Updated: Jan 2, 2021
Developing the habit of journaling every day can provide multiple benefits to the author of the thoughts.
The first benefit as per Pen Jillette from a recent Tim Ferriss podcast, journalling is
"one way to teach yourself that you don't remember things properly."
The journal will often act as the only evidence that something occurred as well as being the single authentic record of what may have been going through your mind that day.
You don't have to aim for perfection. It isn't a big deal if you miss a few days, no one is keeping score. I miss weeks at a stretch, and I have mislaid my 2013 journal which was the year my family relocated back from New York to London. I am confident I was so busy getting shit down at the time - moving a family back across the pond, that writing my experiences down was forgotten. Yet now, looking back, I wished I could revisit the hopes and worries that would have been going through my mind seven years ago. Journalling should serve a purpose for you. The pursuit of perfection will only increase your anxiety levels and not make you a better person. Do what helps you.
My journaling is a mix of reflective writing, both retrospective and forward-looking. It also serves the need to write things down, so they don't quickly leak from my short-term memory!
Perhaps the most potent benefit that comes from journaling is gained from reading the entries from the past. For example, one year ago, five years ago and ten years ago (depending on the history you have available). What problems were present, are they the same or different to what you are currently facing? Can you learn something from your thoughts as written down that can be applied to what you are facing today?
Looking back at my journals:
One year ago: I had just started working with a new coach supervisor. I was looking forward to benefiting from her psychodynamic approach to coaching to help me continue to develop as an executive coach. I am glad to say that his coach/supervisor partnership is going very well and bringing the benefits that I had anticipated.
Five years ago: My COO attention was focused on optimising the scarce financial resources being consumed by the European Fixed Income businesses. Heightened regulatory scrutiny, at least in the UK, was rightly continuing, which added further dimensions to assessing the worth and performance of the different businesses.
Ten years ago: This was in the depths of the financial crisis. I was in a COO role at the time in New York, and we had a wartime mentality and outlook. The focus this day, ten years ago was on reducing the transaction costs for the businesses as well as identifying the people to let go to help keep the broader business afloat. A sobering thought!
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