Saturday, August 18, 2012

Be Great - Keep a Journal (Part 1)

Most great people in history have kept journals. Take a step towards being just like them, with the following information as your guide.

The exercise of writing down reflections about events experienced each day is an invaluable way to evaluate your performance, allowing you to set higher standards of excellence for yourself, and it can also help you find new ways to solve difficult problems.


Many people resist keeping a journal because they think:
- They aren't good enough writers,
- Someone will read their innermost thoughts (heaven forbid!), or
- They have much more important things to do.
These reasons are just excuses, and you can't succeed in anything if you let worthless excuses stop you.

= A journal is for your own benefit, so your writing ability is only being judged by you. Practice makes perfect, and as long as you can read it, it's good enough for you to get started!
= In order to succeed, many people will need any number of other people to help them along their paths. Coaches, mentors, or even just confidants, can all help you better if you have a more complete understanding of your own self. You may find yourself actually asking others to read your journal (or at least parts of it), in order to help them help you. Crazy, I know!
= You need a way to evaluate your feelings and abilities, and also accept self-criticism in order to improve your weaknesses or build on your strengths. When is becoming a more effective and efficient human being, friend, relative, worker, etc... not on your priority list??

Instead of thinking of a journal as a list, in which you merely relate the day's events ad nauseum, relate it the diary you imagined (or even started) as a child - fill it with self-reflection, self-expression, and self-exploration. Emotions and opinions are paramount, meaning adjectives are your premium ingredient! The more descriptive you are, the easier it will be for you to recall your exact state of mind when you are looking back over your collective works.

A powerful benefit of thinking about your emotions, is that when you become consciously aware of them, you are more capable of shaping them. Woo woooooo (train noise)! Next stop: Emotional Stability.

Other powerful benefits of keeping a journal:
* Improve Self Expression. In a journal, or writing in general, you are able to express what you feel in ways that may be too difficult or even impossible at work, home, or especially out with friends. Getting drunk and spilling your proverbial guts, doesn't count as real self expression.

* Stress reduction. Expressing your anger in writing releases the emotional pressure that builds up when you hold feelings inside. Is it any wonder that many people say they feel calmer and spiritually at ease after a journal-writing session? Think of it as venting to your best friend.

* Stronger relationships. Writing about people you know will help you understand them better and put you in touch with your own feelings about them. When you're furious with someone close to you, discharging raw emotion in the privacy of the page enables you to work out solutions in advance, rather than face to face in an irrational outburst. Also consider that the other benefits discussed, will lead to a healthier individual en-total, meaning relationships in general will be easier for you to sustain.

* Better organizational skills. By structuring yourself to write regularly, you automatically develop stronger organization skills, such as list-making and time management. Needs and goals are also easier to clarify and prioritize once they are written out.


Oh great, now there are rules?!?
Keeping a journal is first and foremost and exercise in creative freedom.
Some people are inspired by an elegant bound notebook with fine paper, while others feel more comfortable letting the words flow onto loose-leaf sheets that can be clipped into a binder. As easy and convenient as it may be for you to keep your journal in a digital format, studies have shown that the "archaic" form of actually writing, for whatever reason, is much more powerful. You can always scan the documents into digital copies later.

Do your best to write something every single day. You can schedule 15-30 minutes at the same time each evening, or just pick up a pen when the mood hits you. If you're more of the latter style, try to make sure you keep the utensils (pen and paper) handy at all times, so you'll be ready when your fancy strikes.

Easy ways to get started:
- Put yourself in the mood. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth. This focuses your vision inward, clears a space in your mind, and eases the transition from workday reality to contemplation. Simply begin by asking yourself "What am I feeling at this moment?"

- Jot down a few lines to summarize the major high or low points of your day. This exercise is equivalent to stretching before working out or playing scales before jumping into Mozart's greatest hits on the piano.

Great job so far, you're well on your way!

Stay tuned for the next installment where I'll talk more about what to include in your writings, and how to get your flowjo kicking.

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