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The Power of Life Journaling

Tristan Loo

I am a firm believer that there is no greater self-help or self-exploration tool than a journal. That's right -- a simple blank book and a pen can help you manifest millions of dollars. It can help you identify goals. It can ease emotional pain or grief. It can transport you back in time. The journal is a physical manifestation of the contents within your own mind and heart. In this article, I am going to list some basic techniques and guidelines to follow when journaling.

Your life is special and worth recording. I firmly believe that all human life is special and purposeful. You and I were placed on this world for a reason and we have a limited time on this world to establish our legacy. Some very famous people in history have the benefit of having others essentially journal for them in chronicles, biographies, and other materials that record their life, but the best and most accurate record of who you are now and who you will be remembered as after you leave this world will be through the journals that you write.

Write only for yourself. A client of mine once asked me if it was okay to journal on an Internet blog for everyone to read. She said that all of her friends had created blogs and that it seemed like a fun thing to do. I told her that there is nothing wrong with blogging, but for the purposes of life journaling, you should keep your journal private and write strictly for yourself. This is because we write differently when we know that our writing will be read by other people. We have what is known as an internal editor inside our minds who edits what we write and it's this internal editor who prevents us from genuinely writing from the heart. So while I think blogs are fun and great to share with others, a life journal needs to be written with a one-person audience in mind -- you. Now this is not to say that you can't ever share your journal with anyone. I have often shared my journal entries with the people who are special in my life, but there is a difference between sharing an entry later on and writing that entry for yourself in mind.

Human memory is fallible so write it down. Our organic memory is not as sharp as one would think. Over time, our memories of certain events either get washed away or become tainted with our retrospective and emotional views of that event. Journaling is like taking a snapshot photo of our mind and emotions during that event. It allows our memory to remain true as to the events of our past and by reading those entries months, even years later, catapults us back to that moment in time and allows us to remember it with much greater detail and accuracy than if we relied on memory alone.

Select a physical journal, not a computer. Although many people in this day and age are much more accustomed to typing rather than handwriting, I argue that for the purposes of journaling, there is a big difference. In my workshops, I advocate the use of a physical journal you can hold in your hand because you can always take it with you wherever you go. I myself have some great adventures all over the world and often I go weeks without any access to electricity. Having a journal and a pen in my backpack as I explore the Amazon of Brazil or trek the desert plains of Australia is lightweight and always available to jot down notes.

Invest in a quality journal. Your journal is the most important book you will ever own. The thoughts and ideas and emotions that are contained within its pages are more precious than anything you possess because it becomes a part of you. Therefore I suggest investing in a journal that is representative of those special thoughts and ideas. Personally, I choose a handmade leather journal for all my life journaling not only because it is highly rugged and durable, but also because it looks nice and will remain that way far after I am gone. Investing some money into a good journal that you like will also be an incentive for you to actually follow through with consistent journaling practices.

-10 to +10. One thing that I do different in my journaling practices and what I suggest you do also is give yourself a pain - pleasure ranking next to the date that you write your entry. On a scale of -10 (most painful) to +10 (most pleasurable), rate yourself on how you feel at that particular time. Do this for two reasons. One, it is good for you to know exactly how you are feeling each day and to quantify that experience with a numerical value. Two, you can go back and review how you felt on a given day and you can thumb through your entries and see if there exists a pattern of low feelings or high feelings and what the cause of those feelings were.

Self-probing questions. When people think of journaling, they think of simply logging the day's events on paper. This is far from true with my journaling techniques. Of course, I do recommend regular event recording, but I also advocate interweaving what I call self-probing questions along with those other journal entries. Self-probing questions are questions you ask yourself and from which you brainstorm your own answers to. It's a way of reaching deep within your mind and your heart to retrieve answers that may not have surfaced to your conscious mind. Self-probing questions help you bring clarity to issues in your life that need to be solidified in your mind. For example, in one such entry of mine, I asked myself the question of what exactly are my dreams in life? What did I want to accomplish, see, or do in my life before I die? I brainstormed and wrote down every answer without evaluating or judging those answers and let me tell you, I came up with goals that I never even realized I had, but made sense to me after I realized that I did in fact have such goals in the back of my mind. Each week ask yourself an intuitive question and brainstorm answers on paper without evaluating them...just write them down. You might be surprised at how powerful this technique is.

Tristan Loo is the Founder of the Synergy Institute, a Personal Development Firm based out of San Diego. Tristan is a former police officer, personal development coach, conflict negotiator, and author. Visit the Synergy Institute Website

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