The Clairity from Writing it Down

I’ve recently got back into the habit of daily journaling and have been amazed at the positive impact this discipline has on me.

When I journal, I often write about improvements I want to make in my life and what I’m’ currently struggling with or working toward.  The exercise of giving thought to a topic and spending several minutes putting these thoughts on paper give me the following:

  • Clarity of direction
  • New ideas
  • A way to process and organize my unformed thoughts

When I don’t journal, I find I only spend a few brief minutes each day thinking about what I’m working on, pursuing, or struggling with.  This brief, unfocused thinking always leaves me void of any real plan or direction I can take to make progress in that day.  However, when I journal, especially in the morning before the day gets started, I gain a clarity about whatever issue I’ve written about, but more important, I feel energized and eager to jump in and get the day started.

If you’re considering the practice of daily journaling, here are 3 suggestions that I find helpful:

  • Pick a consistent time every day. Do mornings work best for you or evenings before bed?  Perhaps around lunch time works best.  It doesn’t matter at all what time you journal.  What does matter is that you find a time that you can commit to as much time as you need to journal, whether it’s 5 minutes or an hour.  Find what works for you.
  • Find a journal that you like the feel of. This may seem like a funny thing, but the journal you right on must “feel” right.  Does it fit well in your hand or on your lap?  Do you like pages with lines or blank pages?  Do you prefer a spiral binding, a yellow note pad, or leather bound journal?  I prefer a smaller size page (because it feels like I write more) and I also prefer a journal that lays open nicely.  It doesn’t matter what your preference is, as long as your journal feels right for you.  It should be something you want to spend time with.
  • Write about topics that interest you. I mentioned above how I like to write about what I’m working on our struggling with, but that doesn’t have to be what you write about.  Maybe you want to write about what you did that day, or keep a list of ideas, or record significant events.  Perhaps you just want to write about whatever is on your mind.  Those are all great topics! As long as you’re writing about something that is interesting to you, you’ve got the right topic.

Of these suggestions, I think that finding a consistent time to write is the most important to maintaining consistency.

If you want to increase the clarity of thinking,  make significant progress toward achieving your goals, or just be more mindful of what direction you’re leading your life, I suggest giving journaling a try.  Your writing doesn’t have to be eloquent, flowery or even grammatically correct.  It just has to be a written expression of whatever is on your mind.

Determine Where You Want to Go

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

~The Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland

I’ve found that statement to be true in my own life in years past.  Early on I didn’t have real, specific goals.  Sure, I had some like, earn money, have fun, and be happy, but those aren’t very concrete.  They’re much too vague to be useful and didn’t give me any direction with regard to how I would go about achieving them.

As a result, I found that I wasn’t really focused in my career pursuits and personal goals.  I lacked direction as to where I wanted to go and how I would go about getting there.  Life was ok, but I wasn’t intentionally going anywhere specific.  I would take jobs that came along instead of actively pursuing opportunities that helped move me closer to a destination or goal I had intentionally set. I felt like a leaf that had fallen in a creek and was being carried downstream in a gently tumbling current. Life was fine.  It wasn’t bumpy or turbulent, but it wasn’t great either.

It makes sense, right?  How can we know what path, opportunity, or direction is best for us if we don’t know where it is we want to go?

It wasn’t until I began spending time thinking about what direction I wanted to take my life that I started to get a sense of where I intentionally wanted to go.  It was exciting as I realized the unintentional path I was on would no longer do.

In January of 2011, as part of this thinking process, I began journaling.  It is a discipline I have stuck with ever since.  For me, journaling has been one of the most productive and rewarding undertakings of my life.  It is a great way to dive into your mind and engage yourself with questions like: “What do I want out of life?  What’s really important to me?  What am I good at?  What am I excited about? Where do I want to be next year at this time? How do I want my life to look now and in the future?  Where am I going?”  The questions you can ask yourself are endless, but they all start to bring clarity to your thinking when you put pencil or pen to paper and begin truthfully answering them.  Journaling helped me gain a clear picture of where I want to go, what I wanted out of life.  It has even helped me identify the steps needed to move me toward the new goals I have set for myself.

Have you ever been unsure of exactly where it is you want to go in life?  Do you feel that way now?  If so, I encourage you to give journaling a try.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  You don’t need an agenda.  Rather just write your thoughts down as they come to your mind, and write down your reactions to them.  Don’t worry if your thoughts are jumping all over the pace.  Just follow the train of thought with your pencil and see where they lead.

Commit to journaling for 30 days, or set a goal of writing for 10 minutes 3 times a week for a month.  Cause something to happen by simply starting.  You will be amazed at the clarity and motivation you’ll gain.