You HAVE to journal. Yes you. It engages you in your life, making everything more exciting. And if life starts to get too exciting, you already have this calm and faithful habit to help you work things out. Journaling is a natural metabolizing process for our thoughts, and therefore your wildest dreams. In fact it´s kind of weird that we don´t have little journals tucked into our brain cells next to the mitochondria.
So, how does it work?
Great accomplishments start on paper. After all, you can´t build a cathedral without blue prints. Only by writing things down can you really start to build something. Imagine if you had no other place to put your money than your wallet. Cash would fly in and out at random making it impossible to manage or accumulate wealth. The same goes for your thoughts. You want to get them out of your head, where they fly about at random, and into a journal where you can see them. Once an idea starts to accumulate pages you can start to manage just about anything.
But why don´t I just stick to my To Do List?
Journaling goes deeper and digs out interior conflict. Fiction writers know this best: all external actions and events mimic the internal conflict of our main character, or in this case person writing the journal, or in this case YOU. If you are trying this for the first time I´ve come up with a rinse and repeat thought metabolizing process that can help you integrate your dreams into reality.
1. Reality Check: Start by just scribbling the reality of your situation. Being completely honest with yourself might produce a huge sigh of relief. Also, you might find that it’s easier to be transparent on paper before talking things out with other people. In this way journaling should be different from blogging. This is not for “them” it’s for you. Figure things out for yourself first.
2. Face your Fears: Within step one, stress, anxiety or fear may come up within what you consider to be the reality of the situation. Take a minute to separate that out. Non-journalers can find themselves in the rut of mixing steps 1 and 2 together, which wreaks havoc on your emotions and can lead you in the wrong direction. Have you ever pre-rejected somebody so they wouldn´t break up with you? Have you ever missed an opportunity because you didn´t want to deal with the uncertain outcome? Get out your journal. Do step 2. Make life braver.
3. Highest Hopes: Now that you have the reality and your anxiety around it pegged down on paper, you are free to be creative. This is the best step. On paper there are no limits. You can dream up any kind of life you want and the first steps necessary to get you there. Even if it doesn´t work, you´re making progress because you´re learning from your mistakes. Your dreams don´t remain in dream-world anymore. The three steps of addressing reality, fears and hopes brings everything down to earth.
This is a non-negotiable for successful expatriates. Why? Because often we´ve separated ourselves from the familiar support systems we’ve grown up with. Therefore when our long distance bills run high and wifi gets unpredictable, its important to have a carry-on companion that´s dependable. Journals follow you anywhere. In my experience it prevents burn out, keeps you from getting too lost, and helps you find your way back if even if you do.