3 Quick Tips To Journal Effectively

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In preparation for my keynote this week I was reflecting on one of the moments that changed my life forever.

I was 23 years old in rehab, paralyzed, and had yet to learn how to walk again when someone brought me three empty notebooks to write in.

I thought to myself “Pfft! I don’t need those. Why would I ever want to journal?” and politely accepted them before I set them aside on my nightstand. 

I thought journaling was useless and didn’t have anything to offer me, but after a few nights in my hospital bed staring up at the ceiling, I decided to give it a try. 

Another visitor had just come by and challenged me to ask myself the question “How can I use this?”, referring to the lengthy downtime I was about to experience.

The image below is the first journal entry I ever made in my life.

First Journal Entry

What you see is a moment of self-reflection.

It’s basic, but it really made me think about what opportunities exist when setbacks occur. I was just a kid, but when I took a minute to pause it brought a lot of light to where I could step my game up, and what really stood out to me the most was trying to reconnect with my dad.

Unfortunately, my relationship with my dad never did become what I had hoped it would be, but things like documenting my progress, setting new goals, and giving something all of my effort were real catalysts to both change, and for staying mentally well.
This all came as a result of journaling.

I often hear people say “I don’t know how to journal properly” and so they never take the time to pause and reflect on where they are in life or what they want.

If you struggle to write, here are 3 quick tips on how to journal effectively:

Number One: Ask yourself, “How can I use this?”

Just as you see above, start by writing that question in the middle of the paper in relation to a challenge you are facing right now.

  • It could be a family issue you are facing

  • It could be a workplace challenge

  • Maybe you are struggling to communicate your needs with someone

  • Maybe your health or finances just took a turn for the worse

Whatever your situation is, start asking yourself “Where does the opportunity lie? What can I do to improve myself or the situation?”

“The key to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

– Socrates

This simple exercise can bring new light to your struggle and help you begin to see a new way of looking at your challenge. Brainstorm 10 ideas on how you can use your current situation and then step back and reflect.

Number Two: Do A Brain Dump

This is particularly useful when you are experiencing difficult times. If you are in a negative, pessimistic frame of mind it can be hard to turn things around and spiral up, not down. The trick is to catch yourself as early as possible so that you can begin to reverse the process.

By doing a brain dump on paper, I find that it helps bring light to your inner thoughts. You get to see on paper what you have been saying to yourself day in and day out.

How do you do a brain dump?
Write.

Every.

Thing.

That.
You.

Think.

Of.

Down.

On.

Paper.

Everything.

If you feel like you’re an idiot and you’re stupid, write that down.

If you think you’re a genius and everybody should bow down to you, write that down.

If you think everybody thinks you’re a genius and already bows down to you, but inside you feel like you are an idiot and are stupid, write that down.

The whole point is to get the thoughts out of your head and onto paper so you can see them for what they are. Then, once you see them for what they are you can begin to reframe them.

Write down affirmations.
“Yes, I am capable and can do it!”

“I may not know the answers, yes, but I will figure them out!”

“Give me one more shot, I am not done yet!”

Write down what is applicable to you, then pause and reflect.

Start to set some goals and use your journal as a tool in addition to self-reflection.

Do a brain dump and start the process of getting the negativity out of your mind and onto paper where you start to take control back.

Number Three: Focus On Gratitude

I highly recommend you pick up the 5 Minute Journal if you haven’t already heard about it. The 5 Minute Journal is all about focusing on gratitude every day by asking you the same five questions.

Each morning you answer:

  1. Write down three things you are grateful for.

  2. Write down three things that would make today great.

  3. Write down your daily affirmation statement.

Each evening you answer:

4. Write down three great things that happened today.

5. What one thing could have made today better.

Once again, the power comes in self-reflection. By writing things down not only are you starting your day off and ending on positive thoughts, but you are pointing out one simple thing that you can do tomorrow that could make your day better.

Even if you don’t purchase the journal and follow a process, simply reflect on your day. Ask yourself “What were three to five moments of the day that were truly special, that more than likely didn’t cost me a thing?”.

For me it’s things like hearing from a dear friend, accomplishing a task that I had been dreading, seeing sunshine outside (yes!), and instead of procrastinating, making it to the gym for a solid workout.

It can be that simple, and it starts by writing things down.

When I speak on The Hero Mindset, people always want to know the tools and secrets that I used to get myself from paralyzed to walking, through depression to the podium, and building a life after sport with the Sledge Hockey Experience

The same strategies I used to get me to all those places can be the same strategies to help you drive results and embrace change in your life.
It can be as simple as pulling out a few sheets of paper and asking yourself “How can I use this?”.

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Enjoyed this article? Here are 3 more to help you succeed:

What To Do When Nothing Is Going Right

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Kevin Rempel

I help people adopt the mindset about life and people with disabilities that drive results and embrace change.