4 Journaling Exercises for Self-Actualization

Monday, March 4, 2019

I LOVE JOURNALING. I love cheesy exercises for self-growth. I think it's so fucking attractive when people can articulate their goals and how they'll achieve them. I love people who are constantly cultivating greater self-awareness. Below, several exercises inspired by Designing Your Life to help you reach self-actualization. In 2019, we're not letting our high-school breakups affect our adult romances! We're going to transcend ancestral suffering! We are going to care deeply about the world and still protect ourselves from it! We are vast! We are complex! We love and are loved!

Exercise A: Intentional Journaling

I vary between doing these weekly and daily, depending on my bandwidth.
But I like to 1) catalog my inputs (which is what inspired the odd-numbered Catalogues on OCL!) and 2) do a quick inventory of how the day/week has gone. The purpose is twofold: logging what I'm reading/watching/doing keeps me accountable to staying well-informed and is always nice to look back on as a bit of memory-keeping. But it also helps me get a better sense of how my "stimuli" (difficult news, challenging work situations, new environments) affect my mood and sense of self and how I can re-calibrate accordingly.



What I'm Reading (Books, Articles):
What I'm Listening To (Playlists, Podcasts, etc.):
What I'm Watching (Movies, Shows, etc.)

AFFIRMATIONS: What I believe is or will become true

List three affirmations.

GRATITUDE: What I am thankful for

List three sources of gratitude.

HIGHLIGHTS: What I'm proud of/things that have gone well

List three highlights.

IMPROVEMENTS: What I will change/do better on

List three actionable improvements and their expected timelines.

Exercise B: Odyssey Planning
From Bill Burnett and Dave Evans' "Designing Your Life"
Create three alternative versions of the next five years of your life. Each one must include:
(1) A visual/graphical timeline. Include personal and noncareer events as well - do you want to be married, train to win the CrossFit Games, etc.? 
(2) A title for each option in the form of a six-word headline describing the essence of this alternative.
(3) Questions that this alternative is asking – preferably two or three. What kinds of things will you want to test and explore in each alternative version of your life?
(4) A dashboard where you can gauge:
A. Resources (do you have the objective resources – time, money, skill, contacts – you need to pull off your plan?)
B. Likability (are you hot or cold or lukewarm about your plan?)
C. Confidence (are you feeling full of confidence, or pretty uncertain about pulling this off?)
D. Coherence (does this plan make sense within itself? And is it consistent with you, your Work View, and your Life View?)

Keep in mind things other than career and money. Even though those things are important, if not central, to the decisive direction of your next few years, there are other critical elements that you want to pay attention to.

Odyssey Plans can help define important things still to do in our lives, and help us remember dreams we may have forgotten. Try making at least one of these plans a little bit wild. Even if it’s something you would never do in your right mind, write down your most far-fetched and crazy idea. Maybe it’s becoming an astronaut. Or taking acting classes and trying to make it in Hollywood. You may want to do different alternative paths for different areas of your life: alternatives for career, for love, for health, or for play. Or you may want to combine these elements. The only wrong way to do this is to not do it at all.

View template here.

Exercise C: Mood Boards
I was really into this during high school, and I think it's a helpful exercise if you're a visual thinker.

A mood board/inspiration board is a physical or digital collage of pretty much anything - photography, illustrations, color palettes, textures, bits of prose (I like to use Tweets that really resonated with me!) - that aligns with the direction of your project/your aspirations.
Whether you do this on paper or on Pinterest, focus equally on how things look and what they represent to you.

To me, this feels like a visual complement to my New Years' Resolutions, which I think are more appropriately called "mission statements," or guiding principles for how I want to live my life. I like to pair these broad aspirations with specific action items. For example, one of my resolutions (a loose draft above) is to read/write more about transcendence and joy. My action item would be a list of relevant books/articles, and my mood board aesthetic would be images of radiance, light, etc. I take my NY Resolutions pretty fucking seriously (and usually fulfill them, or at least am active in their pursuit), so approaching it from multiple angles helps me engage with and reinforce them.

Exercise D: Articulating Your Work & Life Mission Statement
From Bill Burnett and Dave Evans' "Designing Your Life"
Our goal for your life is rather simple: coherency. A coherent life is one lived in such a way that you can clearly connect the dots between three things:
Who you are
What you believe
What you are doing
For example, if your Life View is that art is the only thing worth pursuing, and your Work View tells you that it’s critical to make enough money so your kids have everything they need, you are going to make a compromise in your Life View while your children are dependent and at home. But that will be okay, because it’s a conscious decision, which allows you to stay “on course” and coherent. Living coherently doesn’t mean everything is in perfect order all the time. It simply means you are living in alignment with your values and have not sacrificed your integrity along the way. When you have a good compass guiding you, you have the power to cut these kinds of deals with yourself. If you can see the connections between who you are, what you believe, and what you are doing, you will know when you are on course, when there is tension, when there might need to be some careful compromises, and when you are in need of a major course correction. 

To identify your Work View, answer the following:
Why work?
What’s work for?
What does work mean?
How does it relate to the individual, others, and society?
What defines good or worthwhile work?
What does money have to do with it?
What do experience, growth, and fulfillment have to do with it?

What we’re after is your philosophy of work – what it’s for, what it means. This will essentially be your work manifesto. Work is often the largest single component of most people’s waking lives, and over a lifetime it occupies more of our attention and energy than anything else we do. Accordingly, we’re suggesting you take the time to reflect and articulate what work and vocation means to you. 

To identify your Life View, answer the following:
Why are we here?
What is the meaning or purpose of life?
What is the relationship between the individuals and others?
Where do family, country, and the rest of the world fit in?
What is good, and what is evil?
Is there a higher power, God or something transcendent, and if so, what impact does this have on your life?
What is the role of joy, sorrow, justice, injustice, love, peace, and strife in life?

Read over your Work View and Life View, and try to answer the following questions:
Where do your views on work and life complement one another?
Where do they clash?
Does one drive the other? How?

More love,

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