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It’s Not the Destination, It’s the Journal

Journaling is a hugely beneficial daily habit
Look at where you put your attention to understand the state of your character

I once heard the phrase that if you really want to know a person, look at their calendar. Seeing where a person spends their time and attention and which what frequency is a powerful way to learn their character, or at least where they are in life. As I’m currently trying to figure out where I am myself, it makes sense that I should be looking at my calendar. This would give me the opportunity to peer into my own activities and see where I spend my time, and if done right to see if my actions match my intentions.

In the last post, I described the concept of a personal shrine and beginning to have physical structures that reinforce your chosen sense of identity. A personal shrine is a concept I developed that is a type of focal point at which you envision your ideal self based on your favorite qualities. I choose this method over things like vision boards because there isn’t necessarily an actionable follow-up to a vision board. You sort of just leave your subconscious to do its thing. That’s not quite enough for me. A shrine, however, insinuates a type of vision board with a ritual action behind it. This gives both my subconscious and conscious minds something to do in the process of my self-development.

Daily Journal as a Ritual

Now this isn’t a shrine that I pray to or meditate under. While I appropriate a lot of spiritual and religious lingo, my ritual practice will be something that I can both feel and measure. The ritual that is put in place has to be both meaningful and relevant to the process we are trying to accomplish. It can’t be something arbitrary and still carry the same weight that is needed to advance me along my path. The beauty of having a shrine is to externalize my ideals. By returning to the shrine to do this ritual I have to answer to those ideals face to face, so to speak. This is psychologically pertinent, because the ritual will reinforce the “sacredness” of the shrine, and the shrine reinforced the habit of the ritual. The ritual habit I would choose for this is keeping a daily journal.

I have been a fan of journaling for a fairly long time. I have always kept a notebook to jot down thoughts, but in regards to actually planning my day and tracking what I’ve done I started that sincerely when I was 18 years old. As a result, I have a collection of my thoughts and activities going back several years. Every so often I review these notes and learn what changes I have made in my life. one thing that can come out of this is the tendency to find out that I’m more on track for an old goal than I had expected I’d be, or find out that I’m off course either because of circumstances or an intentional decision. This allows me to make very precise and informed alterations in my general direction.

Parts of my Exercise

Because I’ve kept the ritual for sometime, I started developing certain habits in my journal specifically for the purpose of tracking, reviewing, and holding myself accountable. Those habits are to create an hour-by-hour journal entry, a daily note, morning intentions, daily priorities, and a weekly assessment to keep myself on course. All of them together allow me to take and introspective view a vast and dynamic timeline all on a couple of pages. For example, the notes and assessment allow me to review my past. The logging in my journal give me a moment to process the present moment. And my intention and priorities allow me to navigate toward my future.

My Daily Journal
My Personal Daily Journal

There are a series of rules I use for each section of my daily note-taking and journaling. These allow me to be consistent and, for the most part, objective. It is important to accomplish both of these to maintain some level of scientific record. That is, I need to be consistent to avoid so that I can compare my notes against themselves, and I need to be objective so I and know what I’m measuring in my progress. There are also certain check-in times I give myself with my journaling so that I can be consistent and take notes when they are fairly fresh in my mind.

Journaling

I use this daily journal to track my day-to-day activities in a way. I choose to be as objective as possible when I’m making my notes. Wherever I am able I avoid saying statements such as “John said something that made me angry.” Rather I’d say something that describes the event without overwhelming personal bias or victimization. It would be written more like, “John said something. Then I became angry.” I don’t try to spend too much time here writing elaborate stories. Instead, I create a brief hour by hour log of my waking hours.

Notes

My notes are similarly short, but potent if I do it correctly. I find a nugget of wisdom in each day. Only one is necessary to consider the day a success or for it to have had a valuable event. Every day I feel I should capture at least one realization, quote, or a good idea. If I can grab it and write it down, then I can in a way condense my day into a single story moral. As a side effect, it’s also a great way to turn each day into a learning opportunity.

Intention

Setting a mood for each day in important to me. Intention setting is an effective way to do this, especially if you create a sort of mantra for that intention. I create a daily intention, preferably based on the prior day’s insights. Of course, this could also be the same intention each for a week, month, or year, etc. This is meant to be a broad but actionable mindset or philosophy for the day. Like “I will not become angry at small things,” or “I will do the most impactful work possible.”

Priorities

I was once given the advice to decide on 3 tasks for each day that all become what I focus on for that day. If I accomplish any or all of them, then that day is a success. I choose 3 tasks that will advance me personal goals and do the most good for your life and what you care about. Also, I make sure they can be completed in a day through reasonable action. An important thing here is to be specific, and not say something too broad “work on my project.” Instead, I try to write down “complete the outline for my book’s chapters.” This means I have to make sure I have a clear idea of what “done” looks like.

Assessment

At the end of each week, I give myself a simple assessment of my week’s progress, performance, and my personal experience of it. The result of this assessment is that I create an actionable plan for how to address those insights. I ask three simple questions that come out of the Agile methodology of software development. These questions are simply “what worked this week,” “what didn’t work this week,” and “what am I going to do about it?” Not only asking these questions but also acting on them in the following week is key for setting the next week of priorities and intentions.

Daily Journaling In Summary

Journaling is a key part of my day and my life allowing me to record and study my actions, see how well I live up to my priorities and intentions, and directing my actions in a consciously decided along the way. It also acts as a daily habit to do at my Eidolon shrine. Any notebook or blank sheets of paper can work. However, I do best with structure and prompts, so if you’re anything like me you might really want to get a few copies of the daily journal I designed and use every day.

Get a Copy of My Daily Journal

The collection of actions that comprise my daily journaling pay honor to the process of my becoming. I think of them as a tribute to my ideal self, and so return to my shrine space to complete them every day is not only an honor but extremely empowering. Taking up journaling is highly recommended, and while this is my style there are many that you can take up including bullet, diary journaling, and more. There’s a book for those in my collection as well. I hope that my insights are helpful to you on your identity journey. They are definitely serving me well as I dig closer and closer to my sense of identity.

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    […] a personal shrine and also an accountability journal. If you haven’t read about those yet, go back and give them a browse. The problem I’m left with is that shrines are meant to be dedicated to something and to be […]