People who want to change their life would do well to buy a journal and monitor their behavior. It’s a strange mystery that social scientists have documented well, but the simple act of logging your activities is profoundly transformational. As Robert Epstein writes, “If you monitor what you do, you’ll probably do better.”
Many people struggle to make and maintain changes. With the best of intentions, we get started down the right road only to veer off on a tangent or even a dead end. We may experience this as a loss of will power. We may also overlook what’s happening before its too late. A slip here, a slip there, and before you know it we’ve thrown up our hands in defeat. “It’s no use,” we say, “I just can’t do it.”
Coaches refuse to accept the finality of such self-defeating proclamations. We believe that real change is possible if only people learn what to do and how to do it. People also need support along the way. Writing daily in a journal to record your behavior, as well as your ideas and feelings, provides more support than most people realize.
A daily journal reduces the chance that we will start slipping on our intentions without noticing. Dieters play this game all the time, “Oh, just a little bit won’t hurt,” or “Oh, just this once.” By failing to monitor their behavior on a daily basis, they do not recognize the cumulative effect of their slip-ups. As a result, they end up failing to lose weight or to keep off the weight they’ve lost.
The practice of writing down our behavior in a daily journal forces us to get real with ourselves (or at least to have that opportunity). It reduces the games we play with ourselves, the mental sleight of hand that results in our thinking we’re doing one thing while we’re actually doing another. It makes us more mindful of the life we’re actually living.
This does not apply only to those seeking to lose weight. It applies to absolutely everyone who seeks to change absolutely anything about his or her life.
- Want to start volunteering your services on behalf of others? Record the hours you volunteer on a daily basis. The simple act of recording them will make them go up over time.
- Want to start looking for a new job? Record the number of calls you make, resumes you send, and interviews you have on a daily basis. You may be surprised to find out the truth.
- Want to start flossing your teeth? At the end of the day, record whether or not you flossed your teeth in your journal. As you begin to write, it may prompt you to get up and do it.
- Want to start stretching or exercising on a daily basis? Record the number of minutes you’re involved in these pleasurable activities on a daily basis. You’ll end up more flexible and fit before you know it.
- Want to spend less on mindless consumption? Keep an expense log in your wallet or purse then transfer your expenditures to your journal at the end of the day. Looking twice today may get you to think twice tomorrow.
- Want to start being more considerate of people? Write down the number of nice things you say or do each day. Chances are you’ll start extending yourself more for others.
Take note that we’re not urging you to write down what you want to do (although it’s fine to keep track of this as well). We’re urging you to write down what you actually do. Many people fail to keep a journal because they think they have nothing to say. That reflects a blatant disregard for the importance of your life. Write down what you’re doing, saying, spending, saving, giving, eating, drinking, moving, sleeping, and dreaming. That’s a good start. It may not be important to anyone else, but it’s important to you. Writing it down will assist you to change and grow into the person you want to be.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, urges us to live mindfully in the present moment. Writing daily in a journal assists us to do that. If we’re not paying attention to our day, we’re not live mindfully in the present moment (which is the only moment any of us really have). Jennifer White, a success coach, urges us to not keep our journal on a computer. On a computer “you will hit delete,” she writes, and “often what you’re deleting is the very thing you need to know.” Write it out. Make it plain. And watch out for the growth!
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
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