Journaling Exercise: What Are You Putting Off?

 

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image by johnonolan

 

Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

– Lao Tzu

 

Do you procrastinate about things you need to get done?

Do you have big dreams, but you are afraid or scared to do anything about them?

Do you know what you need to do to achieve your goals, but you just don’t know where to get started? 

Do you keep putting things off, even if doing those things would benefit you? 

Do you keep putting things off that you would have to do them anyway? 

I find the word “Tax” incredibly boring. My mind just seems to go in zzzzzzzzzzzz mode, whenever I have to do things remotely related to tax. Unfortunately, it is unavoidable. Recently, I had to get an identification number through IRS, and I kept putting it off for nearly two months. When finally, I just picked up the damn phone, it took me all of 11 minutes. 

I had spent more than 11 minutes just thinking about it. So if I had done it as soon as I knew I needed it,  I would have  crossed it off the list, and saved my self it’s constant annoying presence on my to-do list. 

That’s one minor example. 

What about the people who have always wanted to write a book? Or travel abroad? Or pursue another dream?

You may not be able to achieve it straight away, but what stops you from taking one tiny step towards it?

What are you putting off, and why do you keep putting it off? 

That’s the discussion point for your journal today. 

 

5 Ways to Use Journaling for Stress Management

 

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The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about these circumstances.

– Andrew Bernstein

 

My ten year old niece had to get a MRI done because she was stressed, and kept falling ill as a result. She is 10. A child, who should not even know what stress is. She is not the only one. There are plenty of children, particularly high achievers, suffering from stress. Stress is also quite possibly one of the things that most adults suffer from, particularly in the developed world.

Pace of life is fast. You work long hours, and then you have the familial responsibilities. In-between all of that, you are trying to squeeze in some time for personal development, or training for a future career, or whatever. No wonder you are stressed. If you think about the kind of routine people used to follow in the olden days – light = work, dark = sleep (damn you, electricity!!) think about how much more work you are squeezing in, in the same 24 hours you have.

Most people are always working. If they are not working, they are still glued to the computer, checking out social media or watching TV. So even if they are not doing anything productive, or making money, their brain is still getting constant input of information. I am guilty of this. I’m very poor at not working. I am trying to get out of feeling guilty about not doing anything. At the very least, I read for pleasure. But even that is inputting information.

This constant activity leaves no time for relaxing. Your brain gets no time to just be. That, and your imagined fears about all the disasters may occur if you don’t get everything done, leads to stress.

As Bernstein said in the quote above, it’s not what is happening in your life that causes stress, but it’s how you think about it. It’s not easy to change our mindset. It’s not easy to just let go of the fears. That’s something you can continue to work on. But meanwhile, you can get started by managing your stress. I wrote about dealing with stress here before, but it’s worth re-visiting this important issue. 

 

5 Ways to Use Journaling for Stress Management

 

1. Set aside regular time. Daily.

If you want to manage your stress, then you need to make it a priority. You can’t just deal with it whenever it’s convenient. That means setting aside time, daily. Give yourself at least 10 minutes to work with. Ensure these are 10 uninterrupted minutes. That means no people, no phone, no internet, nothing. Just you and your journal. If possible, do it right at the end of your day, before you go to bed, so that you can unwind and de-stress, just before going off to the slumber land.

2. Create a pleasant atmosphere

You don’t need to have your personal boudoir, but make your surroundings as pleasant as possible. Whether you are de-stressing at your desk, in your living room, or in your bedroom, eliminate all annoyance and interference. No TV. If music works for you, have something soothing in the background, low and mellow. Light a candle, or surround the area with a couple of living plants, or a bunch of flowers. Have your favourite photos or posters.

Make this space your personal Zen garden, literally or metaphorically.

3. Focus on feelings and emotions

You feel stressed when you feel fear. It’s not necessarily scary fear, but fear of failure, of fear of letting someone down, fear of underachieving etc. It’s a fear of consequences that you may have to face if you don’t finish or achieve something. It may be fear of losing loved ones, or ending up alone. 

Whatever your fear is, it is related to your emotions. Therefore, when you journal for stress-management, focus on your feelings and emotions. Write about how you feel. Be completely honest with yourself. Let it out of your system. Express your emotions. 

4. Don’t re-read your entries.

Don’t re-read your entries immediately after, or even days after you have written them down.  These are some of your most negative thoughts. These are the things that stress you out. You don’t need to wallow in it. Use journaling for stress-management as a form of detox. 

If you want to analyse them, you can re-read your entries, but leave them alone for at least a year, if not more. Your brain needs distance from your current stresses, before it can objectively analyse those entries. 

5. Keep your journal private

This is an essential thing when it comes to journaling for stress management. You need to be able to write without censoring yourself, without the fear of someone else reading it. Keep your journal private. If you live in a setting where other people may come across your journal, then don’t tell them you are keeping one. Write in it where you are alone, and if you get no chance of that at home, go write in a café or a public library.

Protect your privacy. 

 

 

5 Ways to Develop a Consistent Journaling Habit

 

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image by olivander

 

I get lots of emails from people with variations of below comments:

I used to journal, but just got out of the habit.

I want to start a journal, but I don’t have time to write every day.

I want to journal, but I just can’t maintain the habit.

Does any of that resonate with you? Do you want to journal, but you are unable to develop a habit? Do you run out of things to write in your journal? Developing a journaling habit is pretty similar to developing any other habit. You’ve got to want to do it, and you need to practice it enough. I have some tips to get you started. 

 

5 Ways to Develop a Consistent Journaling Habit

 

1. Set aside regular time

When developing a habit for anything, consistency is the key. If you can set aside at least five minutes a day, that’s better than 10 hours once a month. If you absolutely can’t set aside daily time, then try to create a twice a week, or even once a week habit.

In the early stages, consistency is the key. Therefore, try to set aside time at the same time, on same days. 

2. Focus on just getting something down.

One of my life goals is to learn to write with my right hand as well as I do with my left hand. But I am not very motivated to practice. I get frustrated by the slow pace, and bad hand-writing. So I came up with a simple solution. I only have to write 2 sentences a day with my right hand. Two sentences is nothing. Even the laziest person should be able to do that.

Two sentences don’t make a lot of difference, certainly not in the short term. But they do instil a habit. Just writing two sentences also enables me to get used to holding the pen with my right hand, and just making words. I may not have a great hand-writing, but at least I am able to write perfectly legible sentences. 

Two-sentences is a plausible goal for me, especially because this particular skill is not a priority for me right now.

You can do the same thing with journaling. Decide to write just two sentences a day, or a paragraph, or a page. Whatever works for you. Just have an easy goal to get some words down in your journal every single day, and before you know it, you will have a completed journal.

3. Use random free-writing sessions

Whenever you have some free time on your hands, use random free-writing sessions to get bursts of journaling inspiration going. Free-writing is great to get you in the zone. You set a timer for a specific length of time, and then just write…write…write! 

4. Use Lists

Lists may be considered anal, but they can also be a great medium for tapping into creativity. Lists are also make perennial journal prompts when you are at a loss for what to write. Just start making lists. Make lists of your favourite things, of things you hate, of your strongest memories, of the people you love…you get the idea. You can make lists of just about everything.

You can also use lists to do a free-writing exercise. If you want to instil a journaling habit, but don’t really know what to write everyday, then you could have a goal of just writing a list of 10 things that happened during your day, or 10 things you liked in your day, or just 10 random things. There are infinite ways to use lists

5. Use doodles and drawings

Don’t just limit yourself to writing. If you are a more visual person, or just fancy expressing yourself through doodles and drawings, then do that. Your journaling does not have to be limited to words. Use any medium that works for you.

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Start yourself on a 30-day challenge to develop a consistent journaling habit, starting today! 

 

 

 

What Are You Snobby About? (Yeah You Are)

 

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image by megantrace

 

Snobbery, in simple terms, means thinking you or your beliefs are superior than someone else’s. Before you get on your high horse and tell me what a wonderful, equality-loving human being you are, I can assure you that you are at least a little bit of a snob. Everyone is. Unless you are a saint, but as we have established before, saints really don’t read this blog.

Part of being human is accepting our prejudices. Simply by having opinions we are prejudicing against certain groups or people. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about differences. My right may be your wrong.

To take an extreme example, Bin Laden probably didn’t think he was wrong. So from his point-of-view, by thinking of him as a murdering extremist and a slayer of innocents, we may be prejudicing against him. Do you think you are a better person than Bin Laden? Probably. So do I. That makes us snobs in his and his cronies’ eyes.

Now a more normal example. I am a total city girl. Like, 1000%. I don’t mind a short visit to the country (though preferably only where there is decent accommodation, and ideally paved tracks, and no wild animals), but a home in the country is not something I aspire to. Even worse are the small towns, which in my opinion have disadvantages of both. They don’t offer the beauty of countryside, and don’t offer the conveniences of a big city. So I’m a city snob. Not just a city snob. A big city snob. I don’t even like small cities!

Does that mean that those of you who enjoy living in small cities, or villages, or the mountain caves, are wrong? Of course not. But it might make you weird, in my opinion. Just as wanting to live in cities like London and New York makes me weird in the eyes of some of my more nature-loving friends, who can’t understand why anyone would want to live in dirty, noisy places and pay a fortune in rent in return for space that is probably not that much bigger than Harry’s cupboard-under-the-stairs. Okay, maybe slightly bigger. But only slightly. 

I’m not ashamed of this snobbery, and neither should you be, just as long as you are not imposing your beliefs on someone else or hurting other people. Our opinions make us individuals. If we all agreed about everything, wanted the same things, and loved everything equally, then this would be one boring, mediocre world.

 

Most people understand, on a logical level, that people are different. Their needs are different, and that not everyone want the same lifestyle. But that’s when you are feeling logical. Your emotional side is what pushes the prejudices. It doesn’t necessarily make you a horrible person, as long as you are able to reign-in those prejudices and not hurt other people.  

Each of us are unique, and part of that uniqueness means that not all of our traits would be compatible with other people. That’s okay. The world is not a conformist factory yet. We don’t all have to be the same.

Let that liberate you, and fess up about your personal snobberies in the comments below.

 

 

3 Reasons Why You Should Be Open to Saying “I don’t Know”

 

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image by wallyg

 

We live in a society where strong opinions are valued. You meet people who seem to know what they want, and it makes them appear solid. As if they know who they are, where they belong, what their place in the world is. People who have no idea what they want, who don’t know what side they are on about any issue, they appear weak, indecisive, not to be relied upon.

Most people understand that, and so they pretend to have the answers. They pretend to know everything. They proclaim popular opinions, or most radical opinions, or most neutral opinions as their own. 

The cost of this pretence is high, and often people don’t see it until they have wasted years pretending. Just to fit in. Here are the reasons why you should stop doing that. Today. Right now.

 

Three Reasons Why You Should Be Open to Saying, “I don’t know” 

 

1. You May End Up Fooling Yourself 

Fake it till you make it is the prescribed advice for everything from work to relationships. But the price of faking it is that you may come to believe your own lies. If you pretend to know everything, if you pretend to have all the answers for the benefit of others, if you pretend to care for values because it’s the done thing, then all that pretending leaves you no time or emotional space to actually figure out your own truths

2. Questions Are the Beginning of Answers

We are led to believe that saying, “I don’t know” somehow makes us appear less-intelligent, or less-able than we actually are. Saying, “I don’t know” may be difficult. It may even foster a sense of inferiority, but get past that, and you can use that “I don’t know” to truly acquire knowledge. Questions are the starting point. You can search for answers to your questions, and when you have those answers, they will be based on true understanding, not merely pretence. 

3. It Leads to Wisdom and Maturity

I think you’ll agree that Socrates was one clever bloke. And yet, this is what he said:

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.

I’m sure he knew some things. As no doubt you do. But the point is, ultimately, none of us actually know much about life. We are not supposed to, because then it would be like reading the end of story first. If we knew everything, what would be the point of taking actions, learning from them, enjoying the successes and getting up after failures? 

Life is supposed to be a mystery. As much as control freaks (me included) would like to plan it, and have specific goals and visions, all you can do is just keep trying. It doesn’t make you a loser not to be ready for everything life throws at you, or not to have all the answers. It makes you human. Accepting that limitation by saying, “I don’t know” is what frees you up to listen to what life’s saying, the lessons it is giving you through your experiences. 

Saying “I don’t know” is the beginning of wisdom. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Journal about how you feel when you have to say, “I don’t know.” 

 

 

 

 

3 Things You Can Do If You Are Afraid of People Reading Your Journals After You Die

 

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image by hyku

 

Last week we had an interesting discussion about what will happen to your journals after you die. There were some understandable fear raised. One was that even though you wouldn’t know any better, because you are dead, you may still not want your loved ones to think less of you. Another fear was about offending them or hurting their feelings if they read negative things you wrote about them in your journal. 

There is a risk, actually a certainty, that people’s opinion of you will change after they read your journal. Because it is impossible to really know someone, no matter what your relationship with them. You have no idea what goes in other people’s heads, whether they are your partner, or your children. More importantly, you can’t always anticipate how people will respond to intense situations in life. 

Keep this in mind, because it applies to you as well. The people in your life don’t know you inside and out. So, it is inevitable that they will discover something new when they read your journals.

But if you are afraid of what they might think, then there are three solutions. 

3. Destroy or Leave Instructions to Be Destroyed

This is not my recommended route, simply because I believe journals are valuable. But if your life is really full of skeletons, and you have no intention of changing that, then destroying them might be better for everyone concerned. However, since you don’t know when you are going to die, the most logical solution is to entrust someone else to destroy them once you die.

The question of picking this someone is tricky, because people might decided for themselves not to follow your wishes. Virginia Woolf wanted her journals destroyed, but her husband thought they were too valuable, and published them instead. I’m eternally grateful to Leonard Woolf for ignoring his wife’s wishes, but we don’t know whether Virginia appreciates that or not. 

I would therefore advice that instead of trusting family or friends, trust a lawyer. Sure, trust a lawyer seems bit of an oxymoron, but impersonal services which don’t actually care about you, may be more likely to carry out your orders. 

2. Balance Positivity with Negativity

Assuming you don’t want to destroy your journals, but are afraid of offending people, then you can take this advice, which I have been preaching on this site anyway. Make sure that you record positives in your journal as well as the negative. If  your sister pissed you off, and you wrote how horrible she is…next time she does something sweet, write it down. 

This will show the future readers of your journal that you were only human (GASP!), and prone to moods like the rest of the species. It’s less likely to offend them if they see that you genuinely cared for them. And if you really didn’t care for the people mentioned, then worrying about them liking you after your death is way too much vanity, and you might need to work on your issue with pleasing people. 

1. Live the Life You Are Proud Of 

This is the ultimate solution. It is not easy. It will take you the rest of your life. But it will improve more than your journals. Live the life that focuses on causing no intentional harm. I don’t mean you have to be perfect. I mean, don’t do the things you know are wrong. Don’t have an affair. Don’t drive drunk. Don’t hit your children. Don’t yell at old people crossing the street. Don’t back-stab, lie, and cheat your way out of things. Don’t sleep with everyone you meet as a way to get what you want. You get the picture! 

Have some values. Be honest. Be ethical. And you will have nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, you will still have flaws. Yes, you will still judge people, be unfair to them sometimes, and vent about people you fought with. But that’s okay. Because that’s your humanity shining through your journals. The point is, you wouldn’t have done anything horrible that you would be ashamed to admit in public, or to your loved ones. 

The solution is not to destroy your journals because of skeletons coming out of your proverbial closet. The solution is to not have the skeletons in the first place. If you focus on just this one step alone, you will continue making progress towards creating your Kaizen Life. Reading your journals then might even inspire your children to do the same. That’s a legacy worth leaving. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Write in your journal about which of these options you will choose. Share your answer, or your opinions in the comments below.

 

 

 

What Will Happen to Your Journals When You Die?

 

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image by olivander

 

Recently, a Kaizen Reader, Sarah Leonard asked on the Kaizen Journaling Facebook Page (which by the way, you should definitely “like” and participate on, cause you know…it needs you), if I ever wonder about what would happen to my journals when I die. She also went on to say that it wasn’t something that worried her when she was a child, but now with a daughter of her own who may read her journals, it does. 

It’s a good question, and a question I suspect all journal keeper ask themselves whether consciously or subconsciously. I’ve indirectly touched on this topic, but let’s get it out in the open. 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN DECIDING THE FATE OF YOUR JOURNALS

1. Worrying May Ruin Your Journaling 

First, a simple answer to a simple question:

Should you worry about what will happen to your journals when you die?

No. 

To elaborate on that, you definitely should not worry about what will happen to your journals, or who might read them, because if you worry, then you will automatically start censoring. As soon as you start censoring, you defeat at least a part of the purpose of keeping a journal. That censoring prevents you from being open with yourself. 

Let’s take Sarah as an example in a hypothetical situation. What if she’s having a really bad time with her daughter? Perhaps her daughter’s going through a hard time, and taking it out on Sarah. Sarah vents in her journal about her daughter, so that she can process her feelings, and be calm and understanding when actually talking to her daughter. 

What will happen if Sarah starts worrying that her daughter might read her journal? She’s automatically worry about what to write in it. Perhaps she wouldn’t want to write anything negative about her daughter. Perhaps she wouldn’t want to write intimate things with her husband/partner. 

This is just one example, from one situation. The road to worry is never ending. What if you start worrying your spouse might read your journal? You may not feel comfortable writing about things that might offend them, and considering a spouse forms a major part of a person’s life, it may leave a lot of things left unsaid. That may lead to resentment, and venting you did not do in your journal, may actually come out when you argue with your spouse. 

Stop worrying. Write in your journals whatever you want to write. Your journaling is something you do for  yourself, and it should remain so. 

2. To Destroy or Not to Destroy 

This is going to be a personal decision for each individual. I have considered this question for my journals too. On one hand, I am not comfortable with anyone reading my journals. But on the other hand, I am going to be dead, so you know, it doesn’t matter. 

But my current decision (and this is subject to change at any time) is that I will not destroy my journal.

I have good reasons for this decision. The most important of them is that diaries and journals are a valuable recording of our history in progress. Think about it. My journals will hold an entirely different story than yours. We write different things, we record different things about the world, about individuals. This is history in the making. It may not be important on the grand scale of things, but just think about its human value. 

I personally love old diaries. I buy published diaries that appeal to me, and reading them is like exploring a different time and place, through a very personal connection. 

Our journals have power to add to that history. Just imagine the value they might add to that one future student, trying to piece together history of the 21st century. 

So, I’m against destroying journals. Unless your journals are really going to cause major chaos and harm to the world, I think it’s better to not worry about what happens after you die – because you will be dead, and won’t know any better – and let the journals find their own way into the world. 

3. Leaving a legacy or not 

I don’t have children, so I don’t know at the moment whether I would leave my journals to someone, or just leave them, and let their fate play out by whoever ends up clearing my stuff. 

But I tend to lean towards leaving my journals to someone who might like that sort of thing, or even to an institution like the Mass Observation Archive. It’s something to think about. If you have children, perhaps you may want to leave it to them. But what if you have more than one child, one of whom would be genuinely interested in reading your journals whereas the other one would just dump them. In that event,  is it really the question of being fair, or should you just leave them to the child who would value them?

The answers would be different for each person, for each family. Think about it certainly, but don’t obsess about it. Whenever you find yourself worrying, remember the first point in this post. 

Keeping your journal is what matters. What happens to them after your death is a secondary issue. 

 

Share your views about this topic in the comments below. Do you know what you want to do with your journals after your death? Are there any particular concerns about it, troubling you?

 

 

 

Are You Surviving or Thriving?

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image by achievers

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

– Maya Angelou

 

Maya Angelou passed away on May 28th, but people are not going to forget her. She left behind a trail of evidence of a life well-lived. She didn’t have it easy, but that didn’t stop her from thriving. She could have accepted the terms of life as it was given to her, as many people did. As many people still do. But she didn’t. She CHOSE to live, not merely to exist. She chose to thrive, not merely to survive.

What do you choose?

Are you existing or living?

Are you surviving or thriving?

Do you even know? Or are you merely bumbling along, barely making a conscious decision about your life, taking wherever chance leads you?

It’s not in your control what life, or other people, decide to throw your away. You can’t avoid all disappointments, heartbreaks and traumas. That’s just part of the package of being a human. But you can decide to make your life, and yourself, full of gusto.

You can choose to live with passion, do the things that make you feel alive, be with people who bring out the best in you. You can choose to be authentic, to not compromise your values even if they don’t fit in with the IKEA of humanity. You can choose to be positive, to not let the negativity drag you down. You can choose to make your mark, in however small way possible. You can choose to be yourself, and you can choose to continuously beat your best

My life, at the moment, is absolutely nothing like what I thought it would be like ten years ago. Not in any area. But that is not a reason to despair. Sometimes, things change, directions change, and what we have to look at are the positives. When you learn how to live consciously, to choose to be alive, you will have moments that are scary. You will have doubts. You will very much want the security that the “normal” world pretends to give you. But once you take that step, and close the door to the world-that-merely-exists behind you, you will never want to go back. 

To use this one life merely to exist is a waste. It’s a waste of golden opportunity given to you. What stops you from being all that you want to be, from doing everything you want to do, from realising your dreams? Only you. If you tried, if you gave it your all, perhaps you wont’ get everything you want, but you will have lived. Truly. You will have knowledge that you tried your best. And when you try your best, though the results may be unexpected, you never come out empty-handed. 

So choose today.

Every moment wasted, is a moment you will never regain.

Choose today, to live.

Choose today, to thrive.

Choose today, to live with passion, compassion, humour, and style.