Why a real man should keep a journal

Controversial title — Check!

Ok it’s not for everyone, but it can and should be for most of us.

Throughout history, from great explorers and conquerors to Prime ministers and President’s great men kept a journal: a record of their hopes, dreams and daily lives.

Marcus Aurelius, Benjamin Franklyn, Charles Darwin, Theodore Roosevelt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Captain Cook the list goes on.

So why do it?

I’ve been doing it for about 5 years now so here are a few of my reasons:

1. Setting goals

“The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.” ~ Lee Iacocca

This is the initial reason I started to keep a journal years ago. Goals are targets to aim for in the many facets of life that need our attention. Without a goal or some direction at least, there’s a danger of life passing us by without ever finding much fulfilment out of it. Setting goals is essential in many for making progress in life as well as personal growth. Writing our goals with pen and paper solidifies the desire in our minds and studies show that “you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis”.

2. Reflection

I believe a key goal for everyone in life (myself included) should be to fulfil our potential and do what matters most to us. Reflection can be a means of making this happen. By asking ourselves key questions from time to time we can examine if we are traveling in the right direction and living harmony with what we value. Here are some useful question’s I ask myself from time to time:

  • What matters most in my life, am I giving it enough time and attention?
  • What worries me most about the future?
  • Am I neglecting any area of my life that’s affecting others? (work/relationships/health)
  • Am I facing my fears and growing as a person?
  • Did I use my time wisely today?
  • Did I take anything for granted?
  • Am I enjoying life — having fun?

3. Gratitude — possibly the best positive psychology hack ever.

“The Richest Man Is Not He Who Has The Most, But He Who Needs The Least.” ~ Unknown

The quickest and simplest way to change your life is to change your perspective, and a a perspective of gratitude can do wonders for your happiness. Writing down 3 things I’m grateful for each day is one of the simplest way’s I found to improve my life without actually changing anything! There’s plenty of studies to back this up but if you think about it’s quite simple. Focusing on what you already have keeps it fresh in your mind as you go about your day, now instead of feeling like your life is incomplete in some way, you count your blessings instead. Simple. And apart from it being a neat psychology trick, we’re actually more in tune with reality when we appreciate everything we have.

4. For future reference

“Writers are the custodians of memory, and that’s what you must become if you want to leave some kind of record of your life” — William Zinsser

A journal can be a record of your life, a record that will live a lot longer than you will.

You may be no Mark Twain, but that won’t matter to your children and grand-children who will love to read about what your life was like and what you did everyday; especially the small and seemingly insignificant things. Just imagine how much things have changed in the world in your life-time. For them this reality will be like another planet and your journal can be a doorway to that.

5. Write your worries away

Usually, I only write in a journal 10–15mins max per day, keeping it fairly practical. For most of us this is plenty of time to keep on track of everything we need to but sometimes writing a lot can be very beneficial. About a year ago I came across ‘The Artist’s Way” — a course, of sorts, that helps people to unblock their creativity. A key aspect of this was a task called “morning pages” — basically taking a mind dump first thing in the morning to free yourself from the mental diarrhoea that clutters your mind and blocks your natural flow and ability to be creative.

It’s amazing that just writing a few pages in the morning (of what’s usually absolute drivel) can sharpen and free your mind in a way that always leads to having a better and more productive day.

This practice is definitely not limited to unblocking creativity it seems to work for any mental block. Often you will find that something that seem’s like a big deal in your mind turns out to be totally insignificant on paper. Many times I’ve uncovered answers to questions I’ve had just by releasing the continuous mental stream of thought on to paper.

While in the beginning I did this daily for about 3 weeks and noticed significant benefits, I now only do it about once a week or whenever I’m feeling blocked in some way.

Conclusion

I’m sure there are many who still can’t see the point of doing something like this. I know because I was one for a long time. Even those who imagine it to be a beneficial habit often never take it up.

There are plenty of reasons to keep a journal but none of them really matter if you don’t see the benefits first hand. The only way to find out is to try it for yourself.


The Captains Log

The Captain’s Log is a simple structured journal that incorporates all of the most important and helpful aspects I’ve found from years of keeping a journal. You can easily do it in about 10 minutes a day. Find out more here — bit.ly/bethecaptain