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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

What Journaling Can Teach You

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Last week I wrote in the first few pages of a new journal. I haven’t counted all of the old, filled-up, dog-eared journals I have. I’d guess there are around 10 of them. I started journaling in the mornings for a few minutes around 15 years ago. If you’ve doing the math, you’ve probably figured out that I’m not a very consistent journal keeper. Some weeks I’ll write every day in a row and other weeks not at all. I’ve even taken entire years off. For example, the journal I just finished spanned from January 2010 to October 2013. When I flipped through it the other day, I was reminded that I had written two entries, both in January, for all of 2011.

Still, I keep coming back to journaling. I know why I do. It’s not so much the act of capturing whatever is going through my mind on a given day. Rather, it’s the historical record that those entries create over time.

What journaling has taught me is that most everything I was worrying about on any given day has had a way of working itself out. Children worries, career worries, health worries, money worries, relationship worries – they all worked out. Did they work out the way I thought they would or hoped they would in every case? No, not at all. Some outcomes were OK, some were worse, some were better. The point, for me, is that I’m still here and while there is always a new set of things to worry about, the old ones have faded away. I wouldn’t even remember most of them, frankly, if I didn’t have a written record of them and browse through those records occasionally.

And that’s the beauty of having all of those old journals. They’ve become a physical source of perspective. I’ve been writing in them long enough now to know and understand that things somehow work out. Does that mean I never worry? Unfortunately, no. I think, though, because of all those volumes of perspective, I usually don’t worry as deeply as I used to and I certainly get back to the present moment a lot more quickly than I used to.

So, while I’ll probably never journal every day and hardly ever for more than five or ten minutes at a time, I’ll likely keep doing it. Where else can I get so much perspective?

What about you? Do you journal? If you do, what has it taught you? If you don’t, what questions do you have about getting started?

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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