I live in the great Pacific Northwest, in Oregon state, of the United States, for those of you who are from other countries.
I once started the habit of journaling, of keeping a diary, but found it distasteful because of all the negative things I was writing and because I couldn't quite find something that was really worth going back to read over, again. Since then, I've switched to another system and I'd like to share it with everyone here to get some feedback and maybe offer something valuable, as well.
I have split my journaling into two much more focused and solid journals.
One is what I call a "Book of Remembrance" - it's a journal of all the nice things people have done for me. I don't keep a record of wrongs, because it's against what I believe in. I've such things as "So-and-so helped me on my Accounting Quiz when I didn't even know it was due online in 15 minutes." Another entry states how me and one of my friends met in the cafeteria: "#### ####### was very kind and invited me to sit at lunch with her, and she introduced me to her friends." (Which is how we met).
This is a valuable kind of log to keep because it doesn't focus on the self, but on how the self connects to others in a positive way.
The other is a journal called "Lessons learned." I'm just 20 years old, and I just recently moved on-campus to a University. In this journal, I write entries where I cite lessons I've learned and, in some cases, in what situation they were learned. I write the lessons under a title and date. The first entry I ever wrote in this one was about Silence; its power and immeasurable value.
One of the entries is Titled "Humor" and is a short one: "Humor is delicate. Don't assume that people who don't know you will understand your humor, which is based on shared experiences and knowledge."
I think it's been "worth it" for me to do this and to actually take the time to journal in a way that contributes to my future and remembers other people in my life. Plus it's so much simpler (And sometimes less painful) than trying to actually think about how you feel "deep inside" (Which I'm sure has great value).
What are your thoughts?
Keep at it. Trying to keep your daily entries positive is always a good thing.
One thing I read years ago was advice to keep a small notebook and a mechanical pencil on your person at all times. It's not specifically a Journal, but it's awful handy for last minute notes, lists, measurements, and jotting down events as they happen.
Thanks, Native Son. That's a good idea.
Very interesting system, Silviu. I've kept a personal journal for the last few years (not always a daily entry), but my entries very hap-hazard and impromptu records of what happened, how I'm doing, and the occasional three-page tirade when something is really bouncing around my mind. It's as much a record of my life as it is a chance for me to just take a job through my mind and see what I pass along the way.
I tried utilizing a systematic journal technique before. I structured my entries around recording "what" happened, "how" I think I handled the situations, and "lessons learned" from them and how I plan to improve myself. This worked for a while, but I found myself feeling restricted by the structure and unable to really explore what I wanted to write down.
I do like your focus on positives. If I ever go back and read through my journal(s), there's no way to quickly jump to lessons learned or specific entries, aside from dates they were written. I think I might stick your positive-memories technique into my overall entries, so thanks for sharing it!
Thanks for your reply, Matt! I think you have some good thoughts.
Journaling is a very personal thing, and everyone does it a little differently. It sounds like the organized two-journal system is working well for you.
I have been a prolific journaler for about 10 years (I started when I was 23). It has been extremely valuable for my personal growth. I have am much less organized than you are, but I have ways of dealing with that. I often journal dreams after I wake up, I often journal prayers. I journal things that I am thankful for, and I also get real with myself about my failings and try to come up with solutions to my problems with paper and pen.
This is an awful lot to cram into one book. I date each entry, recently started writing times as well. I also use titles. If I have a profound dream, or hear an exceptionally meaningful message, I will title it and underline the title in red (I have a 4-colour pen). Also, although most of my writing is in sloppy cursive (I work in healthcare. We all have horrible handwriting), I write the occasional sentence in all caps to draw attention to it. This makes it easier to go back and find the highlights I am looking for.
Now here's what you get to look forward to. Now that I have a documentary trail of the last 1/3 of my life, I have a lot of material to go back on. I only look back about once a year, but it's amazing to see how far I've come. Sometimes I read about my past struggles and think "wow, I forgot I even struggled with that", but sometimes I think, "Oh, it's been 5 years and I still have that problem. Time to fix that". Also, I now go back with a pen and cross-reference my journals. Something I wished for in 2004 might have happened in 2008, in which case, if I can find both entries, I write the dates down in the other journals. It helps create a long-term narrative, a big picture of the direction of my life, so that when I am old, I will have a great story to read.
I also write in journals made of alkaline-based paper, so that they will last for hundreds of years, just in case my children or their children or their children ever get curious about their forefather Matt.
I hope your system continues to work for you, and if it doesn't, tweak it. Don't become inflexible about your journaling ritual. Let it change and grow just like you do.
Thanks for sharing and for the tips, Matt.
Best wishes to your journey on becoming a better man!
I've been journaling since the late 1980's and I found a journal/planner that I had been keeping during desert shield/storm. I had started it well before Saddam had invaded. It was interesting to go through it as a day to day chronical of the entire conflict. From getting the word that we were deploying, to picking up my navigation charts in the middle of the night. All the drills, plans, accidents and highlights. I had forgotten most of them. I'm glad that I have those old journals.
That's pretty fascinating stuff!
Maybe you could share something about those drills with us.
That's funny, hehehe.
That's how I feel looking back over the years, too! I'm sure that next year I'll think I was stupid and naïve this year.
But, life moves on. Cheers.
Excellent post, I may try to emulate this when I take up the habit. The more I read about what you guys are getting out of journaling the more tempted I am to get started.
I have a small notebook that I started writing in 2-3 years ago. It has random stuff in it, like things I've learned from experiences. Things I would do differently. Short notes from books I've read. Short Term - Long term too do lists. So it's 50% dream book, 25% journal and 25% topical. I don't use it as much as I used to since I changed jobs.
I've been having a hard time sleeping lately, so tonight I'm going to try some writing and see how it goes.
Wow. I think that's great.
I've been writing in a journal lately and it's all been negative. I feel bad each time I re-read it. So this post has given me good ideas.
There's one thing I'd like to experiment now since reading this. Get a journal and write down a fictional tale of all the things 'you've done' and see if you can do it. It wouldn't surprise me if my idea isn't original though.
I know the concept of imagining yourself doing something is used by people trying to achieve a difficult goal. When I played baseball, I spent time focusing on images of throwing a straight-line pass to 1st and getting the out (I had horrible aim with my throws). Some of my college friends have told me they imagine themselves doing great on a test before going into it. Somehow, seeing yourself overcoming a challenge makes it more likely you will do so. The big key is just to make sure you imagine yourself succeeding at whatever task you're imagining.
I know I've tried writing my journal in a more absolute tense vs. a possible tense. I.e. "Tomorrow I go to the gym" instead of "Tomorrow I will go to the gym." I know most Latin-derived languages (save English) generally follow this style, and it seems like speaking as if something is already fact makes it easier to do than if it's abstractly placed in the future.
I hope these bits of info help you craft an awesome, prophetic story of success for you!