Think back a week, can you remember what you did? How it felt? Any mental breakthroughs you had? Any subtle but meaningful accomplishments? A story that you would want to remember until the day you die because of how awesome and inspiring it is?
I can’t remember most of what has happened to me over the last 20 years, and I wish I could. I wish I could look back to when I was 10, 15, and 20 years old to see my deepest thoughts, and reexperience them.
There are a ton of goals I’ve wanted to achieve over the past couple of years and I certainly haven’t achieved all of them. It’s so interesting to think back and wonder what happened from a purely objective and observational standpoint.
The simple answer is “I made decisions that didn’t contribute towards my goals.” But what I really want to know is what the exact decisions were. What specific decisions did I make? I know I played too much of a video game called Hollow Knight, I watched a lot of Netflix and YouTube, but I can’t really remember it all.
Looking back, I wish I had journaled every day over the past year. So I’m going to make that commitment now. I’m going to try to journal everyday for the next 365 days – 10 minutes per day.
Journaling is such a special activity because it gives us feedback we would have otherwise been unaware of. And once we have that feedback, we can adjust our trajectory. It’s the same way a thermostat adjusts the air temperature by turning on air-conditioning when the surrounding air is too hot. Without feedback, we can’t make adjustments.
Over the last little while I’ve been journaling on and off. There’s are tons of scientific benefits – one of the most quoted ones being that it reduces stress. This is something I’ve heard James Pennebaker mention in interviews and his book. He’s one of the leading researchers on journaling and I really like this quote I found by him.
“Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives. You don’t just lose a job; you don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are — our financial situation, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves…writing helps us focus and organize the experience.”
And I couldn’t agree more. Not only does one negative life event affect many parts of my life, but also, every time I journal my mind feels clearer. And that to me is the most important immediate benefit of journaling. Sometimes your mind feels uneasy, everything feels off, and you don’t understand how to solve your problems. Journaling for 10 minutes solves that almost every single time.
The act of slowing down and reflecting is becoming more and more important in this fast-paced, stressful, always on the go, always distracted world where everyone and everything is vying for our attention. Sometimes you just need to spend a few minutes alone, in isolation, and think through your thoughts and emotions.
So, I mentioned earlier in this post that I am going to start journaling every single day for 10 minutes and no more than that for now. I won’t have a specific structure for my journaling either; it’s just going to be free-flowing and expressive. Whatever I want to write about, I’m going to write about.
And the reason I’m doing it this way is because starting small is such an important part of building new habits. The more rules you introduce into a process, the more willpower it takes to think about what you have to do. I want this to be a fun, creative process, and something I look forward to at the end of the da. Allowing myself to be spontaneous with it will make it more fun and intrinsically motivating for me to do.
Over the coming weeks and months and years if I continue to do this long-term, I’ll post updates on this journaling habit. If that’s something you’re interested in doing as well then why not start with me right now.