Most mornings I have a routine that I call my “Two Hour Morning Vacation.” Part of that routine is writing in my journal, but before I write, I review my journal entry from the year prior if one exists. Yesterday I read the entry from the same day one year ago. On that day at the suggestion of the great Julie Ireland, who at that time was coaching me on how to apply the techniques of David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, I wrote several pages breaking down my “Horizons of Focus” in each area of my life.
An in-depth explanation of the Horizons of Focus is beyond the scope of this blog post, but essentially, they represent goal setting from the big picture 50,000 foot view all the way down to the next action that will help move the needle toward that goal. It is a look at both the forest and the trees. In my journal entry that day, I wrote my high-level vision and goals for the categories including personal, financial, business, family, relationships, and spiritual. These are the five circles of goal setting that have been instilled in me by one of my mentors, Brian Buffini.
In that journal entry I included high level goals and my 1 to 2 year vision for each area plus several projects and next actions I could take to advance each toward results. By reading what I was thinking one year ago, I found myself inspired! In my spiritual circle I had written down a goal to develop a deeper, more consistent meditation practice. One year later I have accomplished that goal. Over the past year meditation has been a fundamental part of my morning vacation and it has been a rare morning that I’ve missed. Meditation, done consistently, has been a huge help for my spiritual growth.
At the highest level for my financial circle, I wrote the intention to have peace of mind for my family and me as well as the means to travel and explore and ultimately to live in freedom. I then wrote my vision, my goals and the areas of focus to guide me in manifesting the vision. My wife and I have achieved progress in these areas over the past year and it feels good to see and experience that advancement one year later. Seeing results is incredibly motivating.
Yet, I found it to be even more motivating to see the goals I wrote one year ago where no progress has been made. This motivation does not come from judgment. It is just so helpful to revisit things that I was thinking about this time last year, particularly when they are still things I’m pondering today. In my business circle, one year ago I had written down two projects that would help move the needle and free me up to do more of what I do best. Specifically, I wrote that I would delegate the oversight of a management tool we use to keep score of our business success and that I would hire a bookkeeper. Both of these were relatively easy goals to manifest yet an entire year had gone by and I had not taken action.
Yesterday after reading my journal from the previous year, I inspired myself to take action. Enough is enough or as Popeye says, “That’s all I can stands and I can’t stands no more!” Immediately I emailed a team member and empowered her to take over management of the aforementioned tool and I emailed a bookkeeper I had been talking with and gave the green light to move forward with his services. Voila! All it took was the inspiration from my past self of one year ago and a reminder of the definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” With these things in mind I was able to recognize that I needed action if I wanted a different result. I was not going to allow another year to go by with the same goals outstanding.
Journaling has become such an important part of my life, and now, year after year, I am learning from myself. It turns out that much of what I search for in life has been here all along. I just have to listen to myself! It’s rewarding to see accomplishments. But what has been even more helpful is the discovery of thought patterns that show me where I might be stuck. Why was it so hard for me to pull the trigger on hiring a bookkeeper? It was control, or better yet, fear of the loss of control. Fearful? Yikes, that is not the person I want to be in life.
So how can I move past that fear? Easy, surrender! Simply let go! And I’ve learned that lesson, in part, by writing my thoughts and reviewing them regularly. Yesterday, I finally let go and took action and it was that easy. But it took time, because I needed space to understand myself and the challenges I’ve experienced.
Now to be clear, developing a journaling practice was not easy. It did not happen overnight. And I didn’t recognize the true value it would provide until I started reading my entries from a year prior. Journaling for the sake of journaling is great fun and provides a means to explore your own inner thoughts and feelings, discover patterns and let go of attachments that are no longer serving you. But once you’ve been keeping your journal over a period of time, you will find the impacts are amplified because that’s when the real learning begins to take place.
So how do you get started? Well, it could be as easy as buying a journal and just beginning right where you are. I started my journaling practice by reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and used the accompanying journal also produced by her. Her book guides its students through a 12 week process of developing the habit of writing morning pages. These are three pages of free hand, stream of consciousness thoughts. You write whatever comes to mind for three pages. No filter. It doesn’t have to make sense. There is no judgment and no one gets to read your morning pages but you.
Julia Cameron provides an excellent framework and ideas to keep you on track. I worked through The Artist’s Way about a year and a half ago and during that time I formed a new habit. I have continued the practice of writing morning pages and it has become fun and something I enjoy for the sake of the writing itself. Like meditation I rarely miss a morning.
Morning pages allow your unconscious the space to be free. Stream of consciousness journaling is a meditation in itself. Brian Buffini has encouraged his students to keep a journal for as long as I’ve known him. I always thought it sounded like a good idea. But I just never got around to it, until I read about Julia Cameron in one of Tim Ferriss’ books. The hidden surprise was the power I discovered in learning from myself by reading what I was thinking in the past. I had no idea the real power of journaling until one year later when I began to inspire myself. I encourage you to give it a try.
If the idea of journaling intrigues, perhaps you could set a goal and take a next action right now. You can find The Artist’s Way and its companion journal together as a set on Amazon.com. You will enjoy the process and might just discover that you are your own most inspired teacher.