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As I was reading this quote by Wilcox, I had a sudden flashback. I remembered perching on the end of my tiny bed in the dormitory back in boarding school. I was holding a small brown hardcover journal. My very first journal, which was a gift from my mum. From shortly after I could write down a meaningful sentence by myself, my mum had always encouraged me and brothers and sisters to write down what we were thinking about. ‘Whatever it is you would like to get in life, big or small, just write it down. Do it every day and then just see what happens’ she would say.
At that time, I didn’t know she was helping a key tool for life take root in my heart. It felt strange and difficult to pour what felt like my soul out onto a clean blank page. It was hard to start and I felt very vulnerable, but also, at the same time, in some way invincible. In retrospect, it was that feeling of vulnerability that allowed me to develop a sense of self-awareness and to pay attention to my thoughts and actions.
For years we all had to write weekly letters to our mother from our respective schools. It wasn’t a problem for any of us, though our friends often struggled to find something to say. Mum would study each letter carefully before filing them safely away. Over the period of years, those missives slowly gathered in the drawer next to her bed. In time, of course, we all finished school, went to college, and then technology took over from letter writing. But, even after she moved onto computers and email, my mum still encouraged us to write out our goals and intentions,continuing to say, ‘You know what, write it down and see what happens‘. I thought she just kept these letters for a souvenir but there was more to it.
When our eldest brother, Mike, got married, he had a big wedding with relatives from both sides there to join in on his big day. As usual, the groom’s mother was asked to say something and part way through her speech, she asked the Master of Ceremonies to read out from a piece of paper she had picked out of her purse. It was one of the letters that Mike had sent her from College maybe five years before the wedding. He was really embarrassed to hear the letter read out but everyone was amazed at what the letter said.
Mike had told our mother that he was going to make her proud. The letter said that he would buy a nice car, build his own house and marry a wonderful girl in the next five years and mum chose to have this letter read out to demonstrate what the power of thoughts written out, then acted on, could do.
Mike had done just that. He had set three goals, written them out and pursued them, to achieve all three, as well as his College degree in the five years he set himself and of course, making his mother most proud, as he had promised. While I eventually stopped writing to my mum, (though I emailed and called her) I never stopped following that advice to ‘write it down and see what happens’. On my bedside cabinet or any flat surface in my bedroom, you can always find a journal or even a scrap of paper with something scribbled on it. Some are reminders or quotes I want to remember from books I am reading, there will also be to-do lists, and random thoughts that arrived just as I was settling down to sleep but others are based on my mother’s advice to write down my goals, which these days is known as journaling.
Journaling is like talking to yourself, only much more beneficial because you write down what you want, not endless loops of conversations with yourself, though you can do that too, if you need to. With writing in a journal, not only are going to think about it, but you’re also going to say it to yourself as well as write it. By doing this, I found out that writing out your intentions helps you focus on what’s important to you. When you just tell yourself how you’re “going to do well”, your subconscious may very well try to divert you away from working towards your goals, even though your intentions may be the very best. But when you have all your plans documented in your journal, you get the overall view of where you are now, where you’re going , and your final destination. Susan Sontag, an American writer, explained her experiences with journaling by saying that she “created herself”.
I can just totally relate to this. All the words I’ve written down about my life, goals, and dreams, whether in ink in journals or letters to my mother or from clicking the keys on my computer have helped create the person I am today.
Checking off some tick boxes on my to do list is one of my small daily pleasures at the end of the day. It makes me feel like I have progressed, no matter how little. Each box represents a problem solved, even a small one and ticking it off makes me feel fulfilled, happy and sometimes, dare I say, it, even euphoric and empowered to tackle any other problems that may lie on that list. Writing down emotions you feel at various times is very therapeutic and can be helpful in managing mental and physical health. You can use this to track your symptoms or create a separate tracker within your journal to check on what triggers any anxiety, stress, anger or other emotion you find difficult to manage or what you need to eat or do to keep your health in check. You can also track any medical and dental checkups or other health appointments.
Writing things down is still important and the very act of putting pen to paper can be helpful in personalizing your experiences and the goals you want to achieve but with more responsibilities eating away at my personal time, I now have less time available to spend writing out everything that happens in my life, as I used to. With new technology, I can still record ideas and important stuff while still on the go. Currently, there appear to be a thousand or more apps that can help people track their health, moods, finances, meetings and so on, so you don’t have to spend the time writing it all down and then indexing it if necessary. Useful mobile apps will help you stay on course with daily living because you can set reminders if necessary.
Journaling is having somewhere to put all your intentions, thoughts, ambitions, and actions to help you stay focused on what you want to achieve.
Write it down. Do it every day and then just see what happens.