Back in 2016 I was at a job I hated and in a career that no longer made sense to me. So I started looking for answers. I listened to countless self help books and podcasts looking for clues to find a better life. One idea that kept coming up over and over again, which I didn’t understand at the time, was journaling.
I remember thinking, how could writing in a journal make my life any better? It sounded like a waste of time. Back then I didn’t put any thought into this type of reflective work. I was under the impression that to accomplish anything I needed to do more and think less.
Finally, after yet another one of the guests on The Tim Ferriss Show recommended journaling, I decided to give it a try. I retreated to my room after a particularly grueling day at the office and took out a journal. I stared at the blank page. Now what? I thought.
I was on the verge of throwing the journal back on the shelf but decided to do one Google search. I went to Tim’s blog and found a few journaling prompts. I clicked on one and decided to give it a try. After filling up about half the page I decided it felt pretty good. I clicked on another prompt. This one was much longer. I filled out a few pages before putting down my pen.
I put the journal away for the night and thought for a moment. I still couldn’t see how this would change any part of my life, but it did feel good. I couldn’t see the harm in trying it again. So I picked it up the next night, and the night after that. Soon I was hooked. I learned new prompts and over the years developed my own journaling methodology.
As I journaled for the weeks and months to come I didn’t notice any major changes in my life as they were happening. But looking back now, three years later, I can see how my life has changed completely. What’s even more bizarre, is that many of the things I wrote about in my journal came true only after I wrote them down in there.
The life that I lead now, as a full-time coach and blogger living in Brooklyn was an idea I thought up in my journal when I was still a burnt out sales guy living in Boston. I can see now that my journal, which I still hold in my hand today, has acted as my compass over the past three years. Once I developed the idea for my ideal life and wrote it down in my journal, every decision I made between then and now led me to where I am today.
In an effort to give you the same gift that I experienced from journaling, and to prevent you from staring blankly at a page until your mind goes numb, I decided to give you a loose journaling template and a number of prompts that helped me get started. There are many ways to journal but here are some techniques that have worked for me:
The Daily 3-Minute Journal:
I recommend completing this one every morning before you start your day. Jot down the date and then take a minute for each of the three sections. It’s OK to make lists here rather than use full sentences if you’d like.
What are you currently grateful for at this point in your life? It could be something that happened yesterday or even something more broad.
What are some of the recent victories in your life? Where are you making strides?
Write down one vision that you want to come true. Be creative and don’t limit yourself. This could be the same one each day or you can vary them depending on your goals. Here’s an example of one I use: “I deserve to get paid for what I love to do.”
Within my journal I also leave space for longer entries where I paint the picture for my future life. I write them down once and then re-read on a regular basis. I recommend re-reading them at least once a week when you get started. Here are two that have served me incredibly well:
1. Write Down Your Future Life
Date the page at the top and then write down everything you want your life to be. You can include all aspects of your life including professional, social and personal. Let the pen flow and don’t hold back. Mine takes up three pages in my journal. One key: write it all in present tense as if you’re living this ideal life NOW. This will feel funny at first but trust me.
I wrote mine back on 1/7/2017. Here’s an example of something that’s come true: “I am a coach/ mentor to those who can learn from me and am getting paid for it.” When I wrote this down as a struggling sales person it sounded ridiculous. But now it’s a reality.
2. Debbie Millman Exercise
What if you could do anything you wanted without fear of failure? What would a day in that life look like 10 years from now?
Debbie Millman is an author, podcaster and artist who was featured on The Tim Ferriss Show. Her episode and the above journal prompt has stuck with me. When you do this one make sure to be as specific as possible. Write down your day from when you wake up to when you go to sleep. What is your work life like? What is your family like? Where do you live? What’s happened over the previous ten years?
I wrote mine down two years ago, and can already see pieces of my ten year vision coming into fruition. At the end of your entry, sign and date it for ten years from now. For example, if you do it today then write down your projected date as 12/28/29.
I have much more in my journals, including motivational quotes and mantras that keep me going amidst inevitable setbacks but this will be enough to get you started.
Someday I want to share mine publicly with their original dates to show you the proof behind it all. If you’re skeptical, that’s OK. I was too when I first heard of this stuff. But I always reasoned with myself that it couldn’t hurt.
And now here I am three years later as living proof that this stuff works. You can be next.