Five Powerful Reasons to Journal

Five Powerful Reasons to Keep a Journal

I love the idea of journaling, but struggle to do so. I started to journal many times, maybe even purchasing a special notebook. After a few days of consistency, I would miss a day, or two, which turned into a month and then I’d stop.

Over the past year, I’ve gotten more consistent. I find the practice helpful and, at times, transformative.

Maybe you’ve thought about journaling, but haven’t been convinced. Here are the top five reasons which helped me develop the habit.

1. A Journal Gets Stuff out of your Head

David Allen advocates “getting stuff out of your head” because if you don’t, focus becomes difficult. Ideas, projects, and commitments rumbling in our heads keep our minds busy. Getting things on paper moves us toward focused and clear thinking.

Journaling is an excellent practice to get stuff out of our head and down onto paper, thus clearing our minds.

2. A Journal Reveals Where You’ve Been

In an interview, Greg McKowen shared how his journal helped him remember things he would have forgotten. Looking through his journey brought back ideas, events, and activities he didn’t remember, keeping them from being lost.

Our days fly by and we usually don’t take time to reflect. A log of where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and what we’ve thought brings a sense of continuity. We can see themes, tendencies, and trends. A journal helps us examine our life.

3. A Journal Works Out Where you are Going

“What do I really want?” is not a simple question. We may feel like we know what we want, but when we drill down, we realize we don’t. What we think we want, or what we thought we wanted in the past, isn’t what we really want. What a dilemma!

Not only does a journal reveal themes, tendencies, and trends of the past, it creates clarity moving forward. Slowing down and writing out thoughts and feelings, helps us process. We may even find areas where we are conflicted and confused. A journal aids in working out what we really want out of life.

4. A Journal helps with Productivity

It’s a given that productivity is vital for our jobs and careers. What we may not realize is the effect productivity plays in spiritual practices.

The most frequent reason I’m given for not reading Scripture, praying daily, or attending worship services is “Lack of time”. A close second is, “I’m too busy”.

Yes, schedules are bursting at the seams, but some busyness and lack of time are caused by poor time management. In short, we waste a lot of time on activities that don’t matter, don’t help others, and don’t bring joy.

When we journal, we gain clarity about what’s truly valuable. Thinking through the day ahead, either in the evening, or the next morning, creates an opportunity to discern what brings value to life. A journal can capture tasks and projects that are important and truly matter.

5. A Journal Leaves Something Behind

I’ve left the most powerful reason to journal for last. During his interview, Greg McKowen also shared about the deaths of his grandfathers. He thought he knew both of them well, but at their funerals, he realized he didn’t know who their friends were, their hobbies, their hopes, or dreams. He really didn’t know them.

One of his grandfathers, however, kept a journal. He didn’t journal everyday, but would record a sentence every few days over fifty years. McKeown said that one sentence every few days over fifty years helped him know his grandfather.

When I heard this, I was attempting to journal every morning and every evening, but I didn’t always do it. I’ve tried to journal from time to time, but was never able to make the habit stick. Perhaps I never had a reason to, until know.

The thought that upon my death my family might find my journals used to scare me. After hearing McKeown talk about his grandfathers, my fear transitioned into desire. Thinking that my grandkids, or even great grandkids, might find my journals and get to know me inspires me to journal.

I do not have grandkids yet. One day I hope I do. I will probably have limited connection with them, but I can leaven something for them. My kids will know me better than my grandchildren and my grandchildren will know me better than my great grandchildren, and so on, unless I leave something behind.

Adding Value

I find consistently writing in a journal difficult, but given the benefit, I’ve made it a discipline. While I don’t write everyday, I’m getting close. Whether I write every day, or once every few days, I will continue to write because journaling adds value to life, both my life and, potentially, others’.

I doubt that anyone will write about my life, but I can write as my life is happening. My life isn’t all that interesting. I don’t go on many adventures. It would be great to know more about my great-great-great grandparents, their hopes, dreams, life, etc., but they didn’t leave anything behind.

Perhaps through my journal, I can not only work out what’s valuable in life, but potentially leave a gift to my family as well.

Why You Need Purpose in Your Life

Desperate Times

Most of the time, I simply live life. I thought living was enough. For me, living meant that I did what I thought needed to be done. I was too busy living to worry about my purpose and the “why” of life. Who needs reflection and thought when there’s so much to do?

Socrates said, “The unexamined life isn’t worth living.” I can’t remember when I first read his statement, but it stuck with me. I had no idea what his point was. I was living an unexamined life and it wasn’t too bad. I was wrong.

David Henry Thoreau expresses a similar sentiment when he wrote, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.” Of course, we may not believe we live desperate lives, but more and more Americans and others in developed countries suffer from depression, stress, and anxiety than ever before. We may not want to admit to our desperation, but it is becoming harder to deny.

Livin’ Large without Purpose

I didn’t think I needed to examine life. I thought living was doing what came your way, dealing with challenges and opportunities. I was living a good life, but, unbeknownst to me, desperation was locked deep within me. My desperation didn’t cause much trouble. My desperation was quiet. But then depression hit and life came to a grinding stop.

I would do a lot of things, but I didn’t know why I was doing them. I did stuff. Sometimes I did stuff because people told me it was what I was supposed to do. Sometimes I did stuff because I believed it was expected. I always wanted to have the “right stuff” and do “the right stuff” but, unfortunately, I didn’t even know what the right stuff was.

I suffered from a purposeless life and didn’t even know it. I knew all the “God has a wonderful plan for your life” shtick, but lacked clarity. While I believed I had a reason to be on earth, I was fuzzy on what it was.

I see others suffering from the same malaise. As Thoreau points out, most people can put up with desperation, because desperation hides below the surface and may not cause much trouble. Quiet desperation describes the person who doesn’t know his or her purpose and, probably, doesn’t even care.

Purposeful Power

Not caring about our purpose is unfortunate.

Purpose brings power to our living and gives us reason to get up in the morning. Our purpose provides direction and clarity. Through purpose, we determine what to say “yes” to, but more importantly, what to say “no” to. We can finally feel good about the work we do, and the work we leave undone. Reflecting on our purpose empowers us to expand our capability and, ultimately, purpose brings us fulfillment.

Depression was part of my journey toward clarity and purpose. I’m not sure I would have embarked on a journey toward purpose if my “quiet” desperation hadn’t started screaming and shouting. Depression led me to finally examine my life.

My world was caving in, but there was also a gift. Without this time of “holy discontent” or, rather, “hell on earth” I wouldn’t have examined my life. Sure, I was forced into the examined life, but I could have chosen to deny the pain and continue to push it deeper.

The Deeper Gift of Purpose

I’m not sure where I would have ended up without going through this difficult time. As it is, I believe my time of depression has helped me end up in a much better place. Now I take time to reflect on my journey.

Purpose doesn’t come all at once. A flash of insight or understanding doesn’t come at once. A light bulb doesn’t go off showing us exactly what we are to do or become. Purpose comes over time and unfolds.

Depression isn’t necessarily required in order to find our “why”. There are much better ways. Ways I wish I could have found and followed. Because I didn’t find a better way, I was forced to take a difficult path.

Today, there are many resources online, in books, and classes that can help someone find their purpose. There are coaches who lead individuals to clarity by helping them understand where they are currently, where they really want to end up, and a path they can take.

Ends up that Socrates was right! In the next article, I will go through some steps for finding purpose and living an examined life.

The Power of Clarity

Quiet Desperation

I wouldn’t say I had bad habits as a young pastor because I really didn’t have habits at all, at least not intentional habits. Instead, I had an image in mind of what good pastors did and tried to live up to that image, yet I was not consistent or intentional about my life. Clarity of purpose didn’t come easily.

Like many reading this, I didn’t have the luxury of a mentor or coach guiding me. Even though I went to seminary, that was for education, not direction. For the nitty gritty stuff of life, I was on my own. Instead of intentional living, I was living by trial and error and living by trial and error wears thin over time.
Continue reading “The Power of Clarity”