One day last summer, I wrote my first journal entry. I picked out the highlights of that day and wrote down what I observed. Since I enjoyed doing it, I did it the next day as well. 9 months later, I have journaled every day and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Just to be clear, keeping a journal does not mean merely writing down everyday’s routine. It involves picking out experiences that are insightful – to identifying the day’s defining moments and glean their essence.
Moreover, a journal allows its writer to revisit these moments with a sense of detachment. As these moments unfold, their urgency often compels us to choose the first action that occurs to us. We react rather than respond. Journaling allows us to reexamine these moments and think of alternatives. Each time we do this, we rewire our brain a little.
For example, a manager could make an excellent presentation, that is well received. During and soon after the presentation, she could feel good and congratulate herself on pulling it off. On revisiting it later, she might see how much she had leaned on the the slides her team had built during the presentation. And when she does this, smugness would be replaced with gratitude.
In retrospect, I am surprised by how useful this habit has been. Journaling isn’t sold well enough to us. We were told that keeping a journal was useful, because successful people do it. Nobody told us why it was useful.
By keeping a record of my experiences I live my life twice over. The past returns to me. The future is always with me. – Eugène Delacroix
Further reading: Celebrated writers on the creative benefits of keeping a diary