Four years ago I picked up a journal for the first time in my adult life and I began to write.
I often refer back to this moment, but it’s been a long time since I actually went back to read it for myself, word for word.
The last time I did was straight up traumatizing — there was a lot of suffering in them there pages and I was still pretty deep in it — much too close to not be re-triggered re-reading my words.
Going back there was harrowing, and I said at the time: It’s not for the faint hearted.
But then I got curious again.
And I’m in a different place now.
When I first began journaling, I distinctly remember the feelings of frustration, being lost, and far, far away from where I wanted to be.
I remember the feeling of despair when facing up to a realisation that my life wasn’t panning out as I had planned.
It was devastating.
I was in a freefall, and as a last ditch attempt to avoid a crash and burn type scenario, I turned to journaling.
Looking back on it, reading my words, I can see that I was lost. I had been pursuing a dream sold to me by my esteemed elders, by my education, by the whole of society.
The correct path to follow:
education >> job >> mortgage >> family >> retirement.
Somewhere on the way, thanks to a pesky yoga and meditation practice, getting on the path of self enquiry began to trigger some real demons and, once disturbed, they weren’t going to go back in the box.
These demons were no sleeping dogs.
Sidenote: Is that not exactly what a mid life crisis is all about?
I think so.
At some point in life, I believe, these demons — these what-if’s playing on my mind — were always going to wake. They were going to get louder and louder until I did something about them.
I had just happened to stumble upon them early, and I had no choice but to deal with them.
Enter: the trusty journal.
Journaling, for sure, helped me out with this.
So this is where I meet myself on the page. Right at this point in my life.
It’s quite easy to look back fondly on the journey we call life, and only remember the rosy bits. We forget what it was like on a day to day basis.
It is feasible that this is a mechanism of psychology, akin to the birthing process — a flood of hormones means you can’t quite remember what it was like, and so, blind to the true horror of it, you do it again, and again and again.
This is how we continue through life, we can keep having babies and procreating and sustaining our species, and we can happily sleep walk through life not really having to acknowledge the truth.
Because the truth is, life can be a bit of a shit show.
And when you write that all down and have a record of it — well. It can be scary at times to go back and read those reflections.
But … it can also be extremely reassuring that we do, in fact, survive.
That we grow. That we thrive.
This is why I actually got a great deal from reading my journals — because I have come through a lot.
— Getting started on the entrepreneur journey.
— Committing to a minimalist life. Selling my house and going on the road, full time nomad.
— While we’re here, let’s throw in a hormonal rollercoaster.
Being a woman in her thirties is a ride for sure.
It’s a real privilege to be able to go back and check in with previous iterations of myself.
Here’s what is abundantly clear from my pages.
1. Your daily habits are your super power.
How you do anything is how you do everything.
This is the single biggest takeaway from the practice of journaling.
While I did get bogged down in rumination, and — trust me — try not to go there, I strongly believe that the sheer practice of journaling, about anything, or really just doing anything on a daily basis, is more important than what you’re journaling about.
It’s the habit that’s important.
And if your habit includes gratitude journaling, you’re going to find more experiences in your life to be grateful for.
— You don’t have to have good handwriting.
— You don’t have to be artistic.
— You don’t have to have anything deep and meaningful to say.
It’s not about how good you are, it is about building a habit.
I’ll say it again for the people at the back.
It is the habit that is important.
2. Self Reflection is an essential life skill
Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
On the other side of the journaling coin from habit building, is the cultivation of self-awareness.
Self-reflection builds emotional self-awareness.
This is key in personal development.
Journaling helps you to better understand yourself, and this knowledge will come back to benefit you in a plethora of ways.
You can identify your triggers, responses, your strengths, your weaknesses, and you can then use this knowledge to make any changes in your life to get things on track.
When you know yourself (know thyself……) you become better able to adapt to situations and circumstances you inevitably face in life.
You become more resilient.
Couple this with the mighty self discipline you’ve cultivated just from the sheer fact of maintaining a daily practice, and boom.
You’re a force to reckoned with — and you’re a magnificently self aware person to boot.
There is good reason why Socrates taught that —
The unexamined life is not worth living.
3. What you resist, persists
Oh dear. This is my kryptonite.
If there is something bothering you, it will crop up again, and again, and again, and again. And again.
It will keep coming back to push your buttons until you learn how to switch it off.
In ordinary life, you might not see the pattern.
When you journal, you come face to face with it. This is your opportunity to change it. To stop history repeating itself ad infinitum.
Just make sure you aren’t dwelling on the resistance, all right?
If you insist on focusing on resistance, you will get resistance by the shit tonne. *
*I promise you this. It’s not worth it. A shit tonne of increasing resistance took me years to reverse. Just focus on something nice, like a goal. Not why you can’t reach it.
4 . You get what you focus on. (So focus on what you want.)
This is the inverse of the above point, but I really want to drive this home.
It is a phenomenon of psychology that you get what you focus on.
In journaling, you can be really intentional about what you’re focusing on.
And so it goes, by writing down repeatedly what you want to focus on, the wheels of the universe begin to turn, and sooner or later (and statistically it’s more likely sooner) you will get what you want.
“At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
At the beginning of my journaling career, four short years ago, I didn’t know what I wanted.
Three weeks after I started journaling I had figured that much out.
Back then I didn’t know I wanted to be my own boss, but day by day, through consistent journaling, and the other things that were coming into my life at that point (thanks Goethe, thanks Universe), that dream began to be illuminated.
- 3 weeks after that moment I was made redundant.
- 2 weeks after that I became my own boss for the first time.
So literally, within 12 weeks of journaling — I had become an entrepreneur. And I did that because I wanted more freedom in my life.
Two years after that, we sold our house and went travelling full time while running our businesses.
I thought this life was something I’d have to wait for retirement for.
Things will speed up when you focus on them.
I don’t always recommend going back to read over old journals — I guess it depends on the type of journal you keep, and your state of mind when you read them, of course.
But I will say this.
It’s so humbling to see my transformation taking place in the writing on these pages.
The road has been bumpy, for sure.
I try not to sugar coat it.
I’ve battled anxiety, mental health issues and a catalogue of limiting self-beliefs. I fought resistance, the biggest demon, for the longest time.
It's not been a smooth transition, but transition was never meant to be.
- make a marked change in the form, nature, or appearance of.
Thus, journaling is a supremely powerful tool to assist, support and accelerate the transformation process.
And it’s a humble (wo)man that never forgets where they came from.
“I’ll never forget where I’m from. It’s essential to remain humble and evolving.” — Freida Pinto
If you are interested in making big changes and want to find out more about what support I may be able to provide to you, of course reach out. In the meantime, pick up a journal and just start to write.
If you are a regular journaller, maybe for fun you’ll want to go back and re-read some of your old entries.
It’s a handy little progress reminder of how far you’ve come, and maybe that should go on your gratitude list.