Why I Keep a Journal
Some people have questioned why I do this. Why bother? What good reasons do I have to keep a journal? That’s what I would like to talk about today.
Let me introduce my topic by sharing this little story with you:
There were two elderly couples who were enjoying a friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, “Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?” “Outstanding,” Fred replied. “They taught us all the latest psychological techniques…visualization, word association…it made a huge difference for me.” “That’s great!” his friend said. “What was the name of the clinic?” Fred went blank. He thought and thought, but couldn’t remember. Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, “What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?” “You mean a rose?” His pal answered. “Yes,” Fred exclaimed. “That’s it!” Then he turned to his wife and said, “Rose, what was the name of that clinic?”
Let’s face it. None of us has a perfect memory. Let me ask you this, can you remember what you did yesterday? Probably most of you can. What about a week ago? How many of you can remember what you did a month ago from today? How about a year ago today? How quickly we forget.
A life worth living is a life worth recording
Go to any cemetery and you will find headstone after headstone of people who have nothing left of their lives except a name on a headstone. That’s it! Many of these people lived an entire lifetime full of trials and struggles, triumphs and failures and all that is left is their name – because nothing was recorded.
What would you think if I told you I have in my hands you mother’s personal journal and that I’m going to read to you what she wrote on the day you were born? Would you like to hear what she wrote? Of course you would. So would I. But I can’t do that because I don’t really have her journal. I don’t know if your mother kept a journal. Did she? If she had, would you be interested in reading it? I think you would.
I would like to share with you the 8 reasons I have discovered for keeping a journal. Here they are:
8 Reasons to Keep a Journal
1. Its Therapeutic
There is a psychological benefit that comes when you are able to express the thoughts and concerns and deepest feelings of your heart. It can provide a way for you to vent your pent up emotions. Plus it’s cheaper than counseling!
2. For Yourself
I have an 83 year-old neighbor who has no children. He’s a good friend of mine. One day I spoke with him about keeping a journal and his reply was, “Why would I want to do that. I have no children. Who would read it? I tried to explain to him that journals aren’t just for your posterity. There is an enormous benefit from going back and reading your own thoughts and feelings that you recorded long ago. It helps you understand who you are and how far you have come in your life.
When I was in the 7th grade I lived in a small town in the desert in Arizona. For a number months I kept a diary in a very small spiral notebook. For some strange reason I made a time capsule using a mayonnaise jar and placed my diary in it and buried it in the desert. It didn’t mean much to me then. Now, thirty-five years later, I’ve made the 14-hour drive back to that place and with a pick-axe and shovel dug and dug in the blazing sun trying to find my time capsule that contained my journal. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it. What I would give to have that small diary again and explore the thoughts and feelings of my 12-year-old self.
What seems trivial and mundane to us now, we will treasure up in the distant future.
3. For Future Generations
My great grandfather was Peter Howard McBride. When he was 6 years old his family crossed the plains of America with nothing but a handcart to hold all their belongings. It was a terribly difficult trip with many trials along the way. In fact his father froze to death during a terrible snow storm in Wyoming. It is an amazing story. Why do I know this story? Because Peter’s older brother Heber kept a journal. I’m sure when Heber McBride wrote in his journal he had no idea it would be quoted hundreds of time worldwide. Just do an internet search on his name and see what I mean. So yes, write for future generations.
4. Because You Forget
Like my little story I told at the beginning, our memories are temperamental and fragile things. I am amazed when I look back in my own journals and find events in my life that I have no recollection of whatsoever. It’s totally gone except for the fact that I wrote it in my journal. Don’t count on remembering all of the important events in your life. Like the snow melting in spring, your memories tend to melt away too.
5. For Legal Protection
If I’m ever accused of a crime I have a pretty good record of where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. Plus, if I ever need to know when I bought that car or when that accident happened or what day my father died – it’s all recorded in my journal.
6. To Remind You of Lessons Learned
They say that those who don’t study history are bound to repeat it. I think that holds true with your own personal history. As you go throughout your life you are continually learning lessons from yours and other’s mistakes. It can help to re-read those events and remember the lessons learned to avoid repeating them.
7. To Remind You of Your Blessings
It’s good to look back and see how far you have come. Recently I was reading what I wrote in my journal twenty years ago. At that time my wife and I were in the middle of buying and moving into our current home. We basically had nothing back then. We could only afford a few pieces of used furniture and were scraping by to make it financially each month. Those were hard times but happy times. I’m grateful to have gone through them. It helped my wife and I grow closer together as we struggled through those lean years. It helps me appreciate what I have today.
8. For Just Plain Fun
My wife Lisa is also an avid journal keeper. Many times we have pulled out our journals and have read them together to see what we each wrote on a given day in the past. We sit on the bed laughing so hard at the crazy things we’ve been through. Sometimes we’ll find an argument we had in the past and read what each of us wrote about it and laugh some more. Seeming tragedies and rough times of the past become delightful and fond memories in the future.
9 Suggestions of What to Write in Your Journal
1. Your day to day activities
2. Your feelings and thoughts
3. Your spiritual experiences
4. The important events in your life
5. Your successes and failures
6. Your children
7. Record humorous experiences
8. Write about the world
9. The truth
I would like to conclude by sharing the words of a master journaler, Spencer W. Kimball. Even though he was busier than most of us, he managed to fill 78 large volumes of personal journals during his life.
Your journal is your autobiography, so it should be kept carefully. You are unique, and there may be incidents in your experience that are more noble and praiseworthy in their way than those recorded in any other life. There may be a flash of illumination here and a story of faithfulness there; you should truthfully record your real self and not what other people may see in you.
Your story should be written now while it is fresh and while the true details are available. A journal is the literature of superiority. Each individual can become superior in his own humble life.
What could you do better for your children and your children’s children than to record the story of your life, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved?
Some of what you write may be humdrum dates and places, but there will also be rich passages that will be quoted by your posterity.
Get a notebook, my young friends, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity.
About the Author: Garold N. Larson
Garold N. Larson writes on self-mastery and personal development topics. You can find more information at Keys to Personal Development.