you are accountable, the greater the chance you’ll succeed. So surround yourself with supporters who you don’t want to let down!