Limited Journaling for Those Who Can’t Journal

 

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I often hear from people who say they have tried keeping a journal, but just can’t keep up the habit consistently. Others face the fear of the blank page…they don’t know what to write. Yet others feel that their life isn’t exciting enough, fun enough, or in any way worthy of recording.

One of the common complaints I’ve heard from readers and my friends who like the idea of keeping a journal runs along the lines of “I live a dull routine of work and home. Weekends are full of chores, an occasional outing, or obligatory family visits. It’s boring to even write about it.”

I get it. It’s difficult to motivate yourself to journal in your already busy schedule when journaling itself feels like a chore. So this article is for all of you, who would like to keep a journal, but for whatever reason haven’t been able to. But if you are already keeping a journal, then good news is, you can use these exercises too, to add another dimension or a creative layer to  your journaling. 

The idea is to make it less scary, and easy. Therefore, instead of the blank canvas, you can limit your journaling. Before I go deeper into the many ways through which you can do limited journaling, I want you to pay attention to the tools you are using. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is make the process appealing, by buying a nice journal and a pen. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be something that you find pleasant. The notebook needs to be welcoming, appealing…if you use the same notepad for journaling that you do to dish out chores for your household, it’s unlikely to feel special. This makes even the anticipation of journaling a more happier prospect. A pretty notebook, a classic leatherbound journal, an understated moleskine….depending on your taste, any of these are more likely to encourage you to write than that ratty notebook you’ve got lying around the house. Same goes for a pen. Make sure it’s comfortable and works well on the notebook you have chosen. If you need convincing, read this article: Why you should always use quality journals

Got it?

Cool. Now let’s move onto how you can keep a limited journal:

1. Keep a list journal

No need to write paragraphs. Or complete sentence. Just make a list. Doesn’t matter what kind of list it is. You can either do it thematically, such as, Things I Ate, What I Did, People I Saw, or you can simply use a list full of words/phrases that describes your day, emotions, reflections etc.

Remember, the only rule of journaling is that there are no rules. So do whatever works for  you. If you are not sure, experiment.

2. Keep one sentence journal

If lists aren’t your thing, or you want to branch out a bit, simply commit to writing one sentence daily in your journal. At the end of the year, you will have 365 sentences. And chances are, there will be days when you write more simply because you couldn’t stop yourself. It will also force you to learn to be succinct or to pick out things from your day that matter to you the most.

3. Keep three words journal

Forget sentences and lists. For a more restrictive approach, just use three words. They can be absolutely anything. 

4. Journal for 5 Minutes a Day

If word count doesn’t work you, try time restriction. Set a timer and journal for 5 minutes. Do a free write, so that you write whatever comes into your mind without stopping. It can be about your day, or it can be just whatever is going on in your mind. There are no restrictions. You can do the same for 10 minutes a Day if you want. 

5. Keep a doodle/drawing journal

If you are a more visual person, or more artistically inclined, then you can draw or doodle an image a day in your journal. 

6. Line from a song/movie/book

Each day, you can write a line from a song/movie/book etc. that represents your day. 

 

As you can see from above, journaling isn’t just about writing paragraph after paragraph of reflections, or about describing your day. It can be anything. Try these ideas out. Try to be consistent, and do it daily. Because keeping a regular journal is about forming a habit rather than how much you write. Once the habit is formed, it becomes a second nature, even if you skip a day or a week. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY

Grab that pretty notebook, and get started with one of these exercises! 

 

 

Journaling Exercise: What Is Your Relationship With Your Body…Beyond the Surface

 

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For today’s exercise, I want you to think about your relationship with your body. 

Let’s start with the surface answer first: Do you hate your body, love your body, are indifferent, or neutral? 

Don’t give up if you have never thought about this. Keep exploring how you feel to arrive at your conclusion. Journal your thoughts about your body. You can write about its physical beauty (or lack of), how it makes you feel, how you think others perceive you because of it, things you would like to change about it etc. Based on your answers, how do you think you feel about your body? Were your answers mostly positive or negative? Were you answers emotional or factual? 

Remember, there is no wrong answer here. You need to honestly explore your feelings, and your fears. 

Once you have answered that, let’s go deeper. 

Do you value your body? Do you realise that it’s your vehicle for life? How much do you appreciate its usefulness? Do you accept that a healthy body allows you to do much more than just look or feel good? That it makes it easier to all the other things you want to do? I’m awed, constantly, by people with severe disabilities who overcome their physical limitations and achieve extra-ordinary thing. However, those of us who have been used to a relatively healthy body are not used to that type of adversity. A flu, a broken leg, back pain….common ailments messup our plans, and have us moaning and whining. And appreciating how useful the body is. 

Do you only appreciate your body’s important when it can’t do something…or do you remember it daily?

Do you look after your body? Do you give it proper TLC on a regular basis? If you don’t, why not? Do you not think that your body and you deserve that? If not, why not?

Keep digging deeper into this. Most of us don’t appreciate what important role our bodies play in the quality of our life. Now and again, it’s good to reevaluate this relationship. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

No more procrastination. Even if you hate looking at yourself in the mirror, do it…make your words your mirror, and really try to understand the relationship between your mind and your body. Create action steps to take care of your body on a regular basis.

 

 

Journaling Exercise: What does Independence Mean to You?

 

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The man who is aware of himself is henceforward independent; and he is never bored, and life is only too short, and he is steeped through and through with a profound yet temperate happiness.

Virginia Woolf

 

Happy 4th of July to all American peeps! The world seems topsy-turvey, but the American heroes have at least once again saved us from the aliens. Gotta be happy about that :-) I hope you are enjoying a lovely long weekend. 

Every year, around the world, many nations celebrate their independence day. There are nations, who are still waiting for that status. Then there are others, like England, who has never been ruled by someone else and therefore does not have an independence day. I think the further we get from the fight from independence, the easier it is to see it as merely a holiday, to lose touch with the reality of what our forefathers fought for. 

But independence, like any important value, is rarely black and white. I grew up in India. People fought for independence from England, yet it can’t be denied that the British Raaj brought with it a multitude of benefits. Is that a reason enough to be ruled by someone? In my opinion, no….but perhaps in someone else’s opinion,  yes.

Let’s take that to individual level. I am sure you know people who are in unhappy relationships, but they remain there, because it makes financial sense, or because they don’t want to lose the lovely house or the lifestyle they are in. Or perhaps someone who is reliant on their parents though in their adult life. Perhaps you know a woman or a man, who is emotionally dependent on their spouse. Perhaps you know someone who can’t eat alone in a restaurant, or can’t go to cinema or theatre by themselves. 

There are many ways to look at independence. It is also possible to be independence in one or more ways, while being dependent in one or more ways. 

So today, in your journal, I would like you to ponder this question: What does independence mean to you? You can write about it in any sense you like: national, political, financial, individual, marital…or mix it up. Go with the flow. Write about however it comes to you. 

Remember, just keep writing as fast as you can. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling mistakes. Just go with the flow. Let your mind connect your notions of independence. It may surprise you. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Get that journal out, and celebrate Independence Day with more self-awareness by doing the above exercise! 

 

 

 

The Three Rs: Relax, Recharge, Regroup

 

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We will be more successful in all our endeavors if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-center ourselves. And we’ll also have a lot more joy in living.

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

I’m writing this from the terrace of my beach side hotel in Gran Canaria. Hard life, you say! Yes, there are certainly worse places, and worse conditions to be in. Last week, I was ill, in rainy London. On Thursday, I started feeling the signs. On Friday, I had to leave work early. On Saturday and Sunday, my energy levels kept depleting within two hours of waking up / getting up (even if all I was doing was eating), then I would have to lie down. I basically spent the whole weekend eating and resting. (It may sound idyllic, but when you have my personality, it’s quite probably one of the most irritating ways to spend a weekend – also I live alone, so that means I have to sort out my own food, not great, when you are ill.)

So this article is a timely reminder today, from one workaholic to another: I understand you!

Let’s recap. Over the last couple of weeks, I was consistently tired. I knew that. But I kept pushing myself, because I knew I’d this vacation coming up, and so I thought, well, I will just rest then. That one more session in the gym. One more project. That social plan. It doesn’t matter that I don’t drink alcohol or go partying…those are not the only things that take their toll. Even the “good” things, when done to excess, are not good for you. Of course my brain knows that. And yet, I usually want to do that one more thing.

My body, sensibly, decided enough was enough. So from last Thursday, when the body started sending signals, I had to listen. Fortunately, I do listen when it gets to that point, mostly because then I don’t want to be bed-ridden for any longer than necessary. But it’s a good reminder of one’s physical limits. Yes, you can push past your limits. Yes, you can train yourself to be stronger, more resilient. But there is a limit. Nothing is without cost.

It is important to give yourself time to relax, recharge, and regroup – whether physically or mentally. As it turned out I spent the weekend recovering like I was on a mission, which I kind of was, because I did not want to be ill on this vacation, which I had planned since January (anticipating I would need to relax). Of course, a seaside vacation isn’t always going to be at our disposal whenever we need to relax, so here are a few thoughts to keep in mind, and of course your journal can aid you in that:

Relax

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You have been feeling the signs. Mental or physical fatigue, irritability, stress, little warning signs where your mind and body are telling you that you need to slow down, or even perhaps stop. Perhaps you are as much of an idiot as I am, and try ignoring those signs. Or perhaps you are more sensible, and you stop. Whatever the case, there comes a point when you have to accept (or face dire consequences) that you need some down time. You absolutely need to relax.

If you are in a position to actually get away, then do. Being in beautiful natural surroundings is ideal, particularly by a body of water. There is definitely something relaxing about that. Of course your geographical location may have a lot to do with your relaxation needs, but for those of us in rainy, cloudy UK, sunshine does work miracles.

If you can’t get away to a different location, then plan a local day/weekend/week to relax, depending on the levels of exhaustion you have pushed yourself into. In your journal, make a list of 10 things you find relaxing. This could be things like, taking a walk, reading, just scribbling in your journal, watching movies, watching reruns of your favourite shows,  cooking, knitting….whatever floats your boat.

If you are an obsessive scheduler like I am, also try living by the moment. As in, give yourself permission to do what you feel like. That’s what I am trying to do this week here in Gran Canaria. Exactly what I feel like. So if I feel like doing some work, I do it. But then when I want to read, I read. If I want to workout, I do that, and if I want to walk on the beach, I do that. I am letting my mind and body dictate my schedule. It doesn’t mean that  you must sleep half the day, or just sit on the beach (that for me would be far from relaxing, and utterly boring), but rather that you do the activities that you enjoy, only for as long as you enjoy them, and don’t push yourself to do more because you feel that you need to or that you should.

While you are having your relaxing day/weekend/week – as much as humanly and practically possible, let go of the phrase, “I should do that…” and just accept, “I feel like doing …”

That is the quick, and more enjoyable way to relax, if relaxing isn’t really your thing. (I’m aware that I’m looking for efficiency in relaxing….these are the downsides of being productivity obsessed)

Recharge

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Once you’ve allowed the tiredness and stress to seep away from your mind and body, then you are ready for the next step, which is to recharge your batteries. 

For this, feed your mind and body with nutritious and enjoyable diet. (It’s not that kind of diet. You can eat chocolates and ice-creams!)

For your mind, read things that inspire you. It could be old favourites, or new things you are discovering. You could perhaps read biographies of the leaders in your field, or you could read about people you admire, who have accomplished amazing things. I personally find writer’s diaries inspirational, or something like the Alchemist which is a perennial favourite. Of course, you are not limited to books. You can also read blogs, magazines, listen to podcasts. Just try and stick to positive, motivational sources. When trying to recharge your batteries, look for sources that fill you with a renewed sense of purpose and determination. Remember to keep using your journal to improve your learning agility. 

Don’t neglect your body. Slowly, build up the strength. Mind and body work in tandem. When one is unhealthy, the other tends to suffer too. You don’t need to have athletic level of fitness, but try to maintain a healthy body as much as possible. Go for gentle walks, or sprints, go to the gym or head to the park. It all depends on your preferences, your physical state, as well as the opportunities available to you. But just move a little. 

For this recharging, I think it is important to spend some time in solitude. Just quietly replenishing your energy levels. Journal about it. Clear your mind. And then if and when you feel up to it, talk to positive, motivated people. Avoid negative, energy-sucking people as much as possible.

Regroup

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You are relaxed, and you are re-charged, rearing to go! Fantabulous. Now it’s time to regroup. Get that journal out, and start jotting. Just do a freewrite for 10 minutes or so. Let thoughts and ideas pour. How do you feel? Mention positive effects you may be feeling from previous two stages. This will help you remember it for the next time you push yourself too much (hopefully). Then start writing about the things you want to do, projects you have in mind, that never-ending to-do list. This freewrite, kind of a brainstorm, will allow you to refocus. Get everything out of your mind, then decide on priorities. 

What are the things you are doing to focus on? Try to have as narrow focus as possible. Remember, just because you are rearing to go, doesn’t mean you can or should go back into your exhausting schedule all at once. It may actually be helpful to pick a project or two, and finish it, so that it will feel like more of an accomplishment, and therefore fill you with further positivity.

 

There they are, the three Rs. Though this article was particularly written with my fellow workaholics, it is actually useful for most people who either by choice or necessity, end up running themselves in the ground. Even if you don’t remember to do it all the time, perhaps try to focus on the three Rs periodically, at least once a quarter. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Each of the steps below are things you can journal about to gain further awareness, and solutions for where you stand with Relaxing, Recharging and Regrouping. Keep a list of things that you  find relaxing, so that when you need to do that, you can just go do that. Equally, keep a list of things that inspire you, that feel you with a renewed sense of purpose, that motivate you when you are feeling demotivated. These will be the things you can use to recharge your batteries. And finally, keep that journal going with your thoughts to gain clarity on your  goals and plans, so that you can regroup and restart as quickly as possible. 

 

 

Journaling Exercise: List of Things You Love & Things You Would Like to Change

 

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Lists are great. No fancy writing skills required, which also mean they make for great journaling exercises. You don’t need to worry about what to write, or how to write it. You just jot down bullet points, and make a list, as you no doubt often do in your life.

It’s important to mix positives and negatives. Especially when you are talking about negatives, because the last thing you want is your mind to keep dwelling on everything that’s depressing, or not-quite-right, or things that make you unhappy. A large part of sustaining positive mindset is about teaching your mind on how to focus on the good stuff.

It’s not rocket science, but it does take some work, particularly if your natural/habitual inclination is to focus on the negatives. So for today’s exercise, I would like you to make a list.

Make a list of things you love

These can be anything from big things like loving your home, your relationship, being a mother, God….to other things like when you have seen particularly bright side of humanity, or the kindness of your neighbour, or technology, or the colour red, or your football team, or travelling, or spending a Sunday morning having a leisurely breakfast with your journal.

You get the gist. Don’t limit yourself by scope. All things you love – big and small are allowed. Spend at least 10 minutes on this list, and as much as possible, keep writing, and keep writing fast.

This is about finding positivity in everything that’s good in your life, in your mind, and in your surroundings. So don’t be stingy.

Make a list of things you would like to change

There is absolutely no point just whining about things you don’t like and can’t/won’t do anything about. Instead, I want you to spend time thinking about things you would like to change.

Again, make a quick list. Perhaps you would change the government of your country, or perhaps you would change how the public transport is run. Perhaps you would change something about your child’s personality, or perhaps about your own. Perhaps you would change how you look, or perhaps you would change where you live. Don’t limit the scope. Everything that you would like to change, should be included, regardless of how big or small it is. If it matters to you, it should be on the list.

If you have a quick answer as to WHY you would like to change any particular thing, add it on, but don’t spend ages thinking about it.

The key here is to keep writing, and keep the flow going.

24 Hours After Writing the Lists

Once you’ve completed both lists, leave them alone for a day. Let it sink in. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t read them. Just ignore them, and go about your business. 

Then the following day, first go through the list of things you would like to change. Now pay some attention to it. Try to write down WHY you would like to change them. And then, HOW. Actionable steps, as much as possible. You don’t need to have answers for everything, but at least make an effort to justify your reasoning. 

Once you have been through the “Things You Would Like To Change” list, then go through the “Things You Love List” – and simply take a moment to appreciate it. To be happy. To be pleased that you have those things. Those are the things to dwell on! 

Keep journaling. 

 

 

 

33 Inspirational Thoughts for My Birthday

 

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I’m 33 today. No complaints. I love being in my 30s – which are definitely a far sight more fulfilling and exciting than my 20s :-) Each day, I am aware that I want to keep pushing and striving to be my best self, and to live my Kaizen Life. So today, I want to share with you 33 thoughts. They are a mixture – some are just my thoughts, others are quotes I find inspirational, and some are things I think everyone should do. But these are the things that you sometimes need when you need that boost of positivity, or just a kick in the ass, or just some inspiration. This is one of my longer articles here, at almost 1900 words, but still a fairly quick read. After all, 33  years of lessons under 2000 words is not a bad thing. I hope they will help you.

33 Thoughts: 

  1. Don’t ignore mortality 
    Bit heavy start, right? But no, I assure you I’m not being morbid, thinking about death on my birthday. It’s important to remember that we are mortal, and that we don’t know how long we have left on this earth because then we can appreciate the time we have. Live your life fully, now. Don’t postpone your dreams, your wishes, your goals for the future – because you have no idea how much future you have left. Live the life that leaves you feeling, “I did all I could” rather than thinking, “I wish I’d done that.” Death is not to be feared. Life is to be lived. And celebrated.
  2.  

  3. Smile. A lot.
    Smiling seriously makes your day better, and it makes you a better person to be around. It brightens the atmosphere. It brightens the world. It costs nothing. So just let the smile out.
  4.  

  5. Make a bucket list
    If you don’t have things to strive for, you will either end up with accidental achievements or spend decades just drifting. Make a bucket list. Figure out what matters to you (however big or small). Once it’s there in writing, you can think about making them a reality.
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  7. Believe in possibilities – Kaizen Journaling Manifesto (Which you can also buy as an inspirational poster, a journal, or note cards)
    Believe that there are more possibilities for you. Believe that you have choices. If you don’t believe, then nothing is going to happen. Have faith.
  8.  

  9. Don’t settle for mediocre achievements – Kaizen Journaling Manifesto
    This happens. A lot. You get a decent job, are able to buy a house, afford a vacation a year, and you think it’s all good. You are comfortable, luckier than many people you know. It’s good enough. Good enough is NOT enough. If you are truly content, great. Enjoy your life. But if you are not, then don’t just settle because you think you are doing better than others, or because you are meeting the society’s expectations of what success looks like. Achievements are not about money. They are not about status or prestige. Achievements are what gives you a true sense of accomplishment from the inside. It could be running your first marathon, or getting that top level job, or travelling somewhere on your own, or learning to swim, or drive a car. Whatever it is judge it based on how you feel about it, not by the importance the society gives it.
    So, don’t settle for mediocre achievements. Aim for things that feel like genuine achievements to you.
  10.  

  11. Be ambitious. Be audacious. Be authentic. – Kaizen Journaling Manifesto
    Without ambition, what are you aiming for? Without audacity, where is the courage and the fun? Without authenticty, what’s the point?
  12.  

  13. Be brutally honest with yourself
    I get it – you can’t always speak the truth. We live in the type of world where there are times when we have to lie, or at least avoid telling the truth. Even if it’s for a good cause. We all do it. As much as I advocate honesty, I know there are moments when not telling the truth seems to be the right option. 
    But it is NEVER the right option when you are speaking to yourself. Don’t ever lie to yourself. Depending on your circumstances, the society you live in, your life – yes, you may have to lie to other people. But lying to yourself is foolish. It holds you back from being your true self. It prevents you from facing reality. It prevents you from truly moving forward towards your Kaizen Life because you are stuck in a lie.
  14.  

  15. Look after your body, mind, and soul
    Neglecting any of these three means neglecting yourself. Healthy body, mind and soul nourishes you, and allows you to pursue your Kaizen Life.
  16.  

  17. Surround yourself with people who make you want to be better than you are
    People are important. Even if you are not a people person, even if you are a complete introvert, you are still affected by the people you surround yourself with. So pick the good ones. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, who push you to be a better version of you. The kind of people who motivate you just by being who they are.
  18.  

  19. Get rid of (or spend less time with) negative people in your life
    You have to make choices in life. To have one thing, you often have to let go of something else. To surround yourself with positive people, you may have to let go of negative ones. Remember, you are affected by the people around you. So if you spend most of your time with negative, pessimistic people then that’s going to rub off on you. It may sound cruel, but it’s necessary. You can’t fix other people’s outlook towards life. They have to do it themselves. Yes, you can help and support them, but until they are willing to make the change, no change will happen. So cut your losses. Don’t let them drag you down.
  20.  

  21. Make new friends
    You are never too old to make friends. Regularly make an effort to meet new people, engage in conversations, because you never know when you may meet interesting people who may end up being new close friends.
  22.  

  23. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results. – Wade Boggs
  24.  

  25. Care for the friendships and relationships you have
    Don’t take people in your life for granted. Value them. Cherish them. And not just through words, but through action. Everyone needs to feel loved and appreciated. Their love for you is not a given, nor absolute. It is a privilege. Respect it.
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  27. Appreciate solitude, and cultivate your relationship with yourself
    If  you can’t handle your own company, there is a problem. Take time to get to know yourself. Spend some time alone. Give your mind a chance to speak to you. Cultivate your relationship with yourself so that you have a better understanding of who you are.
  28.  

  29. Keep your glass half full. Always.
    Because that’s better than a glass half empty.
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  31. Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth. – Bradley Whitford
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  33. If you are not moving forward, you are going backwards
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  35. It takes courage to grow up, and become who you really are. – E. E. Cummings
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  37. Take pleasure in little things
    Because life is made up of little moments. Big joys or sorrows come now and again, but every single day, there are little things to be enjoyed.
  38.  

  39. Read Books
    Seriously. Read for pleasure. Read for knowledge. Read books because there are worlds there waiting to be discovered, and more friends and companions who you can relate to. If you feel like reading a collection of fantasy short-stories by kick-ass women about kick-ass women, then you can read Fight Like A Girl (my short-story The Runaway Warrior is published in it).
  40.  

  41. Cultivate confidence that comes from within, and is not reliant on others’ opinion of you
    True self-confidence comes from inside you. If your confidence, and in turn, your sense of who you are, is reliant on others than they hold the power to tell you how you feel. Why would you give that power to someone else? Also, why should they take that responsibility? Take charge of yourself. Be who you want to be. And be confident about it.
  42.  

  43. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt
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  45. Don’t settle for a hand-me down personality – Kaizen Journaling Manifesto

  46. Take risks for things that matter to you
    There are no rewards without risks. You can’t move forward to a new destination if you aren’t willing to leave your current place. So don’t be afraid of risks. Yes, you may fail. Yes, things may go horribly wrong. But things can also work out better than you imagined. And even if you fail, you will learn. You will grow. So take risks for your dreams and goals.
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  48. Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you. – Joel Osteen
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  50. Don’t go too easy on yourself
    This is certainly not a statement you hear often. Usually people say, “Don’t be too hard on yourself.” I think we need to hold ourselves accountable for our lives. If you go too easy on yourself, you can become complacent. You may say, “Oh that’s okay I will do it tomorrow.” And tomorrow never comes. 
    So use some self-discipline. Hold yourself accountable to yourself. Hold  yourself up to high standards. 
  51.  

  52. Don’t berate yourself for what’s done
    It sounds like a contradiction from the previous statement, but it isn’t. Not going easy in yourself is about NOW. The present. But if you find that something has gone wrong, you made a mistake, or you have been lazy, or whatever…don’t waste time berating yourself. What’s done is done. You can’t change it. Just learn from it, and move on. Stewing in negativity and regret is pointless.
  53.  

  54. Don’t do things to prove anything to others. Do them because they matter to you.
  55.  

  56. Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best. – St. Jerome
  57.  

  58. Love Life
    You have this one life. Live it. Yes, you can always find people who are better off than you. People who seem to have it all, or people who just seem so together – that’s not it. Everyone has problems. Regardless of their socioeconomic status. But everyone handles them differently, and also you are not in the position to know what’s actually going on in those privileged people’s life. So stop comparing. Stop envying. Focus on the life you have, and focus on making that better. Try making your life a Kaizen life.
  59.  

  60. You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. – C. S. Lewis
  61.  

  62. Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory. – George S. Patton
  63.  

  64. Journal
    Well, duh!! Of course I was going to say that. Journal. Daily if you can, or as regularly as possible. It will change your life.

 

My Thanks To You:

Thank you, Kaizen Warriors, for being here. For being my readers. For being a part of this community. I’m grateful to have each of you in my life. Particular thanks to those who leave comments, and email me. Your input and your thoughts are much appreciated. 

 

 

4 Truths from 4 Years of Kaizen Journaling

 

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Kaizen Journaling is 4 today. Like most birthdays and anniversaries…on the one hand it feels like I have been doing this forever, but on the other hand these four years have flown by.

Let me first begin with two things I’m thankful for:

First: I’m thankful that I can do this, that Kaizen Journaling has continued to grow over the years. It’s a privilege.

Second: I’m thankful to all of you, Kaizen Warriors. Without your presence, without your support, this journey would not be what it is. So thank you for being here, for being my fellows on this personal development journey where we are all trying and aiming for a Kaizen life.

Now, I would like to share four truths I’ve confirmed from four years of Kaizen Journaling:

It is about the journey

My journey to Kaizen Journaling began long before this website itself. But even in this four years, it has been a literal and metaphorical journey. Just by the nature of this project – personal development and journaling – it affects and is affected by my life. It would not be an overstatement to say that my life is drastically different from what it was on 17th April 2012. And fortunately, that change has been for the better. I’m pursuing my Kaizen Life with more passion and more dedication than ever before. 

For every moaner, there is one smiley person.

The world is full of whiny, negative people. You will find them everywhere. But for every one of them, there is also one positive person. Someone who smiles a lot, and brings smiles on everyone else’s face. You just need to look around more, and return smiles more often. Like does attract like. So if you find yourself surrounded by miserable people, keep walking, until you find someone who enhances your life by being in it. Don’t settle.

People are pretty damn impressive.

Over these four years, I have had the privilege to hear from many of you. You have shared your stories, opened your life and your heart. I’m amazed at what some of you have been through, and yet you continue to strive forward positively. It’s just another confirmation for me that none of us are alone in wanting to make the best of our lives, that we find the strength somehow to get up and keep going regardless of what life throws at us. It’s a confirmation of hope…that for all its faults, we – the humans – live in hope. 

You, and you alone, hold the key to your happiness. 

I come across many many negative and pessimistic people. I come across many people who seem to blame their situations in life, the government, or other people for their unhappiness. The hard truth is this: you and you alone are responsible for your happiness or your misery. Yes, other people, external circumstances can impact it, it can throw you off course and cause you hardships, but it’s up to you to decide how you respond to it. No one, and I mean no one, has a life without problems. What separates the happy people from miserable ones are the choices they make. Read this article to take control of your daily happiness and simple pleasures.

 

So that’s it. As I take this step into the 5th year of Kaizen Journaling, I hope you will stick with me. I have many plans for Kaizen Journaling though right now not much time to implement them, but I will get there, slowly but surely.  However, Kaizen Journaling still stands for the same thing. If you have forgotten, check out the manifesto. If you want more support on your journaling journey, check out Kaizen Journaling Academy

As always, feel free to contact me with any thoughts, stories you want to share. 

Thank you for being here! 

 

 

 

4 Reasons Why You Should Pursue Extra-Ordinariness

 

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Some of you may be aware, I spent the last two weeks in India on vacation. Two great weeks with my relatives and friends, and had an all around great time. But what I also noticed was that a lot of people there are just settling.

It’s part of the culture. I know it well enough because I was brought up there. You are taught and greatly encouraged to become a part of the society, not swim against the tide. You are taught that you must meet expectations of others, rather than follow your dreams. The idea of success is that which is generated by society as a whole – good education, good (stable) income, a house/flat, a car, savings, and children.

It’s not a bad picture. I know where it comes from. Our grandparents didn’t have that much. Our parents struggled too. So to have what they didn’t, to rise above the level you were born into, that is success.

There is nothing wrong with that. That picture has been painted all around the world for centuries. That was enough, for most people, when the world was closed, and you didn’t really know much beyond your limited circle, beyond  your particular society, or your country. (But even then, there have always been, and always will be, those who managed to fork their own roads)

But not now. Now when the information from all around the world is available…now when we know what individuals can do…now we can’t possibly justify that to “settle” into a mold designed by society, by others, is the only way to live.

If the society, if the atmosphere around us, if even the people around us are repressing us, then what can we do? If remaining ordinary is the most stringent demand upon us, then how can we let the extra-ordinary out? If “being yourself” is discouraged, and “be like everyone else” is encouraged, then how and even why should we fight against the tide?

The answers to each of those is simple – TO BE SATISFIED. 

I do not say happy, because you are unlikely to achieve happiness by swimming against the tide. More than likely you will end up causing rifts, arguing with your loved ones, and probably being told that you should grow up and be like everyone else.

But satisfied…yes, that is possible. Here are 4 reasons why pursuing being extraordinary makes you content:

  1. You get to be true to yourself

    There is nothing more freeing than to be free to be yourself. It doesn’t matter what you have, where you live, who you have – if YOU – the person experience it – knows that you are pretending to be someone you are not.

  2. You understand what it feels like to live on your terms – fail or succeed

    Pursuit of being extraordinary means to take risks. To perhaps blaze new trails. But certainly to go beyond the boxes designed to keep you in the zone the society has designed for you. You may fail…multiple times. But you can get up. Get up. Try again. And again. Until you succeed. That is a choice you have when you live on your own terms. To not give up. To keep going for your dreams. To keep forging this extraordinary person you want to become.

  3. Any success achieved, matters

    It’s tempting to desire easy success, to have things handed to us. But think about it really – what are the things you value the most? If you are like most people (and have a conscience), the things you value the most are the things you have earned. No matter how small the victor, it’s pleasure and glory is heightened when it’s achieved through your efforts. Pursuit of extra-ordinariness results in success that matters.

  4. You feel alive

    When you are pushing yourself to be the best you can be, when you break out of restrictions placed by others and let yourself soar, you feel this buzz…better than any drug, alcohol, or any other vice can give you. A buzz that lifts you high. That keeps you going when you are tired, when you fall, when things go wrong…it’s the buzz that makes you feel alive. Makes you feel like your life has a purpose. That you are doing something that matters. That you matter, and that everything you are capable of contributing in the world can make a difference. However small that difference may be. 

Pursuit of extra-ordinariness is not about discarding the ordinary from life. After all, we all want to be loved, have financial stability, have a home, and people who love us. Those “ordinary” things aren’t the problem. It’s how you pursue them that matters.  Is your pursuit a heartless chase, because you are running for things that you’ve been told you should run for? Or is it a passionate sprint because it’s a choice you’ve made? 

You are capable of being extraordinary, because it is nothing more than the best version of you. Your extraordinary isn’t going to be the same as someone else’s. You are not in competition with someone else. You are in competition with you. You can choose to let external pressures (society, family, friends), or internal pressures (your insecurities and fears) repress you. You can choose to let them keep you locked into your box of ordinary. Or you can break out, and let yourself soar. You can choose to become extraordinary. It is the harder choice. But it is invariably the right choice. Because nothing else in the world can compete with being able to be the best you can be.

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY

Grab your journal and answer these questions. As quickly as you can, without thinking too much:

Do you think you have anything extraordinary within you? If so, what? 

What do you think it means being extraordinary?

Who are the people who make you feel you are extraordinary? Or special? Why do you think they make you feel that way? Find more of these in your life. 

Who are the people who make you feel that you are less? That you are not enough? Spend less time with them. 

 

 

Why You Should Enjoy Valentine’s Day (Regardless of Your Relationship Status)

 

 

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Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.

Oscar Wilde

Yes, I know Valentine’s Day is the epitome of commercialization of holidays. But if we are going to argue about it, so is every other major holiday. That’s a reflection of our society. We live in a commercial society. We all want stuff, and more stuff. So we use holidays as an excuse to indulge ourselves and our loved ones. 

Now if you really wanted to protest commercialization of holidays, instead of complaining about it, try not buying anything. Good luck, explaining it to your kids. But I digress. My point is, there is no point whining about how Valentine’s Day was invented my Hallmark to sell cards. Let’s be more positive, and look at it as a celebrate of love.

Another thing I hear is, “I don’t need a day to celebrate love.”

Well of course you don’t. Presumably you make an effort throughout the year, to let your loved one know how much you care about them. But here is the thing….most people don’t. Most of us get so wrapped up in our daily lives that we use holidays as touchstones that remind us that we are supposed to be paying more attention to the people in our lives. 

Whatever category of thoughtful and caring you fall into, that’s for you and your partner to know. I’m not offering judgement. The point behind this post is that instead of spending Valentine’s Day being grumpy, or depressed, or any other negative emotion, perhaps it would be better to just enjoy it. It doesn’t mean you have to spend lots of money. It doesn’t mean you have to go out. It doesn’t mean you have to do anything in particular. It’s more about mindset. 

Here is why you should celebrate Valentine’s Day whether you are in a relationship or single: 

A day specifically assigned to celebration of love is a reason to celebrate love (because it’s never enough)

If you are in a relationship, instead of just buying an item as a gesture of celebrating Valentine’s day, try and make it meaningful. Actually use it to celebrate love. Spend time with your partner. Do things that make you both feel more loved and cherished. It’s actually easier said than done. A vast majority of people would rather buy a diamond bracelet (assuming they can afford it) and be done with it. It’s not about diamonds, or roses, or expensive dinners. It’s about love – heartfelt, genuine. It’s about romance that comes from appreciating each other, from moments made special, not the romance of candle lights and glittering dresses. 

You don’t just fall in love and stay in it. You have to nurture it. And Valentine’s Day gives you that one more reason to do so.

Being single on Valentin’s day means you get to love your self 

This article came about because a single acquaintance of mine recently grumbled about being alone on Valentine’s Day, in a rather depressing tone. She suggested she might spend a day with her friend, but clearly, she would have preferred to spend it with a partner. As it happens, I’m currently single, and I am actually spending a day with one of my friends simply because she happens to be in London just for that weekend, and I can only see her on Valentine’s Day. But even before that came about, it hadn’t even occurred to me to be depressed about it. 

Sure, I wouldn’t necessarily have made specific plans to go out, but I would have spend the day exactly as I had wanted. Being single isn’t the same thing as being lonely. If you spend every moment of being single desperate to find love, you are wasting that time. The time that could make you more self-aware, allow you to take care of yourself, enable you to fulfill your goals, and potentially make you a better partner because you are a better, more fulfilled person. When you chase love, while being single, you are effectively ignoring the present in favour of the future. That, my friends, is a waste of life. 

So savour the singlehood, enjoy the freedom to do exactly as you please when you are not required to consider anyone else’s feelings, and love will come in its own time. 

In Soren Kierkegaard’s words:

Don’t forget to love yourself. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Tell us in the comments your thoughts on Valentine’s Day. Be warned: positivity shall be rewarded with smiles and warm fuzzy feelings (thus you will be spreading happiness in the world), and negativity shall be rewarded with an eye-roll! 

 

 

5 Ways Journaling Can Improve Learning Agility

 

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Let’s start with a premise: When you are not growing, you are shrinking.

It’s that simple. If you aren’t learning new things, or even working on maintaining your current skills/knowledge/awareness then you are in-fact deteriorating. “Use it or lose it” would be an apt phrase to use here.

So that means, we need to keep focus on maintenance (at the very least), or growth (ideally). This is assuming you have a choice. If you are in a career/life where you need to constantly learn new things – whether because your job demands it, or your relationships demand it and you don’t want to screw up either – then you have to find ways to keep growing. One of the ways to do that is to improve your learning agility.

What is learning agility?

Exactly what it says: an agile learner.

Usually when we say someone is agile, we mean physically. That a particular person is able to move their body fluidly, is quick on their feet. But at some point you must have also heard that so-and-so has a very agile mind. What does that mean? That their mind makes connections quickly, and is able to apply the insights and knowledge gained to unrelated problems.

So learning agility is your ability to learn quickly, seemingly randomly, and apply the knowledge gained in a wide variety of ways. Their ability to learn and apply isn’t hindered when faced with changes. They can process the changes, shift mental gears, and find ways to assimilate information faster, and create solutions. Imagine someone leaping over strands of thoughts, collecting information as they do so, and remembering it well enough to be able to apply it, whether directly or indirectly. That is the essence of learning agility.

There are numerous ways to become an agile learner, but I want to focus on how you can use journaling to improve your learning agility:

1. Brainstorm

Take time, regularly, to brainstorm in your journal. Do this without a set topic. Just go where your mind takes you. You can start with a book you are reading, ideas regarding your job, things you want to focus on in your personal development. You may find that often thoughts from one area of your life connects to other areas of your life. Follow these patterns. Whether or not they produce immediate results isn’t important. The important thing is to let your brain get used to making these connections, and giving your mind the freedom to just explore because you don’t always know what gems are lying in wait.

2. Explore Your Attitude Towards Change

How do you handle change? Do you get stressed out? Panic? Hide and hope everything returns to normal? Do you just grin and bear it? Do you face it head-on? Or do you even look forward to it?

Explore this in your journal. Be honest with your self. Don’t just say I handle change well, but write down examples of when you have done so. You may find that you have a slightly skewed opinion of your ability to handle change. It maybe useful to ask your friends/colleagues/family who may give you honest opinions. See if their opinions match with one another, and with your perception of yourself regarding change.

This isn’t a one-off exercise. You should explore this regularly in your journal for a period of time so that you can get an accurate measure of your attitude towards change.

Responding positively or at least productively to change is a key criteria for becoming a more agile learner. If you dig your heels in and refuse to move with the changes then that’s likely to be a deterrent in your learning agility.

3. Identify Risks You Can/Should Take

It’s part of our survival instinct to want to be safe. It’s part of our modern living to want to be comfortable. I am not against either. I like both safe and comfortable. However, if you keep yourself in that cocoon that you are not going to grow. In developing nearly all skills, from learning a language to improving physical fitness, you go through a steep learning curve and then you plateau and have to push yourself more if you want to keep improving. The same principle applies to learning agility. You can’t expect to grow, to be more agile, to be the best you can be, if you just settle in one comfy spot and refuse to stretch yourself further.

Pay attention to your comfort zone, and how much time you spend out of it. By journaling, gain awareness of your relationship with risk taking. Are you completely risk averse? Completely reckless? Or somewhere in-between? Again, you may not an accurate judge of your own behaviour, so try figuring it out from your journal, and by discussing it with people close to you.

4. Active Learning

How much time do you spend on learning? Really, actively learning? Whether it’s by going for traditional education, vocational courses, reading books/articles/blogs, watching information and educational videos, or practicing a hands-on skill, does learning feature in your schedule?

To become an agile learner, you must first become a learner. You have to expose yourself to new knowledge, to get used to continuously assimilate new information. You need to be able to merge new and existing information and find unique ways to use it.  It is much easier to become an agile learner, or even a competent one if you actually enjoy the process. Try different mediums, and different techniques. Find ways to enjoy the learning process.

Your journal can be a record of how you learn, what you find pleasant, what seems like a chore, and how you are able to apply that information. Keep a log of your learning, and your methods of learning.

5. Active Reflecting

Reflection is a key element in any form of personal development. It doesn’t matter how much new information you put in your brain, what new skills you develop, what life experiences you go through – if you don’t reflect on them, you are not going to get the most out of them. Journaling is the perfect tool for active reflecting. 

First, let’s understand the difference between passive reflection and active reflection. Passive reflection is when something just occurs to you. Active reflection is when you make deliberate effort to reflect on things – thoughts, life, work, just general randomness of the world etc. 

Journaling, by its nature, is a form of active reflecting. You are picking up a pen and writing things down. You are performing an activity that is reflective. Whether you are just writing about the minutia of your day or writing about specific topics/aspects of your life, you are forcing your brain to engage with those thoughts, which are then transferred – usually in at least semi-coherent manner – on the paper. You may then choose to reflect further on it, by reading it back, looking for patterns of behaviour, and picking up lessons from it. 

Active reflection enables you to speed up your personal development process, particularly self-awareness, which is a key if you want to become an agile learner. Active reflection enables you to play to strengths (because you now know what they are), and overcome or sidestep your weaknesses (because the reflection process makes you both aware, and hopefully honest about it). 

 

By using the above five steps in your journaling, you can considerably improve your learning agility. It’s a great asset to have, and something that you can utilize not just for work or study, but for all aspects of your life. 

 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Journal about why improving your learning agility would benefit you. If you can see the benefits, then your motivation to work for it will strengthen.