I have this set of notebooks that have been with me for years now. When I was 16, there were just two or three of them. Now, there are maybe 20 of these notebooks and sketch pads in a pile on my shelf. A modest collection of personal journals. I have written in these books for over a decade as a means to tease out and understand my innermost thoughts and intuitions. Once in a while, I dip into them to remind myself of the things I’ve thought, and days gone by.
Life is long, and time is relentless. As our days progress, they blur into each other, the days turn to weeks, and the weeks turn to months, and then years. A perpetual cycle of change and evolution. It is easy to forget things. That is why we instinctively try to capture memories, in videos, and selfies and journals. They help to leave checkpoints along the way that we can return to and relive, albeit in faded form, our thoughts, and feelings at certain points in our lives. They serve as records of our lives, evidence of our growth and transformation. They serve as reminders of our resilience.
This is the first power of journaling, as a reminder.
“In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today, when we may be wiser because we are able to look back upon our former condition, and for that very reason have got to admit the courage of our earlier striving in which we persisted even in sheer ignorance.”
When I browse my past journals, I do it to remind myself of the things I wanted to accomplish, the true yearnings of my heart. They have served many times as a firm reminder, a sharp reprimand or a fond nudge in the right direction. They have also been sources of pleasant surprise, as I dig into an old notebook and find that I had inadvertently accomplished things I had written before.
This is the second power of journaling. With it, you can create the future. Asides from just marking time or serving as time capsules, the act of writing is also kind of magic. If you took a notebook, and wrote down some things you wanted to accomplish, and then closed that book and only came back to it a year later, you would be surprised how far you would have gotten in the pursuit of that thing, if you hadn’t already gotten it. And if you haven’t gotten it, you would also know precisely why you hadn’t gotten it yet.
That’s the magic. I don’t know why it works. I have just experienced it. The act of writing somehow, encodes the desire deep into your being, and releases the intention to the universe, so that subconsciously and super consciously, you are working towards your goal.
More than just creating the future however, you can also create yourself through journaling. You can write out the person you want to be, the things you want to do, the things you want to have, and let that magic cause the person you desire to be to emerge.
“In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.”
I remember in my late teens, writing about the kind of person I wanted to be. How I wanted to interact with other people, how I wanted to be perceived, even down to how I wanted to dress. I came across those notes a few months ago and chuckled. I became what I wrote on those loose pages many years ago in my mother’s office. Simply noting down the desire for the person you wish to be helps to change the way you see yourself and creates new possibilities for your life.
Journaling also serves as compass to find your way.It is often the first advice I’d give to someone who is lost and confused. Pick up a notebook and a pen and write. Express yourself. What do you feel? What are you worried about? What do you desire? Where do you see yourself? How can you get there? What is stopping you? How can you overcome it?
It is a wonderful practice that clears the fog of confusion and begins to show you solutions and paths to take. Every time I have felt distraught, or unfocused or like I was on the wrong path going nowhere fast, I would just start writing, releasing and wading through my thoughts until I could start brainstorming solutions and making plans.
As I began the journey of blogging weekly this year, I quickly settled into a ritual. Before I could get around to drafting the post for that week, I first had to journal. If I was to gather my thoughts and craft them into a coherent piece, I had to let go of all the chaotic ones built up from the week before. And so, without intending to, I started a ritual of journaling every week.
Every Sunday I sit down to journal serves to center me, to remind me of what is important, and of the promises I made to myself, of the goals I set. It serves as a navigation system to keep the main thing the main thing. In life, there are too many things and forces competing for your attention, and your effort. The journal helps one keep things in perspective.
For years, I have complained about being blown off course from my true goals by the pressures and demands of life and business. This year, I’ve been a lot more intentional, and its partly due to the journaling habit.
With it, I’ve also been able to time travel through my thoughts since last December, observing my struggles, my insights and my progress. And that last part is important, being able to track progress and evolution.
One advantage in keeping a diary is that you become aware with reassuring clarity of the changes which you constantly suffer
Journaling serves as a force of accountability.Once a thing is recorded, it can be measured. It stands as something to reference. Journaling regularly allows us to keep track of our thoughts and our actions. If you want to break through to a new level, you have to be able observe and judge yourself in real time.
You can argue with memory. You can’t argue with stats.
When you record your intentions, as well as your actions, you are able to clearly see the difference between the two. How well did you do? How bad did you miss the mark? What went wrong? Then you can adjust and then record the results of those adjustments, until you win.
Some people think they have 20 years’ experience, when they have really just had one year of experience repeated 20 times. Conscious journaling and meditation allow us to ponder the quality of our lives and the time that we have spent. With this powerful practice, we can live more intentional lives, we can create ourselves daily, and we can get what we want.