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The Five-Minute Journal - a new project

Point #1 today:  I listen to a lot of podcasts.  Probably more than I should.  I have a backlog of about 30 episodes I'm trying to catch up on (call it a project).  Those podcasts include two that are complementary but different:  Abel James's Fat-Burning Man and Dave Asprey's Bulletproof Radio.  I love them both - they both discuss lots of whole-life "hacks" and changes one can make to improve health; mentally, physically, and emotionally.

And if both of them have a guest, and they both rave about that guest's product, I'm very likely to give it a look.  Case in point:  UJ Ramdas and his Five Minute Journal.  We'll get back to that product in a moment.

Point #2 today: I have, in the past, been a horrible journaler.  I totally recognize the value of it, don't get me wrong.  And I would love to be one of those people who just do it regularly by habit.  But, for whatever reason, it's a habit that I just have had a hard time adopting.  At the beginning of this year, I went through 31 days of a journaling program that was suggested by the Art of Manliness site.  I did the whole thing, and enjoyed the process immensely.  I felt like I'd finally built that habit I've wanted for so long.

And then, after the 31-day program was completed, I missed a couple days and the habit went by the wayside.

I've tried a number of journaling platforms - a private Evernote-based journal, using the website OhLife.com, and a couple of others.  As much as possible, I try to do such things electronically for the ease of doing them on the spot, when I need to do so.  It's worked for me for a lot of different things, and I thought that doing them that way with a journal was the way to go.

But recently, after I once again realized it'd been two or three weeks since I last journaled, it occurred to me that perhaps this self-imposed restriction was the problem.

One of the things that many journaling experts and advocates talk about is the power of putting actual pen to actual paper.  The process of writing instead of typing - whether onto paper or into a computer - is much stronger because of the extra care one has to take.  There are plenty of websites on this and I'm not going to go into all the psychological reasons for this that are mentioned.

But I am going to go into MY mindset for this.  I think that one of the reasons I've failed to journal well in the past is that I HAVEN'T created an event around it and made it special - I've tried to "work it into" my life in the way I do everything else.

Now, to get back to UJ Ramdas and the Five-Minute Journal.  Ramdas's creation is a hard-bound book with a page for each day, the idea being that you are intended to write in it daily - once upon waking and once before going to bed.  And there are a few questions you are to answer each day.  The morning questions are about three things that make you happy or you have gratitude for, three things that would make your day awesome (AKA goals for the day), and an affirmation for the day.  The evening questions include three amazing things that happened during the day and a couple of ways that the day could have been better.
Easy-peasy, rice and cheesy.  Only let's look at these items:

First, we start our day with gratitude, which is a practice that teachers from spiritual, religious, secular, and all sorts of other paths regularly suggest as the best way to reach peace and happiness.

Second, we start our day by making a plan based on what will make us happy.  No one will deny that having a plan for the day is a good thing, and doing it in the realm of what will make us happy instead of what will make us "successful" looks at the more basic and more powerful emotions.  People who work for goals based on happiness are burdened with less stress, less need for things, and less need for anything but personal satisfaction.  And that doesn't mean that it's selfish - it just means that we're not looking at others for our satisfaction, we're looking internally.  Perhaps the two may intertwine, but they don't have to.

Third, we visualize via an affirmation.  Thinkers from Maxwell Maltz to Benjamin Franklin to Plato have talked about the use of visualization in the creation of a lifestyle and the power it can contain.

Fourth, we finish the day with more gratitude, and fifth we look at ways we could improve the day.  Finishing the day and heading to bed with an attitude of improvement is what Thomas Edison was referring to when he wrote:  "Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious."  He knew the power of sleep to create positive or negative changes in one's attitude and life, and to finish the day with that mindset of improvement is what this final question is all about.

So the questions themselves are magnificently simple and powerful.

The other thing that the Five-Minute Journal does is to give a weekly challenge on random days.  The first one I've encountered since starting is simple working on a habit of journaling.  You write down your reasons for doing the challenge, a few ways in which you can expedite your attainment of it, and most importantly what you'll do if and succeed AND if you fail.  You're setting yourself up for success by knowing exactly what the ramifications of a failure are - they won't be just the knowledge that you failed!

But why go to a handwritten book instead of an online or electronic journal?  Well, frankly, this was my attempt to use a new methodology.  Journaling online hasn't worked for me yet.  And the anachronistic/Steampunk-y person in me sees this as a really neat way to take on the habits of past successful men, as well as try something new.

And so today was day one.  And I'm finding that I'm paying attention to those three goals I stated this morning as to what would make me happy today much more than I have in the past.  In the past I've lost track of that stuff early on in the day, but today I haven't.  Power of writing over typing?  We'll see.

So this is a new challenge, and I'm looking forward to trying this out.  I'll keep you posted on how I'm doing with it.

What sorts of journaling habits have you developed?  What challenges have you had with journaling?  Share below!  

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