The Life Changing Habit You Should Start Today: Journaling
Written By: Bryce Smith
After many years in high level sports, twelve years of coaching, three years of podcasting, and countless conversations with some of the world’s most incredible humans, I have discovered a common thread in just about all of them.
We are all a bundle of stories. Our worlds are heavily influenced by how we talk to ourselves, and the stories we tell ourselves based on life’s events. Keeping these stories bouncing around in our head isn’t a big deal in the beginning, but overtime, we accumulate more and more stories and without writing them down it becomes an unorganized library with books and pages everywhere.
You see, writing helps us better understand our thoughts, our feelings, the events in our lives, and as I say often, “Writing fills the gaps within our thinking.” It helps us to create meaning. Below is some structure to help with this life changing habit you should start today. The habit is called journaling. I used to get touchy feely about this word and it had a negative connotation for me. So I prefer to think of it as brain dumping and mindset organizing. Let’s unpack this a bit.
Five journaling prompts for any day
If you want to prime yourself for success each day, answer the following 5 questions:
1. What am I grateful for today?
What does this do? It immediately shifts your mind into a positive mindset. Negativity is typically louder and generates more attention than positivity. It can be heavy, overbearing, and block out the positive light from sneaking in. Asking this question each morning helps to leverage the small crack in the blinds into a reservoir of gratitude and magic. I suggest leaning in to show appreciation for waking up, what you have, where you are, the people you love, and the circumstances that you have. This will give you excitement for the day and enhance your mood. For an enhanced thought experiment, ask yourself: What little miracles could happen today?
2. What is the most important task today? Or, which task has been weighing heavy on me recently that when accomplished will be a large weight off of my shoulders?
What does this do? We all have so much going on all the time. In a world with so much stimulus, it’s easy to develop paralysis by analysis and end up in a state of freeze and procrastination. This question gives clarity on your priorities for the day and helps steer you down a path to start. I highly suggest choosing the most important task of the day that is going to move your needle forward closer to your goal. If nothing else were to get done today, this one task should be accomplished and enhance the quality of your life.
Another perspective on the days where it is harder to generate momentum could be: What is the easiest task or lowest hanging fruit on my to do list today? I sometimes like this approach because it builds momentum and usually bridges to other tasks that I can seamlessly cross off my list. This gives me a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of confidence to then attack the bigger tasks that have a larger barrier to entry or may be more difficult in nature.
3. How am I feeling right now?
This is a lost art. Starting from your toes and gradually working your way up your body, check in with yourself and how you are feeling. What are the major thoughts that are taking up a lot of space and time? What are some major wins for you lately? What foods, drinks, and habits are helping versus hurting you? How’s your thinking? Are you feeling clear and concise or foggy and chaotic? This is meant to be a personal exploration to gain insight into where you are in that moment and then can be a great comparison tool for you later.
Documenting it can help keep tabs on your health and wellbeing and enhance your ability to communicate with your doctor, body workers, coaches, and loved ones. Personal pattern recognition can be a wonderful tool for forward progress.This is a really great question to check in with yourself and bring attention to lingering problems, gradual improvements or enhancements based on recent behaviors, or emotions that need some extra attention
4. What’s working right now? What could be better?
I don’t recommend doing this question every single day as it takes some time to generate a pulse on decisions and habits to better see their progress or detriment to our well being and goals. There are obvious ones like food, sleep, relationships, alcohol, etc, but there are also micro moments that can take some time to reveal their impact on our lives. This habit is a great one to access weekly and make sure you are on the right path.
It is helpful to keep our daily habits in alignment with our goals, prevent distractions, and help to course correct when necessary. A great metaphor for this journal prompt is like swimming in open water, it’s necessary to pop your head up on occasion, find some sort of landmark or spot, and then ensure you are swimming in that direction. In swimming and in life, it’s easy to fall off the path if we don’t take a peak on occasion.
5. What noteworthy moment took place yesterday that is worth documenting?
It’s easy to get lost in the mundane of the day to day. We bounce from one thing to another, go to work, eat, solve problems, pay bills, use the restroom, and repeat. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the magic of each day if we don’t carve out the time to highlight it. This is my way of showing appreciation to my life. It feels like nothing happens, but then we look back and our lives change a lot. It is gradual and incremental progress. Just like journaling. It may feel like nothing is happening and that it is another task in your day, but the mental clarity and mindset shifts can do wonders for your performance and relationship with life.
This question also helps to enhance our memory and ability to share stories. I love using it to create pivotal landmarks that heavily impact my life. It is a great way to reflect on an interesting interaction, an observation, a funny moment, and a great conversation. Keep it simple most times and when you feel artsy, add some detail and some color to make the memory more vibrant. We don’t go to our graves with money or stuff, but rather the memories we made along the way.
- What am I grateful for today?
- What is the most important task today? Or maybe, which task has been weighing heavy on me recently that when accomplished will be a large weight off my shoulders?
- How am I feeling right now?
- What’s working right now? What could be better?
- What noteworthy moment took place yesterday that is worth documenting?
This practice doesn’t have to be complicated
I went into great detail of these 5 questions to help mold your mindset, give you prompts and ideas for your own practice, but the truth is, journaling doesn’t have to be a major task!
Oftentimes, I start a 5 minute timer on my phone and I brain dump in each one of these categories. Other days, I write a few words, draw pictures, or write a novel. As humans we are malleable creatures that are never truly the same in the day to day. These habits help us develop routine and self exploration so we can continue to refine our choices and live life on our terms. It is a nice recap to see what is serving us and what isn’t.
It is a nice way for us to better get to know ourselves and have a tool to better connect with and understand each other. Have some fun with this and please let me know how it goes. I had heavy resistance in beginning a writing and journaling practice, but after seeing this as a common thread in most of my high performing clients and podcast guests, I surrendered to the practice of journaling and have never looked back.
I’d love to hear from you so please send me an email to email@example.com, or find me on instagram @therealbrycesmith.