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The Elements of Powerful Journals

January 13, 2013

by Kerry Kilpatrick

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”   W. H. Murray

As you read through the writings of some of history’s greatest keepers of journals you see recurring elements that made the journaling discipline so powerful in their lives. If you’re committed to using a journal to empower or dramatically change your life, make sure yours contains the same elements:

  1. Observations and Impressions – what did you notice about life today? Capture your impressions in your journal and watch how you become more aware. Leonardo da Vinci accumulated 7000 pages of notes by the end of his life. What his notes convey is da Vinci’s minute and detailed observations of what most of us see but register only a scant impression of. You can do the same thing in your life by simply becoming more observant. Look at the things in your daily experience with a heightened level of attention then write down those impressions that are most meaningful to you.
  2. Ideas – when an idea pops up in your head – trap it immediately. To do otherwise is to risk it becoming lost. As you trap your ideas you will notice more ideas being generated and an increase in your creativity. Charles Dickens powerful books began as wisps of ideas that he captured in his journal.
  3. Questions – questions are powerful. Just asking them can begin the mental process of finding answers. The process of writing down questions tells your brain “this is important” and starts the brain on the mission of solving it. Einstein felt that asking the right question was the most important step to solving any problem.
  4. Inspirations – what inspires you? When you become inspired you are at your highest state of creativity. Write down the great quotes or sayings that motivate you. Capture the words of the songs or poems that move you to tears. Trap the memories that bring a smile to your face. Then refer to them when you’re feeling down or uninspired and watch what happens to your mood.
  5. Goals and Vision – where do you want to go. One of the greatest powers of journaling is the ability to make concrete those wisps of thoughts and dreams that are often fleeting. Writing them down makes them instantly real. When you write down a goal of what you want to be, do or have, it makes it concrete.
  6. Assessment and Feedback – how did you do today? Benjamin Franklin was one of the most successful at this step in character development. He wrote down 13 elements of what he determined were the desirable character traits of successful people. Before Franklin went to bed he would grade himself on how successful he was in achieving those elements throughout his day. It was this feedback that allowed him to live each day with heightened awareness. He immediately saw where he was lacking and took steps to change where appropriate. Look at your life each day and write down what you observed about it, what was successful and then plan the appropriate action for tomorrow.
  7. Thoughts – we all have thoughts swirling around in our minds that often are just confusing. Writing down the thoughts in your head helps to focus and clarify your thinking. It also helps your thinking to evolve. As you review what you write, it helps you see trends and the evolution of your thought processes and shapes the action steps that create your future.
  8. Action – what do you want to do today, this week or this year? What specific action step can you take TODAY that will move you in the direction of the vision of your life that you trapped in your journal? If you want to take a trip to Alaska what can you do today to move you one step in the direction of that goal? Talk to someone who’s already been there. Study the various regions of that state. Learn some of the history. Find out about the various ways of traveling there. That’s what makes a dream a progressive reality. Everything around you began with a thought! Taking action is what makes a thought become reality.
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