How Journaling Changed My Life (And How It Is Going To Change Yours Too)
Keeping a journal is one of the most beneficial habits I’ve implemented in my life. There are many reasons why, but this is the most important one–it forced me to be honest with myself and be conscious of my actions and habits.
Just like meditation, journaling got me to turn off my autopilot and become more present. It led me to actively inspect my life and identify blind spots I wanted to improve.
But what keeps many people from journaling consistently or journaling at all is the fact that journaling is misdefined.
Journaling has an Image Problem
I think journaling has an image problem. From experience, many people associate journaling with boredom, a waste of time, and weirdness. People simply think of journaling as a way of recording their days.
I do record my days in my journal, yes. But recording my activities is only the tip of the iceberg. The biggest impact from journaling comes from asking myself introspective questions.
“The unexamined life is not worth living” — Socrates
Journaling is the very best tool to examine and think proactively about your own life.
Start Asking Yourself Questions
I ask myself a few questions every day. Some are easier to answer, while others are more uncomfortable.
There are questions that refer to specific events that happened during the day, and other questions I ask myself regularly.
The goal is to uncover blind spots by asking good questions.
The questions I ask often have actionable aspects to them. For example, I do not only ask myself why a certain interaction with a person did not go as planned. I take it a step further and ask myself how I can make sure that I won’t make the same mistake in similar interaction in the future again.
By asking myself such questions, I have to stop the autopilot and start waking up. It helps me take full control of my actions instead of being the victim of pre-existing habit.
It’s About Being Honest With Yourself
Journaling is and should be a highly intimate process in which you strip yourself bare. It is about being vulnerable. It is about being real and honest with yourself, for your own good.
“Be honest. Honesty is the key to how much you can improve.“ — Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder is great story about how essential self-honesty is when trying to improve oneself. Self-reflection doesn’t get you anywhere if you’re not honest with yourself.
Journaling is a True Keystone Habit
I wrote about keystone habits before, where I described them as catalysts for lifestyle changes. Thinking about it, only meditation can rival journaling as a keystone habit.
Journaling has improved many aspects of my life. Writing about things you struggle with or want to improve forces you to order your thoughts. It also makes you track things you want to improve on a regular basis.
Here’s a list of things journaling helped me improve:
- Remove huge time-wasters through being more conscious.
- Improve human interaction skills. This resulted in better relationships.
- Increase my focus 10-fold by reminding myself of what matters.
- I found out what makes me feel fulfilled and happy at the end of the day. Now, I can engineer my days around those insights.
- Eat better, more consistently. Read more.
No matter what I am trying to improve, I make sure it is a part of my daily journal entry.
The Right Tool Matters
One major disturbance was the tool I journaled with. So far I have used Google Documents, Day One, Dropbox Paper and Evernote, but nothing felt right.
So I have built a journaling web application called Better Days. I focused on creating a beautiful and simple writing experience.
If you feel more comfortable using pen and paper, then you should be using pen and paper. If you prefer to journal digitally, then I think you would enjoy Better Days. I use it every day. Try out Better Days here.