Do you want to start journaling or begin a daily practice but don’t know where to start? Do you already have a daily practice, but looking for new ways to improve your process? You’re in luck! No matter where you are on your journey, I promise you’ll find some useful nuggets to propel you forward.
For the past 6-years, I’ve steadily evolved my journaling practice. What started out as a to-do list (that’s all I knew how to do and probably still holds true) has now grown into the most important part of my day. Over time my process has evolved as I have “cherry-picked” from many people smarter and wiser than me. I have acknowledged those individuals and resources at the bottom of this post. More recently, I’ve discovered some great additions and modifications to my practice that were the inspiration for finally writing this post.
What I’m about to share with you has had a tremendous impact on my personal growth and has shifted the trajectory of my life.
What I hear most, from people sharing, is the challenge of getting started. The process of starting something is often the biggest obstacle. They may not know what to write, or they feel too much pressure to “get it right.”
You can call this journaling, diary, daily mindfulness, whatever, the name is unimportant, but what is important, much like life, is the process and journey of finding out what works for you.
What I most love about the structure below is that the prompts are written out, making it easy to pick it up wherever and whenever the time is right. Do it for long enough, and it becomes second-nature, and I don’t mean just the structure of the practice, but the actual practice itself is powerful and will likely manifest a rewiring of your thoughts, which brings me to this very important point…
There is only one rule.
It is essential you give yourself permission, the freedom, and the grace to not only leave lines blank when responses don’t come to mind but you must also be easy on yourself when (not if) you miss a day, a week, a month, a year without writing an entry.
In this post, you’ll receive my blank template that you can use for your practice. Immediately below there is a screenshot of the template alongside a recent entry to see a before and after comparison. I’m going to take you through the process step by step to share why each particular section is valuable and to provide you insights into why it works for me and how it might also work for you. Let’s get started!
Gratitude — this sits atop my daily practice because I believe it to be the most important. When you open yourself to experience the trait of gratitude, you discover with clarity and accuracy how much good there is in your life. Additionally, science has proven that daily gratitude reduces bouts of depression. Recently, I swapped out line #5 with a “bad thing.” On this line, I write how I’m grateful for something that I would normally perceive as a bad thing and I force myself to consider a positive outcome and the value in things even when they don’t go as planned or to my liking. It can be tough at first, but training your brain to think in this way can give you access to light even in the darkest places.
Daily “high” and “low” — this practice is probably the most innocent as it exists to give perspective into the spectrum of your daily experience. I’ve had two pretty big ahas! from this practice: 1) things are never as bad as they seem; 2) I leave the “low” blank quite often as I get present to how trivial a low point can be.
Things making me anxious — this is a rather new addition to my practice, and I love it because it surfaces the discomforts I’m consciously and unconsciously harboring. Naming them has given me a sense of control over them and my situation.
Positive affirmations — writing positive affirmations will probably strike many of you as the most elusive practice. They’re challenging to get started, difficult to frame in the positive, and they’re ever evolving based on where you are. Forming positive affirmations is a great exercise to include a trusted love one, a mentor, an advisor, a therapist, or pastor, as it requires you to understand your self-limiting thoughts so that you can reframe these fears in the positive. The process of writing these affirmations has the incredible ability to rewire your brain. The affirmations are already true, but you will begin to believe them and manifest them! If you need additional help, you can check out the following free audiobooks that have helped me tremendously.
Five influencers — there is this saying that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” and whenever I share this insight with someone I’m always sure to add “so choose wisely!” Recently, I learned from Naval Ravikant in Tim Ferriss’s new book “Tools of Titans” that this is known as the “Five Chimps Theory” because zoologists can predict the behavior of any chimp by observing the five chimps they have spent time with the most. One major paradigm shift in this process is to broaden the definition to include not just people you are talking to and spending time with, but authors you’re reading and podcasts/audiobooks you’re listening to. For this reason, I’ve renamed this section “Five influencers” and it is so much more gratifying to know that through osmosis you can be like anyone you want. If you want to live like Tim Ferriss, then consume all of the Tim Ferriss you can get your hands because doing so will surely impact your thoughts and behavior patterns!
Short-term goals — the goal list is pretty straight-forward, however it’s important not to beat yourself up over not checking them off. Drinking more water, exercising, and meditating make it onto almost every day’s practice and yet most days I fail to do all three. The goal here is to be mindful of those things you’re stretching towards and to let that be enough.
Business and blog ideas — they say that this practice will give you superpowers. I believe it. I first heard it through the lens of writing down business ideas, but I quickly realized I’m not smart enough to list new business ideas every day, so I expanded the list to include blog titles, and that has definitely given me superpowers, as I’ve now written more blog posts in the past month then all of the past year! You can substitute my heading with a domain of ideas relevant to your goals and aspirations. Be creative!
Extras and Add-ons:
What would make today great? — this one is self-explanatory, but it puts a flag in the ground for feeling accomplished and joyful at the end of the day.
“Just note gone” — is a Buddhist reflection that notes the end of a sensory experience. I’m still learning this practice myself, but the power of it seems transformative, especially so for someone like myself who has historically sensed life as an accumulation of baggage. The goal is to get present to the temporary nature of life, in life. You can read more about this practice here.
Wishing happiness — take 15 seconds or 5 lines of paper to wish your enemy (that’s a strong word), someone you’re at battle with, or anyone really, to wish happiness upon them: “I wish for so-and-so to be happy. This person deserves happiness.” Again and again.
Stream-of-consciousness—just start writing about anything in your head and see where it takes you. You may find your mind taking you places with surprising results.
Michele Whittington — Michelle is the Religious Science Minister at Creative Living Fellowship in Phoenix, Arizona. If you ever find yourself in Phoenix on Sunday, their services are one of a kind! You can watch services live on the CLF website. You can also catch Michelle’s messages on her podcast and recordings of the services on their Youtube page.
Claudia Hartman — Claudia is a Certified Religious Science Practitioner and member of CLF. She introduced me to Landmark, CLF, contemporary thought, and the elevated self-inquiry demonstrated in this post. Her patience and wisdom over the years has given me the confidence to look within myself to see and actualize my own good.
Tim Ferriss — there is so much Tim Ferriss in the words and experiences above that my staking claim to any of this would be counterfeit without acknowledging his work.
Landmark International — Landmark is an international personal and professional growth company. Their Curriculum for Living changed my life by giving me access to insights previously untapped while helping me see how I’m a cause in the matter of the change I want to see in the world.
Reboot.io — Reboot is a coaching company that found their niche with entrepreneurs in the startup community. They produce excellent content through their blog and podcast. I’m currently enrolled in their CEO Group, and it’s been a meaningful and worthwhile experience.
The 5-minute Journal — The 5-minute journal is a mobile digital diary found in the app stores that carries a similar daily practice ideology. It is very useful for those times on the go.
Moleskin — the key to every great daily practice is a trusted journal.
That’s it! I hope you find this information valuable. If you have your own practices or insights, it would be excellent if you shared them in the comments below!