Journaling: You're Doing It Wrong (and how to get practical, real-life results from your journal-writing)
There's a long list of benefits that go along with keeping a journal, but I think most people go about it all wrong.
But hey, wait a minute, I thought only silly people wrote in journals?
If you ain't doing it, you're the silly one, silly.
So first of all, why the heck would you want to journal?
Here's my top reason: the externalization of thoughts and experiences
When you keep things within your own skullbones, you will never be able to look at them objectively.
When you get your thoughts out of your own head, such as on paper, or inside your personal favorite piece of electronic gadgetry, magic occurs:
You're suddenly able to actually... think.
Inside your head, while you think that you think clearly, it's really only a blur of emotions disguised as coherent thought.
When it's on paper, you can look at it and attack it from all angles.
You can look at an experience as if someone else had it and someone else wrote it down on paper.
And once you've been doing this for a while, you'll start noticing that your entire life feels a lot more... clear. Less clutter in your head. Your brain is faster, better, more agile... and can handle whatever the universe decides to throw at it.
This is, generally, not the same as keeping a gratitude journal or a victory journal or anything like that -- though you could certainly combine the two efforts and do it all at the same time.
(Keeping a victory journal is stuntastic, by the way. That means writing down all the victories you've accomplished that day. It shifts your focus and outlook on life tremendously, very rapidly. Powerful shit.)
(Same with a gratitude journal -- writing down everything you're grateful for. If you ever wanted to be more happy and get more out of life... how about starting with deliberately shifting your focus to things that make you feel thankful? Powerful shit.)
Now that's why journaling is awesome. And here is my top application of it:
While you're actively in an immersive process of learning a new skill.
Of course, journaling is incredibly useful for all sorts of reasons in all sorts of situations more or less all the time... but if you're one of those nutbags (like yours truly) who obsess over mastery and getting good at things... your journal is your most powerful ally.
To give you a real example, keeping a journal is one of the top 3 things we teach our students who want to improve their social skills.
We instruct them to talk to strangers every single day in all sorts of different ways... and record every single interaction in their journal.
MAN! The incredible degree of clarity that follows is immense.
Learning curve gets accelerated times five thousand. (Almost.)
Everything you learn from these interactions is integrated and internalized much, much faster.
And it's the same with almost any skill. Playing the guitar? Write about your daily practice sessions, what you're working on, how that feels, what you're going to work on improving next time...
I don't know exactly what it is about doing this sort of thing that is so powerful... but it works. It works extremely well.
And if you ain't doing it, you're the silly one.
You're doing it wrong
Now... why do I say most people do it all wrong?
Because most people are freakin' lazy.
And as my blog motto so succinctly states: I don't do half-ass.
Let me explain:
Most people write it like they would a diary. They write to themselves.
When you write to yourself, there's nothing at stake.
The result that follows is a half-assed, sloppy result. Mostly incoherent rambling.
If you've tried journaling before and you haven't noticed a dramatic difference in your daily frequency of Eureka moments (this is it, really, you're helping your brain connect stuff much faster - your creativitiy will go bananas) ... then you're doing it wrong.
Therefore, here are my rules for journaling:
- Write for someone else.
- Write with the intention of publishing.
Yeah, this doesn't really sound like journaling anymore, does it?
Well hey, bear with me a moment.
First, you don't actually have to show it to anyone else. And you don't need to publish it.
It's the mindset that counts. It makes all the difference.
Here's why you need to do this:
When you write to someone else, you're forced to explain things much more clearly. You can't do a half-assed job if you think someone else is going to read it and you actually care about them "getting it".
You will notice a very significant increase in the clarity of your own thinking while doing this.
The purpose of point number one is that you should not write to yourself.
Write it to an external entity. Write it to your mom, to your high school teacher, to your best friend, to your online tribe of followers. To whoever isn't you.
The purpose of number two is to force you to get serious. Whatever you're writing should be like the first draft of something you would put in your future NY Times Bestseller.
Get serious. Don't half-ass your journaling. It benefits nobody. It's incoherent rambling and it's wasting your time.
Do it right, put in some effort to express yourself in the clearest possible manner.
That benefits everybody. Not only will you get more clear in your own life, and get results and achieve your goals much more quickly... but you'll benefit the rest of the world as well because of the value that your newfound clear thinking allows you to contribute.
And you know what?
I could have written down my thoughts on journaling as an entry in my personal journal as just... you know, thoughts to myself.
I probably wouldn't have done a very good job of it, since I felt that... I mean, I came up with all this stuff, I already know it all.
Why would I need to put it all down on paper?
No reason. I wouldn't have done it. In fact, I couldn't have done it.
Instead, I wrote all this with the intention of helping somebody else with their own journaling...
Hopefully you got value out of it.
I know I got more value out of it.
My thoughts on the subject are probably ten times more developed and refined right now compared to when I started writing this.
Enjoy. Go write some shit.