I have always enjoyed writing. As a kid, I would scribble ideas for stories, poems, or my feelings on a topic. In high school and through college, that part of me faded away. Perhaps, because I had to write for class and many of the topics weren’t interesting to me…maybe it just sucked the joy out of it. Fast forward to starting a career and later starting a company, it felt like something was missing. My ability to process my feelings on things was scattered. It was bottled up inside of me with no healthy outlet for getting it out.
About 7 or 8 years ago, because of the kindness of heart of my former employer, I started traveling to Romania for Non-Profit work. Why Romania? It’s a long story. The short version is that there is an organization called Networks that runs a social enterprise called DECE Clothing. They are headed by an English man called Lee Saville. Lee would quickly become one of my life's greatest mentors and a dear friend. Lee has taught me a lot about discovering the meaning of things, introspection, and betterment of self.
During our time together, Lee introduced me to a group of young men. Guys rowing in the same direction, striving to achieve great things and better themselves. They were the first group of guys my age that spoke openly about journaling and how much power there is in handwriting your thoughts and reading through them.
They encouraged me to get started. Eventually, I did get started, and I found it weirdly daunting. Will (one of the group's guys) told me one day that it’s working when you read what you’ve written and realize you’re an ass. This was not a knock on me, but more the proverbial ass in all of us that rears its head from time to time, leaving us wondering why we had that thought or took that action.
Trust me. I got to that realization very quickly. I lacked consistency, though. Something big would come up at work, occupying the majority of my mind, and I would skip a day or two. A day turned to a week, turned to a month. It felt like anything else in life; in order to see and feel the effects of it, I needed consistency. My Executive Coach, Dwight Taylor Sr. put it to me simply, commit to it. “Write it on your whiteboard and look at it every day.”
Next to my desk, I have a large whiteboard. On it, I have both my personal goals and the goals for the company for the year. Usually, no more than 3 goals each. With advice from my friends, mentor, and coach, I made it my goal for the year.
Proud to say I did journal every day for a year and never missed a day. Some days the quality wasn’t there. For example, an entry from May reads, “I don’t want to do this. I am tired. See you tomorrow.” Maybe that defeats the point, I don’t know, but the consistency and going through the motions helped me.
At this point, my ego is telling me that I should also mention one of my other personal goals for the year was to read every day. Shoutout to Kindle Paperwhite. That thing made reading accessible again. If I started a book I couldn’t get into a rhythm with, I would return it and try something new in seconds.
Back to journaling.
Growing up, the men in my life were your sort of traditionally closed-off emotionally types. What you think of when you think of your parent's generations (For reference, I am in my 30’s). So when I finally decided to pick up pen and paper, I didn’t know where to start.
I turned to the internet and stumbled across a company called, MindJournal. They are geared towards creating an experience tailored for men. They break journaling up into stages.
The first stage is about learning to write your thoughts down through exercises and very prescriptive questions.
The second stage is about yourself and the people around you, encouraging you to take stock of the people in your life, the ones that shape and influence you and that you have an influence on. ➡️
The third stage is about finding the things that make you happy and what changes you need to implement in your life, pushing you to be better.
Throughout each stage, there are check-ins. Check-ins are kind of like your rest day if you need it. You maintain your consistency but without having to unpack any of the existential thoughts you might be pondering. I found these to be the most meaningful tool to keep me on track. ➡️
Shortly after beginning, I realized that in order for me to stick with and stay consistent, I needed to make it more experiential. The quality of the journals from MindJournal was a big piece of it. Something about how the journal feels in your hand, the quality of the paper, changes how you feel about it.
I started nerding out on nice pens, eventually investing in a Fountain Pen from Lamy, only using that pen when I journaled. So that every time I held that pen in my hand, my brain knew it was time to get to it. I put it on my calendar and set it to repeat daily for a year. I prioritized it.
After a few months, I no longer needed the reminder. I would pick it up in the middle of the day or make a Gin and Club with a slice of lime and put some music on (here is a playlist that I go back to - Hans Zimmer fans will know a lot of this), giving myself 30 minutes in the evening to jot my thoughts down.
I looked forward to it.
I spoke about it to the people around me, probably a bit much at times. Over time, people around me noticed changes in me, and my family noticed changes in me (if you know my family, you’d know this is a big deal). I was becoming more positive, empathetic, and listening more. This isn’t all because of journaling, but journaling was the cornerstone that enabled me to make other changes and implement better habits in many areas of my life.
Full transparency, I do not journal every day at the moment. But I do journal often. I gave myself the freedom to be consistent without having to be militant. However, I firmly believe that had I not been disciplined in doing it every day, it would not have had such a positive impact on my life.
Why share this?
Well, it’s like anything else we feel passionate about. You see a film, watch a show or read a book, and you love it, share it with the world or at least a few friends. Nerds like me try a new software program, mobile app, or the latest tech device and want to share it with everyone.
Journaling is that for me. It is something that I wish I could share with everyone and that I hope many more will try. There are very few things besides my family that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
For me, journaling is one of them.
Whether you are working through something or in the best place of your life, having a record of your thoughts and being able to see what you were doing when you felt this way or that way, to have your own thoughts as a reference, it’s a powerful tool.
I hope you give it a try.