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I have often read in self help websites that successful people maintain journals.

  • What has maintaining journals to do with success?
  • What should be written in a journal daily?
  • How to maintain a daily journal?
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Detailed answers will be appreciated. Thanks. – TheIndependentAquarius Jun 7 '14 at 6:58
Voted as too broad. Where do you want to have success in, what are your (long term) goals? Only with those questions answered will you (and we) be able to answer what is important to write down. – Jan Doggen Jun 11 '14 at 14:09
@JanDoggen thanks for explaining the vote reason. most people don't bother to explain. – TheIndependentAquarius Jun 11 '14 at 14:30
up vote 12 down vote accepted

I am talking about a personal journal, not a blog. Something to be read by you only, not the whole world.

  • Journal makes you more introspective. You learn to make your mind still, and investigate what exactly is going on in your mind.

  • Journal is like a time-machine. It allows you to re-evaluate your mental response to anything you observed or happened to you. Because later, when you learn more about what happened, and realized that some of your reactions/misconceptions were wrong, you can re-read what was happening in your head as you observed, and what consequences you made (in your head) from it. Later, when you know better, you can read and "undo" the consequences, and try build better connections in your mind. Often, it is more important how we perceive facts than the facts themselves.

  • When writing, your mind is forced to slow down and process thoughts sequentially. Without this, mind is less organized, and jumps all over. Writing journal is kind of meditation.

  • Journal allows you to visualize different outcome, and be mentally prepared to handle similar situation differently next time.

  • There is a theory that to master anything, you need to spend mental energy to rebuild neural connections ("it takes 10 years to master X"). Writing makes your mind to focus on the subject, repetitively, to create new desired pathways in your thinking, prevents mind from jumping all over.

  • Your memory tries to lie to you all the time. It is always colored by current emotion. ( What is faster than thought? Emotion! ) By writing about your thoughts and emotions you fix them and can investigate them. It is very educational to re-read your own journal days/months/years later, when your emotions changed. Without that, it is hard to notice how you changed. Without change, you cannot grow.

And I am old school, I would do it by writing by hand on paper. You don't need digital copies. Of course it takes some time, but return on invested time is better than watching TV, IMHO. :-)

Since this is my most popular answer ever, it deserves bit of care and feeding: Why and how to write essay by Paul Graham, explaining the art of using writing to explore question to which you do not know the answer, and how this art was lost in our age of writing as part of argument to prove a point. Writing as exploring the possible problem area, trying different questions and looking where different answers will lead us.

I write down things that surprise me in notebooks. I never actually get around to reading them and using what I've written, but I do tend to reproduce the same thoughts later. So the main value of notebooks may be what writing things down leaves in your head.

Interesting book to read about such process is book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - Citadelle (titled in English: as The Wisdom of the Sands). Like his most famous book "Little Prince", it is about search of meaning of life. Unlike LP, it is for adult readers. In this unfinished posthumous book, you can see how writer tries different approaches to answer same question (what Paul Graham asks for), but because it is posthumous, Exupéry did not eliminated parallel approaches. Fascinating book to read about how mind of a writer (who writes about meaning of life) works.

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What has maintaining journals to do with success?

Personally, I believe, life is repetitive. Things that you are experiencing now may be the same things you will experience in the future. By maintaining a journal you document how you react to a particular situation. In the future, you can re-read how you reacted and take heed.

For example, you make a business decision now and it goes kaput. In the future you are faced with the same situation. You can go back, re-read and analyze.

This puts you in a better position to make decisions.

What should be written in a journal daily?

Anything that you feel is important. Maybe you met somebody new. Write down what you observed about them - their dress, their body language, their way of speaking, their emotions, etc.

Went to an interview? Write down what you prepared. What you expected adn what actually happened. Was it a "good" interview? Was it "bad"? What made it "bad"? How can you improve?

How to maintain a daily journal?

I would prefer a well-written blog as it might help others, too. If you are not comfy with sharing the details online then you can maintain a Word document for each day or something like that.

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