We are what our thoughts and ultimately our actions make us. If you want to improve and become a better person, you need an unbiased and frank analysis of your behavior. You can do this very efficiently by maintaining a journal, which is a personal account of your day-to-day life.
Benjamin Franklin kept a regular account of his life in a journal. He wrote out and made a list of his good and bad habits and decided to iron one out every week. He tracked his progress everyday, through his notes. Such discipline and honest self-criticism made Benjamin Franklin the man he was.
So, if you also want to make a substantial improvement in your life and achieve some definite goals, keeping a journal is essential. Not only does it chart your personal growth, it also presents a graph of you evolving as a person. The act of writing in it daily, itself puts a responsibility on you, to live a life worth recording. That may not be the case of course, but at least I write it with that kind of a thought. Here are some tips.
Tips on Maintaining One
Use a diary or a simple hardbound notebook as your journal. All you need to ensure is that the paper quality is good and your writing will last long. There are no cardinal rules of writing here. Every person can write according to his own style and taste. However, I present here certain principles, that can guide you and make the process more insightful.
Be Candid and Unbiased
Firstly, being candid should not be a problem, as the journal is an entirely private affair. It is only meant to be read by you. So, being frank shouldn't be that difficult. If you are not frank with yourself, with whom will you ever be? Writing a journal is having a dialog with yourself and knowing yourself better.
Being unbiased in writing, from your own perspective, about your own life, is tough, I know. However, if your purpose behind writing this journal is self-improvement, let it be as unbiased as possible. When analyzing situations in your life, through your writing, think about things with an open mind. Question everything that you take for granted normally. This will make it easy for you to point out, what exactly went wrong and what went exactly right. That will let you avoid making the same mistakes again, carry on whatever was going right and well, make new mistakes for a change.
This way, like Benjamin Franklin, you can iron out every perceived flaw and become the person you have always wanted to be.
Being Regular is a Must
This writing endeavor is a way of tracking your progress day by day, celebrating every small victory and learning from every small defeat. That is the way you get better. However, it is not going to be of any use if you write in your journal, once in a blue moon. Writing only when you have the mood and conveniently forgetting otherwise, will not give you the results which you would get with regular writing. Make it a point to allot a fixed time everyday to write. Trust me, it's worth it.
Find a Peaceful Place to Write
Write in a place where you can have peace and quiet. A place which naturally puts you in a mood for introspection. Once you get used to writing in that place, you will see that once you sit there, you naturally fall into the introspective state.
Make a Note of Daily Developments and get a Planner
It is a nice idea to make a note of the highlights of the day and even your expenses in a small column, below your writing. You can have a clear idea of your everyday developments. Your journal could be supplemented with a planner, in which you could keep a record of your future commitments, engagements, and your plans for the near future. I know people who say that planning so much takes the fun out of things and they complain that it takes the unpredictability out of life. I would rather say, think about the many things it lets you do, which your normal haphazard lifestyle doesn't let you. You can work when you work, and enjoy when you enjoy, with proper planning. This is strictly my opinion and my philosophy. You may not agree with it, but I support it, because it has given me good results. That is, when on few occasions, I have managed to plan things and execute them with precision.
Read your Past Entries
Reading your past journal entries is a fun experience. You can compare between the person you were then and the person you are now. It puts life in perspective and helps you understand how you have grown as a person and how much growing up, you still have to do.
If you haven't maintained one ever, I would suggest you to try it out. First of all, it will point out how monotonous our thoughts are everyday and how we get locked in same thought cycles and traps so often. Then, you can find a way of getting out of the rut, if you think you are in one.
Many people think that only film stars and politicians should write a journal, publish autobiographies and it is not for the ordinary man. First of all, I would say, no one is ordinary. Every person is special in some way. Every person has a piece of wisdom that he has realized through his years of experience, taught by the mother of experiences, that is life. A prime example is Hugh Prather's 'Notes to myself-my struggle to become a person'. Please do read the book as it is a prime example of how much insight a so-called 'ordinary man', can have into life. Make your lives extraordinary.
Every man's story is worth recording and worth telling, trust me. Your journal will be your travelogue in this journey of life. It can be a record and a guide post for your future generations, who might benefit from your experience and know what their grandad/grandma was like. Do tell me if any of these tips were helpful.