“If you’re serious about becoming a wealthy, powerful, sophisticated, healthy, influential, cultured, and unique individual, keep a journal.” Jim Rohn.
*** Let’s also add creative, insightful and living on purpose to Jim Rohn’s list.
Getting what you want in life isn’t easy.
You pull out every ounce of courage. Take risks. And hold yourself accountable in case you fall.
Yet statistics say even if you push past what’s holding you back (yourself included) you’ll still fail.
Here’s how to stack the odds in your favour.
Avoid ‘Hive Thinking’
Most people are indecision junkies. With too many choices and a hive-mindset of ‘follow-the-mass’ options, nothing happens.
Decision making can feel like a battle’s raging between two opposing committees in your mind. One holding you back, urging you to play it safe, and one charging forward with new territory to cover.
For bees, moving the swarm (bees in a hive) is risky. With a split decision, the swarm could split — and one group will lose the queen.
You may be familiar with the figure 8 ‘waggle dance’ bees use to communicate a pollen-rich location. When big decisions rely on convincing the whole swarm to move together, the bees employ a ‘head butting’ ritual. The purpose? To shut down alternative locations being danced out and avoid a sticky problem.
It’s a great analogy for what goes on in most people’s minds when it comes to making decisions. Those indecisive moments splitting you from your tribe as you stretch your wings for sweeter hunting grounds.
Getting the swarm of possibilities and options out of your head helps. Pouring ideas, possibilities and debates into a journal helps you see patterns form. Un-form. And re-connect in ever-expanding idea-arcs.
Hive thinking breaks down old patterns that aren’t serving you anymore. And in its place, new pathways open as you stretch mental muscles. Creating your own break-through dance helps avoid the head-butting push-pull thinking dominating your logical mind that to’s and fro’s between one choice and other.
“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Dr Seuss
I’ve kept a journal on and off since 15. During those times of turbulence. And during moments of rising self awareness. Between pillow and blanket I’d plaster those journals with stream-of-thought consciousness.
In hindsight it looked like misery found a bed fellow.
But … what I now know as random outpouring is only the beginning of real journaling.
When the journal process is too open, emotional vomit isn’t helpful.
The real stage of journaling asks for reflection:
- Around patterns of being — the ‘how-you-turn-up-in-the-world’ moments of truth
- Of embryonic ideas needing TLC and
- Unformed self emergence begging for insight.
Making sense of patterns needs space and time. Space to examine what feels like a mess. All because your core values and beliefs — the ones you live by, are rarely expressed. It’s in this exploration, of making the hidden visible, that the purpose of life’s messes appears.
When Life Moments Repeat In A Never-Ending Loop
As David Hare says: “The act of writing is the act of discovering what you believe.”
Problems repeat themselves until resolved. And journals hold the space to explore life’s emerging themes. The recurring events and people who seem to shadow you, provoking you to finally show up in your life the way you’re meant to.
By standing up to bullies.
By rejecting the easy over-worn path.
And by choosing to live with purpose because hiding and self-protection are no longer ok.
During times of change, journaling helps make sense of the bumpy ride and keeps you grounded.
Not only to record events or emotions, but to bring reflection to a higher level. A place to hear your values and beliefs shine in the light of what you’re moving through.
Making sense of life’s moments is where you explore what true growth means for you. Without judgement.
Journaling is a place of no-rights, no wrongs. A place to express thoughts in the moment that may feel true, but may not be true. Some need further exploration to breathe. Some need stopping in their tracks.
We are echoes of those we listen to.
Copies of our stronger selves.
Empty chambers sparsely filled.
And record keeping, notes and journals are the keepers of moments that can lead to miracles.
“Write first, see what you had to say later …”
“Thoughts are created in the act of writing. [It is a myth that] you must have something to say in order to write. Reality: You often need to write in order to have anything to say. Thought comes with writing, and writing may never come if it is postponed until we are satisfied that we have something to say…The assertion of write first, see what you had to say later applies to all manifestations of written language, to letters…as well as to diaries and journals” Frank Smith, Myths of Writing
Anne Frank invited us into her world when she started a diary. Yet at the time she doubted whether she had anything to say:
“ … it seems to me that neither I — nor for that matter anyone else — will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl.”
Who doesn’t wonder whether our musings are worthy?
It’s normal to doubt. Normal to think your thoughts less relevant, less worthy.
Yet keeping a journal isn’t about anyone else.
You don’t write for an audience, you write for yourself.
It’s a place where observations come to life. To explore ‘what is’. And to offer a rare glance into a space that otherwise remains darkened.
Journals offer a nudge to reflect on the past or what is present. They’re also places to design your future self.
Whatever Your Mind Can Conceive And Believe, It Can Achieve. Napoleon Hill
Your mind creates. Anything. And Everything.
Every day you’re not radiantly alive and pursuing your life’s purpose is a day wasted. Corbett Barr
To create, your mind needs a playground — and you need a place to watch and witness the magic unfold.
Goals without a journal to record their progress fizzle fast.
Goals need your energy and focus to keep them alive. Without this, bee-hive thinking sets in. Whisking away your focus, attention and energy from what you set out to do.
Writing your goals in a journal keeps you focused on the outcome. You engage with them on an intimate level. Like a mother bird watching over her eggs, you’re keeping your goals warm, waiting for the first breakthroughs to appear so when ready, they take flight.
Goals aren’t linear
If you’re used to organising goals in a linear way and planning them in sequence, you may have noticed how difficult it is to achieve them.
Why? Because life isn’t linear.
From a plane, the only things appearing as straight lines are man-made.
We’re told that one step follows another, as in a sequential time line.
But this isn’t true because many pathways coincide and ask more of you at one time than you can give. Those times when family asks you to drop what you’re doing and be there to help out. Times when your health asks you to slow down. Times when your goals must accommodate those ‘warp moments’ without you giving up on them.
The must-do, got-to, have-to in life can rip your enthusiasm for reaching a goal.
Benjamin Hardy says most of us are in survival mode — always putting someone or something’s agenda before your own.
If everyone else’s goals are taking priority in your life, where are you hiding your’s?
We’re trained to react to the ring tone of a phone or mobile. And like Pavlov’s dogs our internal and external behaviour changes when hearing that compulsive ‘must-act-now’ sound.
In this wired society you’re triggered to react. To Facebook posts. Twitter feeds. LinkedIn comments. To emails and text messages in a way never seen before.
- You may be finding you no longer have time for yourself.
- You may be finding you no longer have time for your goals.
- You may be finding roller-coaster reactions are controlling your life.
What happens when you’re reacting?
“Keeping a journal of what’s going on in your life is a good way to help you distill what’s important and what’s not.” Martina Navratilova
You get off-course.
Have burnouts and break downs.
Start blaming and backsliding.
A beep now alerts us to someone else’s agenda. And like Pavlov’s dogs we follow the scent.
Technology is overtaking lives. Instead of it serving us, it now sets our agenda. It’s linked more with depression as virtual ‘on-ness’ reduces our personal battery life.
In 2017, a study reported 86 percent of Americans checked their emails, texts and social media accounts (either constantly or often).
With 48 percent of millennials worried at some level about negative effects of social media on their mental and physical health, the hive may be about to swarm, and with this — some will lose the queen.
Interruptions, diversions and distractions are the norm. Silent stress keeping your mind and body on high alert and under permanent attack. All while the most important one — your internal one — quietens.
Journaling offers a space to manage tensions that keep you looping between fear and desire.
It’s a private meeting zone where you and your goals are the main agenda. Your inner dialogue, the stuff that’s keeping you from working on the #1 goal can stop, letting you break through and break free of the hive mindset.
You may have given up on goals — but they haven’t given up on you.
“Keeping a personal journal, a daily in-depth analysis and evaluation of your experiences, is a high-leverage activity that increases self-awareness and enhances all the endowments and the synergy among them.” — Stephen R. Covey
How many of your goals are now forgotten because the time frame for achieving them was too short? The pressure too great? Or the desire to achieve them flipped to focus on another new and more glittery ‘interest’?
For a child, learning the alphabet — all 26 letters — seems an impossible task.
To a teenager learning to drive and co-ordinate a clutch, brakes, blinkers, gears and rules also seems impossible.
It’s the nature of goals. We’re told they need breaking into smaller tasks (managable steps) to achieve them.
That’s only half the equation.
Goals involve a series of mini-steps that need mastery of mini-skills.
How often have you tackled the ‘monster’ (the thing you want more than anything — like writing a book, doing a presentation, building a business) without knowing its strengths and weaknesses? Its vulnerabilities. The points of access that will break the beast down into manageable chunks?
Too often, like the child learning the alphabet and the teenager learning to drive, you may be focusing on a ‘step’ rather than the skills needed to perform that step well.
A child doesn’t learn the alphabet for the sake of recitation. Children learn the alphabet to read, write and become functioning people in society.
Teenagers know that driving is their path to freedom. They get it’s part of a process to work through and flee the nest.
Adults often forget this and set goals for change without checking in on two important things.
The 2-Step Shuffle Of Getting What You Want Fast
“There are two great days in a person’s life — the day we are born and the day we discover why.” William Barclay
The ‘what’s it for’ part of the equation and the mini-skills needed for each step of the journey.
Without these 2 essentials, goals have no stick-ability. They become too hard, too complex and feel unbalance-able. They start sliding left and right as more ‘interesting’ ones arise. Ones that on the surface don’t appear as complex.
And this is where journaling offers perspective. A place to find the back-story and learn the skills that make the goal achievable … and worthwhile.
Using a journal as part of your goal-setting process helps you focus on:
- Exploring your values and what’s important to you.
- Holding yourself to standards.
- Reflecting on emotions still unravelling (like overwhelm, frustration and goal-hopping excitement).
- Sifting through dream fragments.
- Mapping, building links and layering ideas.
- And for noticing a day’s ‘odd’ moments. Those out-of-place weird happenings that confuse, yet often delight.
And the most important part? Managing distractions.
Are Distractions Really So Bad?
“Oh, I just want what we all want: a comfortable couch, a nice beverage, a weekend of no distractions and a book that will stop time, lift me out of my quotidian existence and alter my thinking forever.” Elizabeth Gilbert
Don’t we all. Yet, those rare connections created between odd, disconnected and rambling thoughts parading in never-ending loops of ‘look at me’ moments can pull you off-course.
They’re distractions that look and sound so alluring.
Yet having a place to put these chocolate balls of intrigue and ‘hold’ their nervous energy (in your journal) offers a freedom.
One that says — “I haven’t forgotten you — I’m just not ready to give you my full attention … yet.”
As Rolf Smith says:
“The ideas can come from anywhere and at any time. The problem with making mental notes is that the ink fades very rapidly.” Rolf Smith, author The 7 Levels of Change
I work with people who know what they don’t want. It’s easy for most to say what they’re sick and tired of and need to distance themselves from.
Suffocation in a noose-style relationship. Isolation physically and emotionally. Fear. Self-doubt. Loss. Anger.
The emotions of a life lived … yet one not yet explored.
In the space of moving from what someone doesn’t want towards the dreams they daren’t wish for —
- the goals that’ll build a business and gain independence
- or the relationship offering the genuine love they’ve hoped for — lays a tension journaling can bridge.
… you may find a vacuum. To explore it means mining the part of you that’s taken refuge. You can discover this lost soul in your journal. It’s still there. Hoping to be heard.
Trouble is that while you may have given up hope about achieving those goals, they haven’t given up on you. They’re still there dormant. Locked in your inner vault causing disappointment and dismay when low moments erupt.
History’s Big Lessons Help You Look Forward
General George Patton failed his first year at West Point Military Academy. The following year, Patton kept a small leather-bound journal. All to track his progress and learn from mistakes, a habit he continued throughout his life.
My father always wanted to run his own business. When he left the army he received a small payout. Freedom he thought. To be his own boss, so (against my mother’s advice) he bought a local petrol station and tyre business.
Like most small business owners he devoted all his time to making the darned thing work.
He finally found out why he couldn’t.
An employee had been stealing the tyres and siphoning the petrol when he wasn’t there.
He lost heart. And walked away.
It was the last time he invested in a dream — he left that to my mother.
I inherited my father’s desire to ‘do things my way’ and run a business.
I also inherited my mother’s determination to never give up.
A Place To Be
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir
In running my own business, I need more than ever a place to plan, to blow off steam, to map ideas, to reflect on great-ideas-gone-wrong, to doodle, to dream and to dare.
My journal is my ‘inner home’. A private haven that sometimes looks like an art journal.
At others, a project-based scrap book — all torn and dog-eared. And at its best — a mix of crazy shapes jostling for space between arrows, break-out boxes, underlines and messy crossing-outs.
A true journal.
Some of them are A3 behemoths. They reveal the plotting and planning of a course I’ll be running, and ideas that may or may not get off the ground. And always … always … the small spots of imagination that at times lead to a beautiful journey. In return, I receive ideas I would never have come up with. By recording and nurturing them in this hot-house of magic-making they find their life.
Learning from failures can happen with 10 minutes a day between 2 sheets of paper.
How To Move Past Failure in 10 Minutes …
The Dalai Lama said: “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
He was describing ‘journaling’ … well, that’s what happiness sounds like to me. A place where meaning takes shape, and records great plans that may one day breathe life.
The ‘art of journaling’ helps me return to core, to a grounded state. To a place where time and space offer slight shifts. Ones that keep me on track and connecting to the deeper purpose we were all designed to live.
Journals help take out the linear and make our responses more holistic.
It offers the space to decide whether leaving the swarm is right … or not.
With 10 minutes a day … imagine what you and your journal could achieve …
I’ll leave the last word to Jack London:
“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” Jack London, Getting Into Print
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Originally published at medium.com