I am convinced that there is one thing above all else that will rocket someone’s progress in developing and improving themselves. It has nothing to do with reading a certain book, integrating a belief, or using a technique…
It’s writing a journal.
Reasoning Behind Writing a Journal
In weight training, the best way to see your progress is to note down your exercises, weights, and repetitions. For dieting, you are often instructed to keep track of everything you eat to see where your calories come from. So why not have a journal to keep track of your life?
And this journal can contain whatever you want it to: Perhaps it includes how you feel when you go to the gym and follow your diet, or cheat on either. Maybe it’s what happened during the day, and how you reacted. What about if it includes who you went on a date with recently, and what you think of them? It’s your journal, and it’s your choice to make of it what you will.
As you evolve, so will your journal. It will include different items from your life, the style of writing will change, there may be different sections everyday, you may write in it more or less often… The point is just to write. Put down what YOU are thinking and what YOU believe is important. It’s yours and nobody else’s, so your deepest, darkest, and most tender thoughts can go in there.
What are the Benefits of Journaling?
1) Tracks your progress
In times when you feel down, it helps to see where you’ve come from as you’ve tried to change your life for the better. You have a written history of all you’ve done, and how hard you’ve worked on your life.
When it comes to general well-being and life direction, I’ve often heard that six months is a good judgement point to see if you’re heading in the right, or wrong direction. Look back six months ago and see how you were feeling in general and what your goals were. Compare that to what you are experiencing now. What do you see?
2) Gets things out of your head
The more things that stay stuck in your head, the more you analyze them, spin your wheels, and waste your energy on what is not happening right in front of you. Put it down in the journal so it’s out of your mental space. There is nothing wrong with introspection and reflection, but if done ad infinitum, you will drive yourself insane. Moreover…
3) Helps break things down. Organizes and articulates your thoughts
As you write things down, you may be able to connect lines you couldn’t before. Again, emptying things from you head into writing gives you more mind space and allows you to process whatever is going on with much more clarity
4) Shows where you spend your time
Writing down what you’ve done and thought about during the day can help show you if you are putting time into things that might not be as productive in reaching your goals as you might think
5) Allows for venting
Writing in a journal allows you to vent your frustration and anger, to see where these emotions come from and, perhaps, why. Who or what caused your feelings? What did you do with them? Are your reactions healthy? This also enables you to think about how you should proceed. For anyone who also feels guilty venting to people, the journal is there for you and won’t ever complain. Make no mistake though: It is NOT a substitute for getting help and talking things out
6) Creates a record of your life
If you journal, you’ll have something you can always look at. You’ll have a history of all you’ve done, and that’s something amazing you can always look back to as you live your life
Ideas for Components of a Journal Entry
Again, depending on what you are focusing on in life and what is important to you, your journal may appear quite different than another person’s. You might also split your journal into several for each different focal area. That’s up to you.
Each journal entry should indefinitely have a date associated with it for tracking. After that, there are many possibilities of what to include:
– What you have been grateful for
– Who you saw
– What you did
– Negative emotions that came up in certain situations. What were they, why did they occur, what is a reasonable course of action?
– Positive emotions that came up in certain situations. What were they, when did they occur, how can you keep them going?
– Intimate relationships and dates – feelings, thoughts, and experiences
– Goal-setting – life, work, exercise, etc.
– Information gained from reading blog posts, books, etc.
– Things to work on
– Challenges for the week
In short, the most important thing is to write. If you’re stuck, just write whatever happened to you during the day and what you’re thinking or feeling.
Don’t think, just move your hands and get the words out.
Image credit: Joel Montes de Oca
So true – I’ve always kept a journal for most of these reasons, it is an extremely valuable tool indeed.
It’s really helps me get out a lot of thoughts and shows me how far I’ve come since I started working on myself :).
The unfortunate thing is my journal turns into a novel. I average around 80 pages per month!