“Journaling is like whispering to oneself and listening at the same time”
Journaling changed my life. But, being honest, the skill didn't come easy. I've taken a lot of courses and I’ve read a lot of books on how to journal. From Jim Rohn to people you've never even heard of before.
The reason I started was simple: coaches are expensive. I've paid thousands of dollars to get the right coach in front of me - and that was good… But journaling lets you coach yourself. And this is shockingly powerful, because, well, it's free. You can do it whenever you want, and wherever you want. You know yourself a lot better than any coach out there does, and actually, it's a lot of fun.
So I'm hoping to plant all of that knowledge I've consumed, as well as over 1,000 journal entries, and dump it into this blog post for you to consume, for free, in a few minutes. Right here you can learn how I changed my life through journaling, and how you can change your life through journaling starting from today.
Should I Write or Type my Stoicism Journal?
Let’s be honest, there’s something magical about writing on paper. I even know I could make a lot of money by promoting written journals, but that would be unethical. Why? Because I never write in a journal. I just use Evernote, which is an online note taking app. The best part is, it’s completely free. That’s what I advise you to do.
Exercise 1: Weeding
Now, the first exercise you can use in your Stoic journal is called weeding. It's actually taken straight from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), the most popular (and most effective) talking therapy. The reason I've included this is because CBT is actually based on Stoicism, with a lot of parallels.
Have you ever had that kind of problem that just doesn’t go away? Maybe it's procrastination, maybe it's loneliness, maybe it's anxiety, maybe there's all of these different problems that just don't go away and they plague your life again, and again, and again. What weeding will do is it's going to let you identify that problem. Dig deep into the root and then just simply flick it out. And we're not just talking about getting rid of the symptoms, we're talking about weeding, because getting rid of the symptoms is like finding a weed in your garden and just cutting off the top. The roots are still there, and it's going to come back. What this exercise does is it's going to dig deep and just remove those problems very quickly and very easily.
Step 1: Identify problem
The first step is you define the problem that you're having. You think about it objectively: how is it actually in reality? Then you think about it subjectively, how does it make you feel? And what is your perception about the problem that you're having? That is step one. Step one is crucial as it identifies the problem in your mind and emphasises how deep rooted that particular issue is.
Step 2: Define your Problem
Step two is to summarise your identified problem in a singular sentence.
Now on coaching calls that I've done, I've had people just describe to me their life - everything that's going on in their life. And then they say, "what do you think about this", and basically, they're confused. They don't actually know the problem that they're having. So they're just hoping by giving me context, I'll be able to solve that problem. But you can't solve the problem unless you can define it yourself. So that's what we're doing in the first few steps. And once you can define it in a simple sentence, you write that at the top of your page, you say, the problem I'm having is ___ and you summarise it very clearly.
Exercise 3: Solution to your Problem
The third step is you simply start writing about that problem, and you keep writing about it. And sometimes after three or four lines of me doing this, I have a solution to my problem. I'm able to answer it. Sometimes it takes more and I fill up the whole page. And then I come to an answer to the problem.
The reason this works is because we have these thought loops that are going on in our mind. And they go on again and again and again and again. And that's why these problems persist for years and years. But when we do this, what we're doing is we're breaking the thought pattern, and we're able to get down until we find a solution - our brain is too emotional to think this strategically. But when we write stuff down, we're able to capture each thought, and lay a logical next thought on top of each other until we come to be simple and easy solution to that problem.
This singular exercise will completely change your life. I used to do this exercise multiple times every single day. Now, I probably do it maybe twice or three times a week. But this exercise is the perfect addition to any Stoic journal.
How to make Stoicism Journaling a Habit
Before we get into some of the more Stoic-based journaling exercises, I want to very briefly explain to you how I created the journaling habit in my life every single day because I know it's a difficult habit.
To summarise it, it all comes down to Charles Duhigg's study of habits: cue, routine and reward. Now the cue is just something that reminds you to do the events, the routine is simply doing the event, and the reward is something that you benefit from after doing the event.
The cue is going to be different for each of these journaling exercises - and I'll remind you what I do for the cue for each of these journaling exercises, so that you can use that to implement the habit. The routine is the same for each of them, it's just doing the thing. And then the reward - this is up to you to decide. It can be as simple as taking a few moments to appreciate how nice it feels to improve your life. But I like to eat some sugar-free sweets after I journal.
And that's just going to help the habit stick, because you need those three things to create a habit, and that has been scientifically proven. So think about the cue, the routine and the reward for each of these different Stoic journaling exercises, if you want to create it as a habit.
Exercise 2: Stoic Reflection
The second exercise is called reflect, and it's very simple. You're just reflecting on the past. Maybe it's the past day, maybe it's the past week, and maybe it's the past month - the point is you're drawing insights )that are often forgotten) from the past.
The cue for me doing this is right after I brush my teeth, so me finishing brushing my teeth is the cue for me to do this journaling exercise.
The reason you're going to do this is threefold. First of all, it reminds you to congratulate yourself for the things that you've done well in that set time period. Second of all, it's going to pinpoint the things that you could do better. And third of all, you're able to see if you're on track for your goals.
I wish I could tell you a little bit more information about how to do this exercise, but you'll very find a groove that suits you if you just start.
Exercise 3: Stoic Planning
The third exercise I like to do is very simple again, and it's called planning. But remember, simple doesn't mean ineffective. Most often, the simple things are the most effective things.
You're just planning ahead for the future. Every single evening, I plan tomorrow, today. I plan the next day, the day before. And what that means is you're going to be so effective that next day, so efficient with your time. You wake up knowing exactly what you need to do, exactly the step by step thing that you need to do to get you close to where you want to be in your life. You don't have to think, you simply have to do, and that really makes a difference.
The power of a Digital Calendar
I also printed out 12 A4 pieces of paper, each one has a different month on it, and I stuck it up on my wall in front of me, meaning that I can see my whole year in front of me very quickly, objectively right in front of me. And this helps me plan for that whole year ahead. And the whole benefit of doing this is your effectiveness will increase tenfold if you plan the next day or plan the year before, before it actually happens.
Now the cue for me doing this is very simple. After I finish reflecting, I plan. This means in the reflecting stage, when I'm able to pinpoint the things that I could improve on, I then plan exactly how I'm going to implement them in my life, which means that the cue for the planning stage is simply just finishing the reflection stage. That is my cue. But you can also set a cue as just simply a reminder on your phone that you need to plan tomorrow today, every single day, and this is going to completely change how effective, how efficient and how much productive you are on a day to day basis.
Exercise 4: Stoic Note-Taking
The fourth exercise is, again, very simple - note taking. Use your journal to take notes of the things you're consuming, it improves retention, it allows you to use that information again and again and again. And it's just a great thing to do. I set a rule for myself that I'm not going to watch YouTube for entertainment. Instead, I'm going to use documentaries for that. And also, if I am watching a YouTube video that I'm going to learn from, I must take notes. There are a couple of rules that I introduced, which just stops me wasting time on YouTube. But note taking is great. And I'm sure you know this.
Exercise 5: Stoicism Questions
And the final exercise is the one that completely changed my life. It all boils down to a quote I heard from Tony Robbins that said, "The quality of your life is determined by the questions that you ask yourself." And when I first heard this, I thought, "Well, that's kind of cool, but it's not beneficial to me because I don't know the kinds of questions to ask myself." But that quote is so true. And the quality of your life is directly determined by the questions you ask yourself, which means that you can level up your life, completely transform it and pivot, as today is the day that transforms your future by asking yourself the right questions.
Now, by asking yourself the right questions, you are getting knowledge from inside your brain instead of outside your brain. Most of the time when we're stuck on a problem, we Google it, we YouTube it, we ask the people around us, getting external help for our internal situation. In reality, the huge pile of gold lies inside your own brain. And when you dive deep into that, that is when stuff starts to change.
To help you with this exercise I've compiled a huge list of 50 of these powerful questions taken from different courses, books, quotes that I've read, over 100 different books, and I've taken the best questions and put it into 50 that you can download as a PDF by clicking the link below. Now, if you want to level up your life, you're serious about improving your life, then be sure to go through the 50 questions.
These things completely changed my life, and I know they will for you, too.
The Link to 50 BEST STOICISM JOURNAL QUESTIONS: https://andrewkirby.net/journal-prompts/