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Why Keep A Journal? To Know Your Story.

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

As seen in APeeling in September 2020 - Valentina Bellicova

Why indeed keep a journal? While the list of reasons may be endless, the main reason is that it is a proven personal development process that fine tunes your blueprint in such a way that it brings about improvements in every area of your life.

A journal can have a single focus such as developing and tracking the progress of a major (or minor) project, or, it can be as wide reaching as a life project. Personal development can be a potpourri of your daily life’s challenges and victories; it can also be single focused such as losing weight or training to run your first marathon which when achieved can move you on to journaling on another goal, scattered with mini-projects to reach the fenceposts along the way. Just like a journey to a far off destination you will find that along the way there is plenty to marvel at, to soak in and expand your thinking, your knowledge, your understanding of life, beauty and the essence of nature and who we are.

BUT, to achieve any of the above, a new blueprint needs to be created to replace the one you have now, the one that is run by the imprint that was formed by the time you were seven. Well, create may not be the right word. Create suggests that out of thin air a new blueprint can be drawn just like an architect does with each new project. You can’t just toss away the one you have and voila! Just like that have a new blueprint.

This is the part that is your life’s journey. First, you need to know that your blueprint is not all that bad,, it’s just that its our human nature to focus on things that are not good because that is the pain that keeps happiness at bay. There is definitely a lot of good and you want to not only preserve the good, but to improve on it, make it stronger.

One small change to your blueprint can have a massive spin off that can change your life. Before I had even started journaling, I had decided to make one small change in my life. To get fit again. I had always been physically active, but work, raising a family, yada yada yada (pick an excuse of your own) took its toll on me and I definitely needed to shed some LB’s.

Undoubtedly you have heard the saying “Life is a marathon not a sprint.” While that may be true, I can tell you that life is both. Using the same analogy of a marathon and sprint let me tell you a short story about how Nina - yes that Nina, the one who introduced me to journaling, the one who trained us, “the gruesome foursome” to run a marathon.

Nina was a firm believer in mixing things up, of cross training before I ever heard of the term. Bit by bit we noticed that we were spending more time outdoors. Sometimes it was just a short warm up at the gym then out we went. A short run to a nearby park, where we “played” on the monkey bars, tried chin-ups on the pull up bars, and holy guacamole! Learned to use the parallel bars. The nearby beach served well for squats and lats.

The town where exercised was on a peninsula with a steep drop to the beach. Sometimes we would run on a trail down the hill but more often it was down a series of steep steps. First a leisurely walk up, then faster, then run up. She even had us walk up the steep inclines and steps backward.

But there was always a run. Sometimes a short one, sometimes a long one. The short ones became increasingly faster, then sprints that left us gasping. The long runs became longer.

Of course we grumbled, but secretly we loved the slimming of our bodies, the strengthening of our legs and arms, the disappearance of our muffin tops, and I noticed that our postures improved, that we walked with a more confident and even an authoritative gait.

All that from that one small decision. One morning after the workout Nina pulled a fast one on us. As had become our routine we were enjoying coffee and munchies at the local café, when Nina pulled out some forms out of her bag, and spoke (paraphrased):

“Hey guys (everyone was “guys” in those days), I got some paperwork I’d like you to fill out. Next month is the first half-marathon of the year, it’s a great warm up for the many marathons that are held throughout the year. So these are the registration forms for that half-marathon …”

We were stunned. After an initial moment of silence a chorus went up …

“What? Are you nuts!” “Not on your life!” “Yeah. Right.”

Our protests were met with that firm look and resolve I had come to know that she was serious. She gave us one reply:

“You have already run the half-marathon several times. And we still have a month to practice more”

That sly fox!

Before we left the café Nina had four signed registration forms for the February Half Marathon. Bingo! Would have never done this if it wasn’t for that one small decision to get fit. To achieve life’s sprints and milestones, small incremental steps must be taken.

Think about a ship and the ship’s captain. When the ship sets sail it has a destination. To get to that destination the captain has to make small changes in the direction that his ship faces. Say the ship is sailing from New York and its destination is Tokyo. To reach that destination the captain will need to make small but constant steering changes, first southbound to the Caribbean, then westbound to Panama, then crossing the narrow Panama Canal, then north up the Pacific with incremental changes towards the west.

Sometimes those incremental changes are as small as just one degree to the left, or to the right.

What if that ship was called “My Life?” What if all it ever sailed was between New York and Miami. And what if you were the captain?

One day as you dock the ship in Miami, you look out onto the horizon. In the distance turquoise waters blend with the blue of sky. The scene that nature has laid out for you is seductive, it holds promises of something. What? You do not know.

In your heart you yearn for more than just New York to Miami. You yearn to explore. In the morning, you change your course.

Your journal is that ship. You are its captain. One difference: your ship is now called “My Journal” and it gives you safe haven to make small incremental changes to your blueprint. It is the place where you can, and should be, unabashedly honest. There is no shame or embarrassment when you pour out your heart and soul onto the pages of your journal. And, to truly improve that blueprint, that is what needs to happen.

You will never be able to move forward if you do not identify the things that are holding you back.

Have you ever laid in bed at night with your brain just running at full speed? You mull over thoughts and then out of the blue, Eureka! You have had an epiphany and it suddenly feel as if a massive weight has been lifted off your shoulders. You feel free! You feel as if you have cast off a yoke that has kept you down forever. Suddenly you feel excited, filled with exuberance and looking forward to the day.

Journaling is a way for you to reach those moments without losing sleep! You won’t have to worry about lying awake in bed until the wee hours of the morning, because you already worked it all out in your journal.

Simply by writing in your journal, new neural pathways have been created in your brain. Writing engages the analytical left side of our brain, leaving the creative right side to come up with solutions. In this way the brain becomes aware of what you want to achieve, where you want to go and will actively seek solutions.

In your daily journal write down the solutions that come to mind. In the light of day you can engage your logical powers to evaluate them. Choose one, apply, and see what happens. Is the new tactic taking you closer to what you want to achieve? If yes, continue; if no, re-evaluate, correct course and continue.

As you saw in the sample journal entry in the previous chapter Jane, the journal writer, refers to something that happened when she was a little girl. We are who we are today because of our early years’ environment, experiences, and our reactions, thoughts and feelings associated with those experiences.

The blueprint for who we are today was deeply ingrained in our psyche by the time we were seven years old. Our parents, teachers, friends, home life, where we lived, culture and belief systems that we were exposed to all helped design a blueprint for our life. Even our reactions to events in our lives continue to play a critical role in how we live our lives.

Two people may be in the same place at the same moment and have the same experience, but how they react to that experience will be different. Think of the classic example of twins born into poverty. Their parents worked hard at making a living but were only managing to bring in meager earnings. As children the twins often went to bed without food. They witnessed loud and sometimes violent fights

between their parents. Their father turned to crime and was eventually sent off to jail. This was life as they knew it.

Many years later, one of the twins found himself in a courtroom in front of a judge. Sadly, he mirrored the life of his father. Sitting in the courtroom was his twin brother. He on the other hand had taken a different road. He was now a prosperous and upstanding citizen admired by many. He married and provided well for his family.

A reporter covering the trial was curious. Two brothers, with exactly the same upbringing yet, one fell victim to his childhood, the other rose above it. What was the difference? He decided to pose a question to each of the twins: to what events in their life did each ascribe their current situation?

One twin replied:

I grew up in abject poverty. Food was scarce. Our parents fought a lot, mostly about money. My father eventually abandoned us. It was hard for our mother. What choice did I have but to follow the only life I knew how to live.

And the other one said:

I grew up in abject poverty. Food was scarce. Our parents fought a lot, mostly about money. My father eventually abandoned us. It was hard for our mother. What choice did I have but to look at my life and seeing that I was at the bottom of the pit, I realized that I had no place to go but up.

Journaling gives you the opportunity to fix some of the areas in your blueprint that may be holding you back. When you write in your journal, be brutally honest with yourself. In fact, you have to be in order to really understand what is going on. When you lay it all out on paper, it is somehow much more real. It is there for you to analyze and determine what part of the blueprint isn’t working for you. What link do you want to change? Once you identify the problem, it is easier to fix it.

When you take your car to the mechanic shop, don’t they ask you what the problem is? If you don’t know what it is, they hook it up to a device that checks under the hood to identify the problem. From there, they can fix it.

It’s the same with your brain. Once you identify the problem it is easier for you to fix it. Your brain has been imprinted with memories, feelings and emotions that need to be examined before they can be repaired.

Word of caution. Unlike a mechanical shop that can fix all the problems with your car with one appointment, journaling can’t do that. Work on just one or two things you want to change or improve on. Your life blueprint is deeply ingrained in your psyche, lives in your subconscious self and is the engine that drives your life.

What you will find is that as you begin to redesign your blueprint, even with just one or two items, the improvement will have a positive impact on all areas of your life. It may be small and subtle, or it may be a sudden gargantuan mental shift. Either way it’s all good. Keep on keeping.


Valentina inspire entrepreneurs who have a desire to write, to share their knowledge and experiences, to entertain, and educate. Discover her book

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