There are 2 or 3 posts sitting in my drafts folder just waiting for the final tweaks before posting, but thanks to my Instagram/YouTube pal Angela Cruz and my dear friend Dr. Bob Stecker, this post just jumped to the front. Check out Angela’s recent video (click on the thumbnail below) which is a “Hello Ms.CEO” unboxing that among other things includes a really pretty pen and… a calendar which she intends to use as a “gratitude” journal – I was intrigued and inspired.
I started keeping a diary as a young girl and continued intermittently throughout my life. My entries were very inconsistent through different periods particularly when my children were young and there never seemed to be enough time. I regret neglecting my journal during those years especially.
What is even sadder than neglecting to capture reflections from my boys’ early years is that the event that finally lead me to start journaling consistently was the ending of my marriage. After almost 2 decades filled with wonderful shared experiences, I chose to start recording my thoughts when our relationship was falling apart. Four journals are filled with mournful entries from the darkest period of my life. But, in the third one, I left a few blank pages at the end to be filled in later, when I was back to my relatively happy self. Those pages are now filled.
We all have our reasons for keeping a journal – for me it’s largely therapeutic, but now, it’s also a place where I hone my goals and brainstorm on how to achieve them. For the past few years, I’ve combined my private thoughts with notes from work, my peer group and non profit meetings, as well as networking events. My journal is with me always. FUN FACT: a side benefit of keeping a hand written journal has been improving the legibility of my writing which had gotten pretty scary after years of only typing.
The “Gratitude” Journal
What really inspired me from Angela’s video though (other than the trip down memory lane when my boys were babies needing copious amounts of my attention just to keep them alive) was the gratitude journal. Even now when life is pretty good, I find myself focusing on the negative – the problems and the areas of my life where I’m less than satisfied. So much of my life is wonderful, yet those wonderful times don’t seem to be what gets captured. Now you might ask :”If your journal is largely therapeutic, then what difference does it make what you capture?” Well, that’s what the Life Lessons from the Oldest & Wisest book is doing in my featured picture.
My dear friend Dr. Bob Stecker recently gave me a copy of this book in which he is featured (page 38-40) and I’ve found it to be incredibly inspiring. So many amazing lessons, but the relevant one for this post is all about positivity. So many of the elders in this book credit keeping a positive attitude with longevity. What better way to stay positive than to make a daily entry in your “gratitude” journal? A big thank you to both Angela and Dr. Bob for the motivation – it seems certain that going to bed at night with gratitude in my heart can’t help but set the stage for sweet dreams and an inspired start in the morning!
Using a calendar or appointment book as Angela suggests is the perfect way to focus on capturing gratitude. Sometimes, forcing yourself to be succinct is more work than rambling on for several sentences, but well worth the effort. My theory is that when life is getting hectic and stressful, taking the time to be mindful of what you are grateful for can really keep things in perspective. I’m really excited about forming this new habit and testing my theory!
For Valentine’s Day this year, I purchased 3 books – 2 were gifts for my boyfriend Greg and my mother Jackie and the last was for myself. The books are all guided journals with the first two being meant to enrich my relationship with others and the last with myself. I got a head start on Greg’s journal, but left several sections blank so that we could fill them out together. I left all of my mother’s journal black since my real gift to her was meant to be time spent filling it out together. I haven’t even opened the one for myself yet.
The idea for the my book is to change the way I journal in general. In a recent Instagram post, I quoted a line from the 1995 movie Sabrina: “I came here from Provence alone, uneducated. For 6 months, no, more than that… a year, I sat in a cafe, drank coffee, and wrote nonsense in a journal. Then suddenly, it was not nonsense.” I’m not sure I’ve reached that point yet.
I have a habit of reading my previous journal entry from a year ago on the current date – sometimes I go back two or three years. The idea is to see where I was then versus where I am now and answer these questions: Have I grown? Have I accomplished any goals? Am I happier? Have I added value? Have I learned from both my successes and my mistakes? I’m hoping this guided journal will help me focus my thoughts a little better so that I can answer those questions or at least capture something meaningful as opposed to nonsense.
Do you journal? If so, do you ever go back and read your entries? I’m very curious to know what motivates others to record their thoughts (other than those who intend to write a memoir) and what you have gotten out of the exercise. Please do leave me a comment and let me know.