What do Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, and Ralph Waldo Emerson all have in common? All of these men committed to a daily journal. The list of famous and accomplished people who kept journals far outweighs the list of those who did not. So what makes journaling such a powerful tool in accomplishing the life you dream of?
Journaling helps you to:
1. Commit to yourself
There is a lot of shame that revolves around selfishness, but the more you know about yourself, the more you can help others. People who haven’t journaled often mistake the activity for self indulgence, but it’s actually an important step in sharing your most potent self with the world.
The most successful people are the ones who had their own backs when everyone else laughed or criticized them. Making a daily habit of journaling helps you remind yourself that no matter what mistakes you made or where you fell short, you’ll always be in your corner and expecting great things.
2. Process your emotions
Being successful is an inherently stressful business. You’re called to peak performance for most of your waking hours, and the important decisions you face in expanding your agency can be a mountain of stress that you must face in order to succeed. So successful people are, among other things, exceptional in their ability to handle stress and process their emotions. It’s no coincidence that journaling has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and increase happiness.
To get the full benefit, examine the worst and best events throughout the day. Even if something made you want to crawl in a hole and die, confronting it in your journal will help you move through the emotion and increase your resilience. Don’t forget to mention your accomplishments either; simply acknowledging what you have done will help you to integrate success into your identity.
3. Increase your memory
Successful people are, for the most part, mindful people. They achieved their high offices by paying attention to detail and remembering the important things, from the name of a secretary to the most important topics of their greatest speech.
Though some people are born with eidetic memory, the rest of us can improve every day with practice. Committing to a daily journal in the evening will strengthen your recall about the small details that make life rich and colorful, greatly improving your functional memory.
4. Practice vulnerability
The following is a quote from successful journal-keeper, Teddy Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
The man that Teddy is talking about here is a vulnerable and courageous man, and those two words go hand in hand. The man in the arena has opened himself up to ridicule and pain, but in doing so, he also finds the greatest success imaginable.
Perhaps the best way to train yourself to be vulnerable is to acknowledge your own shortcomings. It is only through vulnerability that you can admit mistakes, and it is through courage that you change your actions. The most successful people are those who have failed 1,000 times to achieve one success. Only through admitting error can you improve upon it for success, and this is where vulnerability comes in.
Journaling about your accomplishments and failures will help you gain a critical insight reserved for the truly successful: You are not your actions. No matter how well you do, you can always do better. The vulnerability engendered through journaling is the seat of resilience and accomplishment.
5. Achieve goals
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” — Tony Robbins
The best thing about journaling is that your invisible dreams and goals are poured out right in front of you, clear as day. Cataloging your efforts gives you a detailed map you can refer to when you are uncertain, and that will lend concreteness to everything you do.
The hardest thing about succeeding in anything is keeping momentum. Keeping an active dialogue about your achievements, failures, and efforts will give you the momentum you need to persist when things get tough. Even if there were no other benefit to journaling, and the activity itself led to welts and bruises and pain, it would be worthwhile for it’s utility in taking ownership of your goals and making your dreams come true.
Journaling has been a staple of some of the most successful men and women in history, and now you know that isn’t a coincidence; successful people journal. Try carving out 15 to 20 minutes each night to improve your fulfillment in life.