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10 Important Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Reading My Past Journals

10 Important Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Reading My Past Journals

I was sixteen or seventeen years old, drinking coffee in my habitual diner. I scrawled into my journal, as the waitress came by to refill my cup of diner-strength (read weak) coffee. She asked if I was keeping a diary. When I told her yes, she smiled and said, “That’s so important. Keep it up.” I started being more diligent about it after that, and I’m so glad I did.

Getting things out onto paper helped me stop obsessing over them, or just helped me vent in a safe way.

Looking back, I’m grateful for the breadcrumbs to my psyche I laid out for myself. Sifting through my past, I’ve found enduring truths about who I am and how I can improve my interaction with life now.

Here are 10 important life lessons I’ve learned from reading my past journals.

1. Things always seem way worse in the moment

As I go back over the situations I struggled through, I remember feeling really crumby, desolate even, over things that don’t seem like a big deal now. As time has marched on and I’ve come further along my way, things that used to seem huge fade into the inconsequential past.

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All that emotional pain and agony has become something I can barely recall; sometimes it even makes me smile to think of how worked up I was over silly things.

2. Not all relationships are meant to last forever

The people who have come into my life formed who I am in various ways. Wrapped up in my current day-to-day, I sort of forget that there are people out there, whom I don’t talk to anymore, who really know me. I feel autonomous and self-contained a lot of the time, but I’m not. I have affected people and people have affected me deeply.

In some ways it’s saddening to realize that you’ve connected with others on such a level, and you may never see them again. But the truth is, it’s okay. Some relationships serve a purpose during a season and then when that season passes, it’s normal and healthy to move on. They are what they are and when they’re not anymore, it’s really okay. You don’t have to stay connected to everyone.

3. It’s easy to demonize people when you’re hurt

Reading over past scenarios, I can see through my own hurt feelings and spot potential misunderstandings. In the moment I was blinded by what I wanted, what I was afraid of, or I simply had a myopic perspective based on my own mental maturity at the time.

Looking back, I can completely understand other’s motivations for things which seemed nothing but hurtful at the time. It makes sense. They weren’t trying to hurt me, they weren’t just huge jerks for the sake of it. There were circumstances I couldn’t grapple with; that’s all.

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4. It’s easy to idealize people when you’re infatuated

Conversely, there were people in my life whom I had on a pedestal and repeatedly tried to make relationships work with, when it really made no sense. Caught up in infatuation, or wanting to fit in with a particular group, I would excuse and dismiss obvious signs that showed incompatibility or pure disinterest.

I would try to force friendships or romances where there simply wasn’t a natural draw. From there I would beat myself up over never feeling accepted by these people, when I should have just accepted that they weren’t all I imagined them to be or at least not in how they related to me.

5. It’s important to write the good things down

As cathartic as journaling can be, one of the best experiences I have reading over old entries is when I come across something funny or just a nice day or happy time in my life. Sometimes I have completely forgotten about some really beautiful holiday I had with family, or a hilarious phrase one of my nephews said, and I get to recall it through my diary.

I wish I had written the good stuff down more than the bad stuff I was dealing with. I’m doing this more now.

6. Your biggest looming challenges will be accomplishments one day

It’s so encouraging to read about things I was so nervous about that I couldn’t sleep, which are now in the books. Things like going to college, getting to travel or moving to a completely foreign city were all intimidating things I wanted to accomplish so badly; now I’ve done them.

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I still have a ton more learning to do, literally thousands more destinations to visit and don’t see myself settling for just the one foreign city, but my new goals seem so much more achievable when I reflect on the fact that I’ve already conquered so many.

7. Mental maturity develops gradually

As insightful as I thought I was at the time, every single time I go over my old journal entries, the me who wrote my thoughts and opinions about things, seems like a younger and younger child. There’s nothing wrong with the way I was thinking back then, it was just where I was or as far as my mind had expanded at that stage in my life.

This is encouraging because any time I feel overwhelmed, I remember that there was a time when I would’t have been able to deal with things that are old hat to me now.

8. The path to your true passion can be full of detours (and that’s okay!)

There was a time when I wanted to be an actress, then a singer, I think a doctor was in there somewhere too. One consistency was my desire to explore. I was always curious and wanted to to see and experience more; to never feel like I had limited myself. In the long run, I’ve found that what I really am is a writer, but it wasn’t always clear from the beginning (even though my incessant journaling and writing stories might have tipped me off).

I studied film in college and then toured for a while playing in a band with my best friends. Through all of these ventures I was finding what fit. Everything I engaged along my path lead me closer to where I am now, to knowing more exactly what it is I’m shooting for.

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9. Finding patterns in your behavior over the years can help you check your behavior now

Like any habit, it can be difficult to recognize in the heat of the moment. The principle of writing things down and analyzing them to find patterns is recommended for people who are trying to pay attention to what they eat. It’s easy to convince yourself that you eat “pretty healthy” but when you actually write everything down and then review it, you might be surprised with the amount of not-so-healthy things slipping into your menu.

The same thing applies to other behaviors, like relational interactions. Everything seems justified in the moment, and in retrospect you can always fudge details in your favor. But when I’ve written it down and then read over it again later, I can see recurring ways I didn’t deal with things as well as I could have, or said things I didn’t need to say. It’s eye opening, and helps me check myself when I’m in a current conundrum.

10. You have to do it yourself

I’ve found that a lot of the time I was waiting for something: waiting to be picked, discovered, revealed. Not necessarily by any person in particular, but almost by life itself. I waited for things to unfold instead of diving in and figuring it out myself.

No one is going to tell you what it is you really want in life and exactly how to get there. How could they? It’s hard enough for a lot of us to nail it down with certainty for ourselves. Stop waiting. If something interests you, dig in and find out all you can. Through this refining and exploring, you’ll become more focused and life will open up in a way you couldn’t have experienced otherwise.

Featured photo credit: Close-up of a young girl writing into her diary, in the park via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on October 20, 2020

10 Principles for Success to Start Living Your Dream Life

10 Principles for Success to Start Living Your Dream Life

Are you stressed out and overwhelmed, wishing you had more time to do the things that really matter? Are you ready to do something better, something special in your life or your career? If you’re ready to take responsibility for your life, then you need to tap into some principles for success.

Many people—maybe you—stopped following their passion and purpose way too early in life because their talents were ignored, minimized, or shamed. They didn’t have the chops to win an American Idol competition or nab an Olympic gold medal, so they stopped expressing their inborn gifts altogether.

You don’t need to be an award winner to rock your life. Living your dream life is about discovering your superpowers and feeling vibrant and joyful when you use them. It’s about owning what makes you unique and finding like-minded people to support you.

Here are 10 success principles to help you reach your goals and live a rich life on your terms.

1. Get a Hobby to Move Closer to Your Dreams

If you never became a professional dancer or a world-renowned author, it does NOT mean you should stop dancing or writing! These activities make you come alive, even if you “only” do them as favorite pastimes.

Engaging in a hobby is one of the most important success principles you can follow to move closer to your dreams.

When you try something creative for the first time or in a long while, you begin to see opportunities at work and in life that you were unaware of before. You also feel happier and more energized, according to a recent study from New Zealand[1].

Some of my most burned-out executive clients reinvigorated their careers by discovering a creative outlet that refueled them after the workday ended. Research at San Francisco State University shows that having a hobby lowers stress and helps you succeed at work[2].

Give yourself permission to try new things and revisit old passions you gave up long ago. Setting aside just one hour a week for personal exploration can significantly change your life and help you focus on goal setting.

2. Focus on Your Strengths

Did you know that you are more likely to succeed when you develop your natural strengths rather than work on your weaknesses? The problem is that you probably don’t know where your true talents lie.

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Once you understand what makes you tick, you can use these skills at work and your personal life to get more done in less time. If you boost your unique abilities through practice and study, you can accelerate your career and become a leader in a field that matters to you. It’s worth investing in yourself this way.

3. Jumping off a Cliff is NOT Required

Here’s the deal: most people are too afraid to change. When participants first come to my workshops, they tell me they have mouths to feed, bills to pay, and fear that if they follow their dreams, someone will get hurt.

The old saying “leap and the net shall appear” does not comfort them. Because they are hesitant to plunge into the unknown, they believe their only option is to stay put where they are in life. Can you relate?

You do not have to sacrifice the life you have now to start a new one. I was a psychology professor by day and singer by night for years before I transitioned into a full-time music career.

To use this principle for success, take a little time out each week to do what enlivens you through a hobby, volunteer work, etc. Get a feel for it. Is it what you really want? If it’s what you really want to be doing, increase the time you spend doing it and make the transition when the time feels right.

4. Give Your Inner Critic Some Love

The main culprit that keeps you from stepping outside your comfort zone and getting the life of your dreams is KCRP or K-CRAP, the radio station that plays 24/7 in your head. The moment you try to do something interesting with your life, it slaps you down with such chart-topping killer hooks as “Who do you think you are?” and “You’ll never be good enough!”.

Have you ever noticed that KCRP’s mean-spirited DJ sounds like your parents, teachers, bosses, and other authority figures who shut you down creatively? These folks don’t need to stifle you any longer (although they often still do) because your inner critic does it for them. That keeps you stuck in a rut[3].

Silencing your inner critic is one of the best principles for success.

    To break free, try thinking of this DJ as a gruff old grandfather who gives you crap to keep you safe. Remember, this grumpy grandpa is woefully out of touch with the times. Give him a pat on the back for his good intentions, and put your focus back on what makes you come alive.

    This is one of the principles for success that will give you the courage to venture into the unknown where you can dance to the beat of your own drummer.

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    5. Embrace Your Inner Self

    Many of us don’t go after our dreams because we’re afraid people will find out how odd or strange we are. However, our little eccentricities often turn out to be our greatest strengths.

    Odds are that you lost track of your true passions and talents before you were even old enough to know you were getting off-track. You became slowly “adulterated” by learning to:

    • Take on family roles that don’t match who you really are.
    • Spit back what teachers taught you in school rather than risk getting bad grades for being original.
    • Hide parts of yourself that don’t seem acceptable to certain social groups.

    The price for fitting in is that you may wind up leading a life that doesn’t fit you all that well. Your true calling becomes clear when you embrace what makes you different from others and allow yourself to stand out from the crowd, even if it feels awkward. Often, the very qualities you view as your flaws are your greatest gifts.

    Here’s How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment.

    6. See the Bigger Picture to Find Your True Calling

    I cannot stress the importance of this success principle enough. Your true calling is right in front of you, but you may miss it because you’re looking for it in the wrong place.

    To “see” it clearly, try widening your point of view.

    Case in point: Maria felt she needed to retire early from being a police detective, so she could travel abroad. I encouraged Maria to think of ways that she could continue to serve as a law enforcer (a career she loved) and travel overseas at the same time.

    A few months later, Maria landed a job with the United Nations in Bosnia training the local police force to understand and embrace human rights procedures.

    Like Maria, you are an everyday rock star capable of accomplishing greater things than you can imagine. Is what you’re looking for right in front of you, too? Do you have an inkling of what it may be?

    Look beyond your day-to-day activities, your current job, and even the town you live in. View your life from an eagle’s perspective and be open to new possibilities.

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    7. Try a Little Wish-List Magic

    Pretend I’m your fairy godmother, and I give you permission right now to be your most magnificent self. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy. Write it down on a wish list.

    What would you like your career, your relationships, your health, your finances, and your spiritual life to be like? Jot down enough details so that your wishes seem tangible to you. Then, look at this list every morning before you start your day and every night before you go to sleep.

    8. Take Breaks to Get Clues About Your Ideal Future

    Did you know that working straight through to a deadline leads to diminishing returns? Research shows that taking a break for 15 minutes every 75 to 90 minutes can help you recharge, refresh your focus, and get more done in less time[4].

    Furthermore, a Stanford study shows that walking increases your creative output by 60 percent. Doing repetitive activities such as walking, running, riding your bike, swimming, and sweeping allow solutions to problems to pop into your mind out of nowhere[5].

    What does this success principle have to do with creating your dream life?

    These mini-breaks allow you to get vital clues for what to do next to attain your ideal future. Plus, you won’t waste precious time and energy getting lost in other people’s agendas.

    9. Take Action on Your Inspired Ideas

    Once an inspired thought pops into your mind, take action.

    This is one of the most powerful principles for success for turning your dreams into reality; the sooner the better. Whatever it is—from calling an old friend to taking a new route home—be sure to do it!

    Pay attention to your oddball hunches. You need to go after what you want, not just dream about it. As comedian Jim Carrey warns,

    “You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”

    To learn more about how to get off autopilot and take specific actions towards your goals, check out this video:

    10. Count Your Rockstar Moments

    Still not sure you have what it takes to get your dream life? This final success principle is guaranteed to help.

    Make a list of everything you’ve ever accomplished. As you read back through it, put a star next to each item, and let it sink in.

    You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good you’ll feel about yourself afterward. You’ll also see how effective you’ve been in the past at getting what you want. You’ve succeeded before, and you can succeed again.

    Final Thoughts

    Eleanor Roosevelt said,

    “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

    Following these principles for success will help you find the time and energy to achieve your goals and live with clear intention.

    Stand still, get quiet, and listen. Your life is constantly telling you what you need to do to realize your own rock star potential in life and business. It may be just a whisper now, but the more you pay attention to it, the louder it will get, and the easier it will be to follow.

    More About Success in Life

    Featured photo credit: Rahul Dey via unsplash.com

    Reference

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