How many times have you read a post about journaling?
For me, it was hundreds, at least. Everywhere you turn you read some kind of listicle…5 reasons journaling will make you the next billionaire (or similar).
Life wasn’t going great. I was in a terrible spot that I couldn’t seem to get out of. It took me months of bad habits to slowly tighten the grips of this darkness around my ankles and by the time I felt them, it was too late. To add insult to injury, I had severe relationship problems, albeit caused by mostly me out of the state of being I was in, I lost two family members with whom I was very close, I had financial problems due to a business partnership that went very, very badly. I took a semester off to go to Germany on a trip with the air force that ended up being canceled when Congress didn’t pass a budget which certainly added to my financial problems forcing me to work 60-70 hours per week doing manual labor. This led to herniating two disks in my lower back causing extreme pain for 3 solid months coercing me to move out of the Pacific Northwest (the thought of which made me sick to my stomach) which put an even bigger strain on my relationship and the cycle of hell continued.
I was fighting as hard as I could just to keep my nostrils above water. ‘Tis but life, I know.
What I couldn’t figure out in the midst of things is how I had gotten to that point. I went to Barnes and Noble, bought a journal, and away I went.
One honest-to-goodness truth of life is that nearly everything is 20/20 in hindsight. A related, but unfortunate truth is that rarely anyone bothers to turn around and look. That’s what journaling has done for me. In order to nail down causes to certain problems or to figure out how habits start or why you feel the way you do in certain situations, you have to connect the dots. Some things take years to develop and can be hidden under layers of symptoms. I’ve never been to a shrink, but I imagine that this is the kind of thing you pay them an arm and a leg for. My “shrink” cost me about $10 and looks just like this.
This is my strategy…3-3-3
“What are the 3’s for Jimmy?”
Slow down Kimo Sabi.
- 3 Minutes MINIMUM. That’s it. Make sure that you write for 3 minutes. Every. Single. Day. It’s very easy to do. Everyone and I mean everyone, has 3 minutes they can rearrange and put together every day. For me, I write before bed. 99% of the time those 3 minutes turn into 5 or 10 and even longer. But, if I’m very tired or getting to bed late, I set an egg timer to 3 minutes and go to town. Yes, I use an egg timer because my phone stays in my bathroom after I lay down to read, but that’s for another post.
- 3 Main Points. These can include anything. I usually put something I did during the day, how it made me feel, and what I’m going to do about it. That counts as 3 things. I like to mix them up and put one thing about work or school, one thing about my social life, and one thing about a way to improve whether it is financial, physically, or emotionally.
- 3 plans for the future. These can be the 3 most important things you would like to accomplish the next day or a simple to-do list. They can be 3 things you want to buy at the grocery store in the morning or where you want to go next summer. Some nights I write a mix. Maybe a backpacking trip I want to take, a workout I want to try and some tea at the shop down the street I want to give a go.
I normally go above and beyond with all of these. At first, they were used as a way to get in the habit and stay disciplined but after seeing how much this has improved my overall well-being, I look forward to writing every night.
It’s like running disk defragmenter on you mind…
How did it help?
Over time, I started to see trends. I wrote when I was happy and noted what happened that day that made me happy. I wrote memories I would think of that brought a smile to my face or events from the past I spent time really thinking about and how they made me feel. Eventually, the dots started to appear. Over time, I began to connect those dots and slowly but surely, I built a web of these that connected nearly all of my emotions, missteps, life changing decisions and how I got to the exact chair I’m sitting in as I write this. Life is never as linear as you want it to be. You might make a decision tomorrow morning that uses an experience that you had 15 years ago as its basis. There’s only one way to find out.
Through this journey of introspection, I realized a lot about myself. I learned more during that time that I feel like I’ve learned in the 10 years leading up to it. In reality, I finally put together all of the pieces into a more user-friendly package. One that I can pull from and use as needed. It’s like running the disk defragmenter on your mind. All of the scattered pieces get put into a more recognizable, more usable form. Not only that, you build a very important skill along the way: mindfulness.
Have you journaled or thought about journaling? What have you learned or what is holding you back? If you have any questions please ask I enjoy talking about subjects I’m very interested in and enjoy helping others even more.