How To: The Joy of Journaling
Write things down and change your life!
By Joy Lardner, DTM
Write things down and change your life! When you embrace the joy of journaling, astonishing things begin to happen.
A few years ago, I competed in our club’s International speech contest against Asma, a Toastmaster friend. My speech was titled, “Perfect Peace;” Asma’s was called, “Write It Down.” I thought my speech was awesome, but Asma’s speech touched more hearts, mine included. Asma took her speech and went on to win at higher competitive levels. Through her words, she addressed the importance of recording one’s goals on paper to bring them to fruition. Asma told a spellbound audience about her sister Uzma, who had been disowned by their parents for marrying against their wishes. Desperately desiring family acceptance, Uzma recorded her 50 lifetime goals on paper, placing the goal of reuniting with her parents first on her list.
Uzma converted those lifetime goals into a computer screensaver that she could read every day. That year, Uzma achieved 25 percent of her lifetime goals, simply by writing them down. And yes... shortly thereafter, after innumerable futile attempts, she reunited with her family.
As I followed my friend Asma through the various levels of Toastmasters competition, watching her win again and again, hearing her message over and over, I realized that somehow I never seemed to tire of it. That’s because Asma’s message was one to which I have always subscribed. I have always believed in the power of writing things down, yet had grown away from that practice. It was time to return to something I enthusiastically endorsed: keeping a journal. It was time to come back to my love of writing. It was time for me to come home.
I started keeping a journal around age 10. I toted a little orange notebook around in which I recorded my insights on life... as much insight as a 10-year old could muster. I thought I was worldly with much to record, and my journal indulged me by being a silent listener.
I continued to keep a journal throughout my teenage years, recording every puerile teenage angst I felt. Trivial upsets that I now handle with grace and ease seemed so serious at the time! Yet, the very act of writing things down was my form of emotional release, my catharsis. It was like confiding in a dear friend, and indeed, my journal was a very dear friend.
In my mid-20s, my writing grew up: Fewer petty insights and more positive acceptance and reflection on what is. Again, my journal had helped me to grow. Today, I continue the valuable practice of journaling.
I believe journaling is a tool of the soul. Writing things down quickly connects us to our inner being. Journaling is a life-long, life- changing activity.
So, how does writing things down work?
Make Decisions/Find Solutions
Your journal is a concrete decision-making tool, a place to reflect and analyze a situation. To this day, when faced with a difficult decision, I reach for blank paper, draw a line down the center, and immediately record the strengths and weaknesses of the challenge at hand. This helps me evaluate my options through a combination of logic and gut feeling.
Seeing things in black and white provides some objectivity, but I make a final decision based on gut feeling. Why heavy reliance on intuition after such logical analysis? The act of writing things down and logically weighing both sides is a necessary first step to reaching decisions. When making conclusions, however, I allow my intuition to take over.
Draw Your Dreams to You
The single most important reason for writing down your dreams and goals is this: A dream carried around in your head remains a dream until you take action. The physical, purposeful act of writing down your dreams, wishes and aspirations in black and white demonstrates a commitment to yourself and the universe that you mean business – that you expect your dreams to manifest outward and are prepared to make it happen.
For example, create a top-10 list of what you want to do in your life and refer to it daily. Revise the list as you achieve objectives. Think constantly of what you want, keep reading your list, and your mind will work toward achieving it.
Spark Your Creativity
Journaling sparks our creativity. Our intuitive talents are always alert and we don’t want to miss out on those bright, life-changing ideas. When inspiration knocks we want to be ready.
Often, when I am riding home on the subway, completely relaxed and observing the world rolling by, an idea for a speech, poem, seminar or article for publication will pop into my head. I then retrieve my little notebook and jot down such ideas for later conversion into something more permanent. How do you capture your creativity when it cries out for attention?
Try the power of journaling in your life by writing down 10 things you like about yourself, five good things that happened today, five goals you are working on, and 10 things that bring you ease.
• Ten things you like about yourself: This exercise will help to expand your self-esteem. It’s a reminder of how much there is to love and appreciate about ourselves, exactly as we are. I love an analogy about how we sometimes walk through life like light bulbs covered with masking tape. Learning to appreciate ourselves is like pulling the masking tape off of the light bulb and allowing our true brightness, our natural light, to shine through.
• Five good things that happened today, or even this week, trains us to focus on the positive in our lives. Whenever we count our blessings and adopt an attitude of gratitude for the wonderful things the universe has bestowed upon us, we attract even more positive energy and increase the flow of wonderful things coming our way.
• Five goals you are working on: Recording them helps you develop future-oriented thinking and moves you closer to those goals. Remember Uzma? Demonstrate commitment to what you want from life. We cannot achieve our goals if we don’t know what they are. Not only must you write down your goals, you must post the written words in a visible place where you can read them every day. As the saying goes: If we don’t know where we are going, any road will take us there.
• Ten things that put you at ease lifts your spirits and creates something to which you can refer when you need an emotional boost. Your list could include: enjoying a warm bath or a cup of tea, spending time with family or taking long walks.
Always and Nevers
To benefit from journaling:
- Always tote around a pen and a small notebook.
- Write whenever inspiration strikes.
- Avoid recording your gripes. Stay away from victim mode. Griping comes easily to most of us; it’s human nature to obsess on what’s not working in our lives. By giving attention to our problems, we allow them to run our lives. We set ourselves up for misery when we put our lives on hold until things are fixed. By doing so, we miss out on all the happiness there is to be had.
Some aspects of our lives will always be less than perfect. The key to happiness is awareness of this fact, and a firm resolve to ask ourselves, ‘What would I be doing if this problem didn’t exist? Where would I focus my energy if this annoying person, place or event were not in my life?’ Once you know the answer to exactly how you would behave if the problem were non-existent, you can go about and behave as if it were so. Your journal will help you. We expend much energy training ourselves to be positive, why jeopardize our efforts through negative thinking? It is too easy to adopt victim mode. Let’s not do that. Keep your journal positive and you will attract the positive.
The simple act of writing things down will improve your life. Simply observe the people you consider to be happy and successful and ask them if they carry around an “idea” or “insight” notebook. I’m betting the answer is yes. Write things down and change your life!
Joy Lardner, DTM, is a charter member of the CU at Noon Toastmasters Club in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. In 2003 she published her first book of poetry titled, Quietly Knowing, Warmth for the Soul.