Self development without journaling is like trying to cut your own hair without a mirror. It is messy. It is incomplete. And it is unnecessarily painful.
But despite its value, daily journaling alone is very in-the-moment, one-day-at-a-time. It leads the way to great change in your life, but often it's hard to see those changes using daily journaling alone.
Here's a companion approach I have that works great for me.
Introducing the 100 / 100
Two years ago, I started the The 100 as a form of gratitude journaling. It was a means to notice and appreciate the "wins" and "victories" in my life. In times of depression, I wanted to see if having The 100 handy would give me a sense of appreciation and perspective on life. It did. But it became much more than that.
The approach was simple.. list the 100 experiences in my life that have I appreciate the most, and sort them with my favourites at the top. The process was great fun, and a different way to journal. For me, early journaling focused heavily on what I wanted to improve, so I was looking for the less-than optimal parts of my day. With the 100 / 100, I found myself looking at my life in a completely different light.
My journaling question was...
What are the 100 moments in my life have I enjoyed the most?
While doing this, I found so many moments to deeply appreciate in my life. I discovered so many things that I'd completely forgotten, which mean a lot to me, all the way back to my childhood. It was like finding secret treasures buried in your closet that you'd hidden there long ago.
But soon I realized that there were different kinds of appreciation. One kind of appreciation was for things that I just enjoyed. Pleasures, bliss, experiences of great joy. The "wins." Separately was appreciation for the things that I saw as losses or failures - but which transformed me in important ways. These weren't fun when they happened, but now they rate among my most cherished treasures.
They needed a list too. And a new question...
What are the 100 most significant life-changing lessons which have benefited me the most?
In just the past 2 years since starting this, I've seen my 100 / 100 change dramatically. I think that's very significant. it means that I've had more "highly significant" Top-100 events in my life in the past 2 years, than I have in the previous 44 years of my life. Stop and think about that. Self-development creates big change. The more challenges I take on, the more victories I see happen.
Expanding on the 100 / 100
You may find, as I did, that in this "ranked list," mixing all of the different areas of your life together is difficult. How can I compare, for example, a beautiful relationship with making my first million? I found it much more effective to create my 100 lists grouped by life area.
I picked 4...
- My Self - values, personal growth, sense of personal fulfillment
- Relationships & Romance- connections with others
- Mission & Career
- Health & Fitness
What I have learned so far
The brain is a bastard - it's very bad at seeing slow change, and very good at freaking out at fast change
Journaling helps, and the 100 / 100 particularly helps with the "seeing change" part. Every time something unique and special happens in your life, you get to put it on your 100 / 100 "trophy wall."
The list should be electronic, because it's edited and sorted often.
The sorting can change. as your values and priorities change, so can your perception and appreciation of past events.
In some areas, you'll be nowhere near 100 items. Totally fine but also telling - it may be worth pursuing some more experiences in that part of your life.
It feels like there should be a third 100 in each category- future goals. I haven't tried this yet.
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Does Time Heal All Wounds?
I used to think so, but... it seems time doesn't help as much as you'd expect with mental trauma.
Except when you die, of course, we assume.
I recently coached a man who was still missing his girlfriend from high school. They dated for only 2 months. He last saw her 34 years ago, and has not had contact with her since. 34 years... mind-blowing.
The mind reinforces what you choose to think about consciously, and it surfaces memories and imagery attached to what it wants & needs emotionally.
When you experience trauma, I see people heal much faster and more completely if they approach it the same as, say, a broken leg. Get it set right, attended too, care for it. Don't walk on it for awhile, then once it's sound, re-strengthen it and rebuild the muscles with exercise. Done right, it will be stronger than it was before it was broken.