How Can I Journal My Way to Success?

Thursday, 01 December 2011 09:24

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Maurice Gibbons

Maurice Gibbons is the sole owner of this article and all rights to it and its use. Copyright 2011. Personal Power Press International. 

The Magical Working Journal.

The answer to the question in the title is a simple one, “You journal your way to success by copying the techniques used by thousands of successful people over the last few centuries in their journals.

I once emailed a woman online from a weather station in the Arctic about her journal, and she replied, “All scientists keep a journal,” and that makes a lot of sense. Scientists are in the business of solving problems or answering questions to increase our knowledge about the world and how it works. They might see something or get an idea anywhere and they need somewhere to write it down and keep their findings organized.

But scientists aren’t the only ones who journal. Many writers and artists do too. My guess is that most of them do. When I was an undergraduate, I was chosen to guide British author Kingsley Amis from speech to speech on our campus. At one point we stopped for a drink and he suddenly leaped up and raced out. In a flash he was back: “The keys. I need the car keys!” he exclaimed and then was gone again.

He came back holding a battered book to his chest—his journal. ‘Bits and pieces for my next novel,” he explained with great relief.

Learning and Action Are the Keys

The difference between a diary and a journal is that a diary is about what has happened to you and a journal is about ideas, plans and actions. The key is finding out and then putting it to work as purposeful action.

It can be simple or the most complex and significant action imaginable. It can be Angela Pringle’s journal about her husband’s departure for the battlefront in the Second World War and how she will handle the task of running the household, bringing up the children and contributing to the war effort on her own.

Or it can be the careful observations of Charles Darwin as he travels on HMS Beagle to the Galapagos Islands and sees species and makes observations that will gradually lead him to his revolutionary theory of evolution.

They would both be quick to tell you that the journal was critical to their success as a record of their observations and thoughts, of their hypotheses and proposals, and of their actions and their results. They would add that the journal became a kind of companion; ‘someone’ to talk to who understood the issues when no one else did.

Leonardo Teaches Us All

The greatest journal-keeper of all was Leonardo da Vinci, the great Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, inventor, and engineer to name a few of his achievements. Unfortunately, his journals were dismantled after his death and sold page by page, but fortunately they have been reassembled in print and show us a vast array of the journal methods that he used.

Leonardo was always learning, but informally. He studied anatomy, for example, by dissecting cadavers, likely illegally. He studied everything known about machinery, and read widely. All that he learned went directly into analyses and theories, studies that led to works of art and inventions. He wasted nothing. And that is the key to productive journaling: gather all you can from all of the forms of learning at your disposal and turn them into productive activities. Think something, design something, share something, make something.

What Magic?

Every stage of life raises issues that we have to deal with. The journal is a great place to address those issues. Problem solving is an important productive skill. I can hardly imagine addressing what’s ahead without my journal.

My friend, Ralph, is just beginning to face the facts of getting older. He is retired from an important and powerful job and now for the first time he is hanging around the kitchen with his wife, and both of them are wondering what to do with each other. It’s a common malaise.

We had a visit recently and he shared his anxiety with me by reading from his journal, which he admitted was very different from the journal he kept while he was working. What worried him was his loss of authority, position, and purpose. At work he was king and always knew what to do; in the kitchen he wasn’t even equipped to be helpful.

His journal made the difference. “You can’t keep boring friends with your dilemmas,” he said, “but your journal never gets bored; it’s like a friend, always ready to listen. Yes, and maybe like a shrink, too.” Ralph is far from out of the woods, but the chaos that followed retirement is settling down and he is finding new directions. He realizes that he has to attack the problems of aging with the same energy he attacked the problems at work.

When he read me his first steps at solving his problem, his emphasis was on volunteering. His first thoughts were to volunteer in his field—engineering—and this led him back to school to brush upon his skills first. Ralph and his journal are on their way. No matter what stages you are moving through, what crisis you are in, or what problems you have to solve, the journal can travel the path to success with you.

Final Arguments

We have more ideas in a single day than we can act on in a lifetime, but they are as fleeting as dreams and are soon gone. Unless you have a journal. A journal can be a great idea-catcher. And when you start, the journal will urge you to have ideas to write in it, in the same way that you are more likely to ride a motorcycle if you have one in the garage. It calls out.

The real magic of the journal is that it holds things together in one place, and then something strange begins to happen. Information leads to ideas, ideas to action, and action to accomplishment. And what we know from research now is that we learn from all of these stages, and learn well because the stages are integrated into a process, and the process is burned into memory.

If you want to learn and accomplish throughout your life, you will benefit greatly from keeping a journal. For centuries journaling—as the commonplace book—was a major means of education. Using a journal will be the perfect way to make the most of these articles. Find a book that suits you and start one now--launch the story of your new life.

Maurice Gibbons is the sole owner of this article and all rights to it and its use. Copyright 2011. Personal Power Press International.

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 December 2011 09:42