Why I’ve Done 10 Things That I Wish I’d Done Differently

My most significant discovery as a result of this blog is how much better I feel when I keep a daily journal. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a laptop, your iPhone, or one of my paper folders; the quality of my life improves exponentially when I take it seriously.

One summer night, a few months after starting my blog, I got into an argument with a friend. It turns out he had been avoiding his journal, and he’d been looking at one of his friends’ journals instead. I told him how amazing it would be to put down some of the big questions about where life is going and why we’re here for this period of time. He laughed, said he was too busy writing his essay, and we got into a fight.

I wrote down what was going through my mind that night, and then later that day, I wrote down my responses in my journal. It’s the journal that helped me understand the conversation I’d had with my friend, and that was how I felt when I started the blog. Every day — or at least weekly or bi-weekly, depending on how much I’m able to get my head into writing it down — I write a single entry in my journal, with one sentence per day. I put them in my laptop (or my paper folder, if I don’t have a computer) and when I open it up next to the blog — and, I suspect, every day — the words just flow out.

The journal was helpful for a long time, because I was having that constant inner dialogue about what was going on with me and my life.

Over time, though, it’s not so useful anymore. Now, after all the writing that goes into it, it doesn’t even matter that much, as my thoughts have gotten so ingrained in my head. I find it difficult ( and embarrassing) to think about things anymore — I can’t really find the words for my thoughts or sentences. I often just stop a sentence here and say, “Sorry, that doesn’t really come off. It wasn’t going to.” It’s almost like a mantra that my brain doesn’t want to come out of.

I also began to notice that most of my journal entries had nothing to do with anything, and I was trying to cram a day’s worth of thoughts into a single entry. It didn’t make for very good writing. I started noticing how often I thought about my blog, whether or not it was on my computer, and how it was going to help me in some way, as if it were some sort of secret weapon that might help me achieve some higher level of living.

The thing I’ve learned, though — and this is just the tip of the iceberg — is that writing down something in a journal helps you process it, in much the same way that a breath of fresh air in the morning helps you reengage in life.

The next time you find yourself having a conversation with your brother, your nephew, or your significant other, or if you’re feeling uncomfortable or uncertain about talking to your mother, take a few minutes to go through that inner dialogue in a notepad or note card (I use Evernote), and see what comes out. It’ll change your life.

I’ve been using my daily notebook for just over a year, and I’ve found it to be a tool that does double duty. I use it not only to write down my daily thoughts and my emotions, but also for organizing my work and thoughts and things I’m doing on the weekend. This year, it seems as if I’ll continue to use the journal, rather than getting my thoughts in any other single place. I hope you’ll do the same, so you can keep improving your quality of life in a healthy way.

The reason I use the journal so much is because it helps me think about the big picture of where I’m headed. It keeps me going, and that’s what it’s all about.