We all tend to be pretty confident with the thoughts inside of our own head.
We all think we know what we’re talking about…or at least we know more then the next guy.
That is…until we’re put on the spot.
Imagine you strike up a conversation with a new acquaintance. They seem intellectually sound and the conversation is going great. The subject goes towards something that you’re very passionate about and it’s your turn to express your idea.
Except, something happens. You start fumbling over your words, you panic, and you end up spitting out something that doesn’t reflect your true opinion. You leave the conversation feeling unresolved and wanting more from yourself. Why?
What if our thoughts are not actually reaching anywhere near their full potential?
What if we we are exchanging quality in our ideas for convenience in communication?
What if I told you I that I found a simple solution to turn you into a superhuman? How cheesy would that be?
Although I’m no superhuman (not yet at least…I’m still waiting on Elon Musk and Neuralink to turn me into a cyborg) my experience has lead me to a daily practice that has increased my mental clarity significantly. My performance at work and school has benefited to a point where my peers and even superiors have claimed a noticeable difference. My energy to cultivate relationships has increased and my confidence has skyrocketed.
All I had to do was start writing…
Some call it morning pages, others call it brain dumping, you may even just call it journaling. Whatever you call it, we’ve all meddled with it in some form. It looks a little bit different for each person – Some people try different methods and forms, but most people struggle to keep a consistent habit and eventually quit before they even have the opportunity to accomplish anything
I’ve noticed a lot of people understand the benefits of journaling their thoughts to some extent but they get caught up in the process of starting or developing their process. They struggle to see the immediate benefits or they just get overwhelmed at the broad range of options that journaling provides.
Journaling is a very individualistic process and should, therefore, be conformed to whatever works best for the individual. But as someone who has developed a practice and has seen some enormous benefits from it, I felt an obligation to share my practice hoping to potentially inspire others to try and build their own individual process based off of mine.
We suppress 90% of the thoughts or ideas that our brain actually has on a given topic (Don’t quote me on that, could be more, could be less). When communicating, we end up choosing whatever is most comfortable or convenient.
Every time we speak we are submitting a finished product into the world through our words. Although it doesn’t seem like it, we take an idea, polish it into what we can with the time that we’re given, and submit it as our contribution to a conversation to be reviewed by others. Simple enough right?
My goal for my journaling process is to take those forgotten or overlooked thoughts and give them the time and respect that they need to develop into something a little bit more. Then the next time that topic is up for discussion, those thoughts will be locked, loaded, and ready to use.
For many, this only works in concept – it’s much easier said than done. ****
My experience has shown that the value and success of a journaling practice all depends on the individual’s mindset.
- What are your intentions with this entry?
- What do you want to gain?
- How do you want to communicate?
For me, this mindset is writing as poorly as possible. Yes, you read that right…
I want to write poorly.
I want the thoughts to flow from brain to paper as freely possible, avoiding revision at all costs. You’re never going to get your brain to that state if you’re concerned about sentence flow and grammar.
A simple practice I’ve found helpful for this is to commit to not rereading any of my journal entries. This seems a little wild at first glance, why write if nobody (including yourself) is ever going to read it? But practically speaking it makes a lot of sense.
If you are truly writing to increase the clarity of your thoughts, you want to get rid of the fear and anxiety of what other people are going to think while reading your writing. Since you are your own worst critic, this includes yourself as well. I still keep all of my entries because I do intend to one day revisit them. In fact, I’m sure it will be incredibly beneficial to revisit old ideas one day, but for right now I’m still building the mentality of poor writing = more unfiltered/unaltered thinking. If you think you would struggle with not revisiting old entries, go ahead and delete them or throw them away after you finish. You can always do this while building the habit, then start saving them once the practice become more regular to you. You want to get them out as quick is possible before your brain has time to edit them for you
I speak of these things as a practice and a mentality because that’s exactly what they are. It’s important to treat them as such and dedicate time to them every day. Just like any skill or discipline, you’re not going to be very good at it at first but with time and practice your ability will grow.
A lot of people struggle with the process of just getting started. They sit down with a blank page in front of them and freeze up at the thought of taking action. All of a sudden, every last one of their ideas has fled from view and they’re stuck with an inevitable case of writer’s block.
My primary advice for this is to just get used to it. Every writer faces writer’s block and has to wrestle with it to a certain extent. But in order to stay consistent and hope to see any type of growth, ****you still have to take action no matter how you feel. There are always things you can do even when you aren’t feeling super committed to an idea, and this is exactly where a good journaling practice shines. Journaling forces you to extend your thought after you feel the urge to quit.
I always start my entries with a string of questions…
- “Why do I want to learn about <insert subject here>?”
- “How will learning about this improve my current life?”
- “What do I already know about this subject?”
Go with the first, easy questions that pop into your head. This string of questions does not need strenuous mental work – just something that will get your brain cogs moving. Write the questions down at the top of your document so that once you start writing, you’ll have a structure to return to in case your mind wanders or you get stuck. The real benefit to these questions is that you are creating a platform to test your own opinion on whatever the subject is you’re exploring. You’re figuring out where you stand and how much you know and laying groundwork to figure out what you need to learn and improve upon.
I use the questions to generate my own opinion, but then I also use my morning pages to explore any potential oppositions to my argument. I try to think of anything that may be questioned of me in response to my opinion. I try to put myself in the shoes of others with different experiences than myself. Would they agree or disagree with me? If not, how would I respond? Is their opinion wrong or is mine?
The goal is to avoid simply writing down your opinions and leaving them. You want to put a spotlight on them and pick them apart, approaching them from all different angles. You want to initiate a stage of forced thought to expand your initial idea to a point where it’s polished and primed for use in your day to day operation.
I would just like to reiterate that this is just my individual practice. Journaling is an art that you are going to have to figure out for yourself through trial and error.
- Ask yourself what you want out of a daily journaling habit.
- Observe the way your mind works, how it develops ideas and turns them into thoughts that are ready to share with the world. –
- Try lots of different forms and variations of journaling. If you start writing in a journal and it doesn’t feel like it’s working anymore then quit…try something different. You’re not mentally weak just because you can’t fill up journals like some people can. You just have to be concerned with what is working best for you and put forth consistent effort. It doesn’t have to be the same thing, but try journaling something everyday. This is really where you’ll find your own practice.
If you’re struggling with consistency, find an accountability partner. Find someone who is also striving to build a journaling practice and talk to them about it consistently. You don’t have to share what you write, but if you talk about the process and review how it’s been helping you, I think that too can be incredibly beneficial.
Don’t forget. In the end you want to build this practice to benefit yourself. It’s not about what others are doing, what they may think, or what you may even think of yourself. It’s about the quality of your thoughts!
If you have any interest in this or just want to talk to me about any part of my journaling practice, please reach out to me! I love to talk to people and find it incredibly rewarding to build relationships through growing with one another through practices like this. I’m best reached through twitter but also am open to emails if that work better for you!