April 12, 2012: And so it begins…

This is the opening line of a journal I started keeping at the end my freshman year at Hanover College. I didn’t know why. I didn’t have a reason. All I knew was that some people kept journals, and trying it myself would probably be more effective than reading about someone else’s experience with it on something silly, like a blog. In fact, if you’re reading this because you’re curious about keeping a journal, let me give you tl;dr version; turn off whatever device you’re using, go to your local bookstore or library, and spend thirty dollars on a nice journal. Use it. Here’s why.

Journaling keeps you in the present moment.
It sounds contradictory, I get it, but that’s why I’m starting with this idea. We journal so we may accurately look upon the past, at least, that’s one reason. A less-observed benefit of journaling is crafting a better sense of the present. Whether you journal daily, weekly, monthly, when you feel upset, when you finish a big project — whenever — reflecting on your life and the world you live in helps you practice mindfulness. By writing, you can find closure on anything you think about. Journaling provides a method of doing a kind of “after-action-report” of events and thoughts in your mind. You are able to wrap thoughts in your head and the weight on your heart with your experiences. This enables you to capture a chronological, emotional, and mental history of whatever matters most to you. In so doing, you are free to move on to the next big adventure without carrying around unresolved ideas. It allows you to focus on the moment you are in, a necessary task for finding your version of Life Success.

You will grow.
Growing requires a metaphorical movement from where you were in the past to where you are in the present. The passing of time alone is not enough to constitute personal growth, simply aging. What better way to measure growth than to keep track of where you were with ink and paper? Writing in a journal can be enjoyable, sure, but the real joy comes from re-reading what you wrote in the past. Being able to see what your deepest thoughts were three years ago puts your life into perspective where it stands now, which, although seemingly focusing on the past, enables you to more effectively live in the present. “Oh, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to deal with the uncertainty of <insert potential problem here>? I made it out alive last time? Nothing to worry about then, time to get back to being a total boss and winning at whatever I’m doing today.” Simply put, measuring growth, or anything for that matter, is impossible to do accurately without a starting point of reference.

You won’t be embarrassed by what you post on the internet in five years.
First, let’s acknowledge how crazy it will be in fifty years to look back on the past using social media like Facebook. We all have memories of looking through old photo boxes and home videos while we were growing up — that’s going to disappear soon. Excluding a crash or corruption of the data on social media, the thoughts, words, pictures, and videos you put on the internet are going to be there for a looong time, probably long after you’ve forgotten about it. However, other people will still easily be able to check your profile and see the ways in which you aired-out your dirty laundry online. From personal experience, in the three short years I’ve kept a journal I can’t count the number of things I’ve written in the past that were so off-base I’d be embarrassed to death for them to just be out in the open today. Half of my entries start with “Wow, that last entry was pretty angst-y, let’s try to not do that again.” This is an epidemic, to use only a slight bit of hyperbole, and it’s going to hit today’s generation like brick wall. Avoid that problemĀ  entirely by journaling.

“You mean there are only three reasons to keep a journal?” No, of course not. You’ll find more here. What’s your favorite reason to journal? Share with us below!

– Dakota (and the LifeSuccess.com Team)

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