My Journal, My Friend, My Guide to More Joy

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Okay, this may sound a little weird, but my journal is kind of like a best friend. It helps me start my day on a happy note, encouraging me with uplifting messages to be the best me I can be. It hangs out with me during the day, keeping me on track of what I need to do. And it brings a smile to my heart as I wind down and reflect back on the beauty, joy and small wins that occurred throughout the day. It reminds me of what I am working towards and gently admonishes me when I get off track. I share my secrets and in exchange I am rewarded with insights. This is a post about my relationship with my JMB Living Journal and how we speak to each other, but it is my hope that you take away some ideas regardless of what planner or journal you use. 

 

VISION OF MY IDEAL LIFE

She greets me in the morning and we begin our connection on the “Vision of My Ideal Life” spread. I look at the words and pictures imagining myself to be all that is embodied in the view on those two pages. I take a few moments to close my eyes and imagine how I would look and FEEL in this vision of the future. I know that there is power in the emotions and feelings so I try to let myself linger here for just a bit. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself… It’s the last weekend of the month and this gives rise to a little extra time together. At the beginning of the month (season, or year) my journal and I spend this extra time “on retreat” with each other. Even though we typically haven’t ventured off to some exotic location (at least not now with Covid days), we create a “retreat-like” setting nonetheless. For me, this typically takes place in what was supposed to be the “exercise room” in our house. (We eventually ended up calling it the “yoga-room” after I banished the bulky oversized pull-up bar machine in exchange for plants, candles and a more spiritual, earthy feel.) 

I toss down a couple of pillows and a cozy sherpa blanket, light the candles, turn on the essential oil diffuser with a blend of essential oils known for accessing the intuition (typically some combination of frankincense, sandalwood, vetiver, myrrh, and/or lavender) and arrange the retreat supplies around my journal and I. For this deeper monthly conversation, I’ll usually include some colored pencils, gel pens, washi tape, a normal lead pencil, and an assortment of stickers. A coaster and cup of hot tea complete the setting.

 

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REFLECTIONS

After a few deep breaths with closed eyes and perhaps some pranayama and/or meditation, we are ready to begin. The starting point is a reflection back in time. As I flip back through the Reflections prompts on the weekly pages, my friend reminds me of what is working well and where improvement or a new plan is needed. Here is how I gathering further insights and make future plans from what I find by reviewing the reflections. 

A. I make two columns at the top of my monthly Reflections page and bullet point:

  • “What is working”

  • “What’s not”

    In the space beside, “What’s not” I jot down my thoughts on new approaches or ideas for how to do better for each bullet point in that column.

B. Then I flip back through the daily pages of the month looking for patterns and insights from all the things that brought delight to my eyes and joy to my heart. While it was no surprise to me this month that my frequent appearances for these daily prompts were candles, flowers and countless things outdoors, acknowledging this,

C. I make notes on how to bring more of these things into my life.

  • Get a little pot of flowers for the desk to join the candle that already sits there.

  • Make an intention get outside at least a little every day, even if it’s just a short walk.

By noting my intentions such as this, it will be there to refer back next month to gauge how well this intention is working. And if at that time I recognize that it’s not, I’ll make a new plan to help me do better.

D. Other insights may come up as I reflect back on the month and anything useful from this exercise is recorded on this page as well.

For instance, I noticed that one day during the month I noted that My Best Win for the day was that I had listened fully in a conversation despite the fact that I didn’t agree with the viewpoint being expressed during the conversation. My automatic response would usually be to immediately begin mentally compiling my counter-arguments soon to be listed as opposing evidence. 

E. Then my journal and I have a good heart to heart about what are my current biggest challenges in my life. I jot this down on the monthly Reflections page too and set up two columns underneath each challenge I’ve listed:

  1. In column one, I list my limiting beliefs about this challenge.

  2. In column two, I take the viewpoint of a trusted friend and write down beliefs that are contrary to those in the first column and feel empowering when I read them.

I have decided to bookmark this page so that in the coming month I’ll flip to this page daily and read each new empowering belief, perhaps even stating each one out loud.

Here is a picture of what this looked like for me this month.

 

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HOPES AND DREAMS

Next, we rekindle our hopes and dreams together, considering my progress thus far this year by comparing the “Seasonal Dream Paths” and the “Monthly Dream Steps”. Using the insights from these pages and the Monthly Reflections we just discussed, I craft my Dream Steps (goal action items) for the upcoming month. 

The JMB Living Journal lists six dream categories: spiritual, relationships, abundance, health, growth and fun. Most of these are self-explanatory, but some have told me they are a little perplexed by what to list for the abundance section. This section is often labeled as financial in many planners, but I like to think of abundance more broadly than what money can buy. 

Wealth can take many forms

and using a concept of ABUNDANCE reminds me of this.

As I look back at the “Monthly Dream Steps” I listed for this past month, I like to put a little checkmark beside those that I’ve accomplished or have done well at if they are ongoing. Then I take a good hard look at those without a checkmark and decide if they need to be put on the next “Monthly Dream Steps” page as is, if an adjustment is needed or if there is a better way to achieve this one. I ponder why the step I listed didn’t get accomplished in the first place and if there is something I can do differently to make it more easily attainable in the coming month. That might mean adding it to the Habit Tracker, perhaps coming up with a different way to accomplish it or sometimes it may even make sense to drop it entirely. 

MAKING AND BREAKING HABITS

Using all the insights from the steps thus far, I settle on two habits to work on for the coming month. I like to limit this endeavor to only two - one to make and one to break, as it I find I’m more successful if I focus on only a couple. However, if you really want to work on more than two, I would suggest simply make a little diagonal cross in the little box for tracking to double your tracking spaces. I enjoy color-coding my Habit Tracker daily as a part of my morning routine with my journal, as it is quickly visible how well you are doing as you go along. Coding it in the morning also helps serve as a good reminder before heading into your day. 

Below is a picture of my Habit Tracker for the month of January. Green coding is for days I did well and red for where I didn’t. I wanted to share this image with you, as you will quickly see that something changed after the 18th of the month. 

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Here’s what happened. Each weekend or Monday morning, after reading the “Mindful Moment Challenge” for the week, I flip back through the daily pages from the previous week and refer back to the Habit Tracker to look for things worth continuing or doing more often and for things that need to change. I jot these notes down in the weekly Reflections prompt and then refer back to this page from time to time throughout the week (first thing in the morning while planning my day). 

On the weekly page for January 18th, I realized and jotted down that if I don’t meditate first thing in the morning, it doesn’t happen, regardless of how good my intentions may be. I also realized that the to-do lists I had been making for myself on a daily basis were completely unreasonable and I was setting myself up for failure each day by being so unrealistic. As a result, I would keep pushing into the evening every day trying to accomplish more on my list. This would cause me to fail in my efforts at making breaking the habit of working late into the evening. Once I acknowledged these tendencies and asserted them further by jotting them down in the journal, I was able to modify my behavior, add a couple of new tips at the bottom of the Habit Tracker and it was smooth sailing the rest of the month. 

This emphasizes the importance and usefulness 

of reflecting on a current and regular basis. 

HAVING FUN

Other things my journal companion and I kick around as we look to the week ahead are ideas for having fun and what to say “NO” to. Before I started planning ahead for fun in my life, fun happened all too infrequently. I’ve recently realized that when I started thinking ahead and including fun in my plans for the week, more time for enjoyable activities can often be squeezed in around the work and obligations.

SAYING NO

Likewise, it really helps if you take a moment to stop and think about what you can do without and what won’t fall apart if you leave it undone. Or you could consider what obligations should really be someone else’s responsibility. You get the picture. Spending a little time actively brainstorming what you can let go of in this way, can be time well spent, as maybe this time-saving idea could last far into the future as well.

 

MONTHLY CALENDAR

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Before we move on to the Daily pages, let’s not forget about moving forward to next month’s calendar spread. I think this page is a great place to jazz up a little of the white space with a sticker quote or two. If I’m traveling anywhere, I like to use washi tape to highlight those days, adding a bit of color and making them stand out.

I also like to list an intention for the month. And if you are using the JMB Living Journal, reading the “Simple Seasonal Indulgences” on this page can get you to think about things you might enjoy doing this month that would help you tune into and enjoy the season. 

Also included in this journal is what I have labeled a “Soft Focus”. This basically is a suggested belief to try to cultivate more deeply into your belief system. The February Soft Focus is:

 “All the extra time in my day for things that I want to do just because.”
By softly looking for and expecting this belief to be true throughout the month, the idea is that you can begin to create a reality where this belief is in fact true for you. I spend a little time while I am filling out the weekly pages in my journal to contemplate this belief, looking for ways to support its truth.

How do you handle keeping track of birthdays? For me this is a work in progress, as to be honest, I’ve been terrible in this regard. Lately, I have started adding the ones I want to keep track of into Google calendar so that they roll forward each year. Then I transfer them into my journal each month. While I list my appointments on the daily pages in my journal, I also like to list them in my Google calendar, as I find the automatic reminders to be helpful. Sometimes it is easy for me to lose track of time when I am writing or talking to someone on a call, so that little reminder that comes up from Google does help keep me from missing appointments or being late. 

 

DAILY PAGES

My day typically starts on the yoga mat each day with breathwork, meditation, movement and time with my journal. This doesn’t have to be a significant investment of time. While it’s great when I can find an hour for this, sometimes fifteen or twenty minutes is all I can spare. I’ve found that the key to consistently using all of these tools (breathwork, meditation, movement, and journaling) is that I take at least some time, however small at the same time each day to do so.

I like to have my journal within reach during this morning routine, as often during my morning “me time”, ideas come to me that I want to jot down while they are fresh on my mind. I also like to look at the “Vision of My Ideal Life" while I am in this space starting my day. 

From here, I grab a cup of tea and head into the office. If I haven’t already listed items of gratitude/abundance and “Today’s Affirmation”, I’ll do that first. I get a lot of questions on how abundance is different from gratitude. I talked a little about that above when discussing the Dream pages, but I’ll give you a few examples of what I wrote down one day last week for “Abundance in my Life”:

  • Ability to give to others

  • Time to take care of myself

  • No concern over how to pay a heating bill

  • Companionship and love

  • More opportunities than I have time to act on

Looking for ways you can give to others and having more than you need is classic abundance and an easy one to look for in your life. On the second bullet point listed above, I can remember a time in the not so distant past when life in the corporate world didn’t afford the same flexibility with my time as I have now. The ability to use time as I choose feels abundant when compared with the past. The bullet point about the heating bill is more money-oriented, recognizing how many people are struggling with this now and that I am blessed by not having to worry about this now. I also feel blessed with an abundance of family, friends and their love, as well as opportunities for JMB Living in excess of what I have time to try to capitalize upon.

Like a good friend, my journal is by me every step of the way. In fact, she sits on my desk all day long, reminding me of the appointments that I’ve noted in the “My Day” section of the daily pages and keeping me focused on the list of things I want to accomplish which I’ve written right beneath this. 

I also list on this page “One Thing I Can Do Today To Move Me Toward Creating My Dreams”. To make sure I stay on track and make good use of this space and my day in general, I refer back to my “Monthly Dream Steps” to see where I need to make better progress.

Continuing to refer to my Dream Steps (Goals) in this way on a daily basis helps me to keep making the small steps needed to move closer to success.

With respect to “Today’s Commitment to Self-care”, this can take many forms. It can be ensuring I take a walk, exercise, drink water, etc. Or it can be something totally different. Yesterday I wrote, “Clear and clean top of desk.”

As we near Happy Hour Time, I give my journal some final undivided attention. I look at the items on the day’s to-do list that have not been double-checked (my marking for complete). I add a single check for things I have worked on and move them forward to tomorrow or a future day. Adding the single check seems a little silly, but it actually makes me feel good to acknowledge that I have worked on this item even if I was unable to complete it. I add a little arrow for things that need to be moved forward and an X for those items that, after further thought, can be ignored and no longer are deemed important enough to carry forward. I also think about what I want to add to tomorrow’s to-do list, while the day’s work is still fresh in my mind.

I then begin to wind down my workday by reviewing the events, emotions and feelings of the day and record for later reference, “My Best Win”, “Beauty I Noticed” and What Gave Me Joy”. This helps me move into the evening in a pleasant emotional state and with a more positive mindset. I used to ask myself these questions each night when I got ready to fall asleep, but now I like to do this twice daily; at the end of my workday and again as my head hits the pillow.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all the uplifting and inspiring quotes, poems and stories that are sprinkled throughout my journal. These too become a moment of inspiration and add a smile to each day. It gives me so much joy to be able to share these wise words and thoughts from so many other women around the globe just like you and me.   

QUOTES, POEMS, STORIES & MORE

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

I want to wrap up this post with a few questions I’ve had from users of the journal that weren’t otherwise addressed above:

  • What are some methods or questions to ask myself to identify habits to make or break for the habit tracker?

    • Look to your reflections on Weekly Pages or the end of the month Reflections page. Where are you frustrated most often? What isn’t working well for you? What new habit could you create (or break) to assist with this challenge?

  • How can I stay motivated and consistently use the journal?

    • The best method for this is choosing the most convenient and helpful time for you to use it daily. If you feel you are short on time, allot yourself just five minutes at first. Ann, one of our Kula members from Ontario, had recently noted that this is how she started. She gave herself five minutes a day to dedicate to her journal, because everyone can find at least five minutes, right? Once you make a habit of this, within in the first 30 days, you are likely to begin recognizing the benefits of this time and that will help you find the motivation you need to continue.

  • Do you have any tips or suggestions for the vision board?

    • Check out this recording of our Vision Board Workshop

  • I feel too old/established in my mindset/habits to change or start something new

    • Maybe try making tiny changes to start, something simple like lighting a candle each night during dinner or taking a walk with the intention of looking for beauty in nature.

  • Sometimes I feel stuck and don’t know what to write down.

    • My best suggestion for this is to sit quietly for a moment with eyes closed and ask yourself the question. If nothing comes to you after a few moments, that is completely okay. Give yourself the grace to just let it go for the day and move on. I can assure you that there are blank spaces in my journal too.

    • For the beauty and joy prompts - if you are struggling with what to write down for these, notice what you have listed previously and consider how can you add more of this type of thing into your world. You could also pick up a magazine that visually and emotionally appeals to you and flip through it, looking for things that spark your interest and that you could add into your life.

    • Best wins prompt - please know that this doesn’t have to be monumental. Sometimes just getting up and making yourself breakfast might be a big accomplishment for the day.

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