There’s a ton of great evidence—both scientific and anecdotal—pointing to the power of focused journaling. In their book Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond, Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge make a particularly eloquent case for this practice. Here’s the gist of it…
“One of the great keys to caring about your own life is to watch it. And to keep track as if it mattered a lot. Which it does. If you’re going to have a good life, a full life, a life that you and others care about, it must be the examined life. And that means writing stuff down. It sounds banal, but it works. It’s so easy to look out at the rain and give it the Full Teddy — ‘I don’t care’ — and go back to sleep. If you know you’re going to have to admit it, in writing, you’re more likely to get up and go.”
“So keep a simple log in which you write down, every stinking day, these three things: 1) what I ate, 2) what I did for exercise (or didn’t), and 3) what I did with my life — sexually, socially, morally … whatever lights your fire. It is a tremendous help to know as you decide from minute to minute what do do, that ‘All Will Be Written’ and ‘All Will Be Known.’ It is a talismanic business, a sign that someone cares. Even if it’s just you.”
“Keeping the log — and keeping it accurately — has been the sacred duty of captains and commanders from the earliest times. Those who tampered with or kept false logs faced grave penalties, certainly including loss of command. That’s a good phrase, actually. If you do not keep an accurate log, you will lose command. Of yourself!”
“A daily log is a crutch to lean on when you’re weak. A shield to ward off boredom when you’re tired. A sword to symbolize your resolve when you falter. It is a practical tool and a magical device that stands between you and the relentless thought ‘You know what? I just don’t care.’ A couple of times I lost my log and, without fail, went straight to hell. In my experience, there is a perfect correlation between dropping the log and going to hell. So now I carry it everywhere. And I keep it religiously.”
Makes sense, doesn’t it? Want to give it a try?
[For another great/simple journaling practice, see our previous piece on this topic, Want to feel better? Are you sure? When I was writing that one, I realized that I had NO choice but to actually try the practice myself. Yes, I felt resistance to the idea. Yes, making a public declaration about it killed my chances of wiggling out of doing it. And, yes, I can attest to the fact that this stuff really works.]