I talk to my Future Self almost every single day. As a matter of fact, I have been talking to my Future Self regularly since early 2011.
It has been less of a conversation and more of a monologue, with my Present Self writing to my Future Self. You might be doing the same thing, only you probably call it “journaling” or “keeping a diary.” That is what a journal is, after all: letters for Future You to read.
Journalizing is important!
It’s my belief that journals should be not just about the events of your day, but rather a deeper analysis of the meaning behind those events and how they fit into the big picture.
When I was a kid, I was so impressed with my father for keeping a journal. He would pull out the notebook (I seem to recall it was small and bound in red vinyl) and he would recite the goings-on around the farm from the past year or two. He might have announced, “we branded calves on the same weekend last year.” or “the west alfalfa field yielded 120 bales three Summers ago.” The sort of record keeping that a pragmatic farmer would find noteworthy.
I was inspired then to keep records of my own life: books I read, or aspects of my chores I found interesting. I habitually invented fictional worlds, populated by people who explored islands or formed countries and went to war with one another. Naturally, records needed to be kept on those “important” events.
Though I found it fascinating and worthwhile to make observations about my world (including and especially the fictional worlds), I rarely maintained those journals for more than a few weeks. My catbrain would find something more interesting to focus on, and the old “journal” became just another jumble of childhood notebook inscriptions to be ultimately tossed away.
Maintaining a journal is an exercise in discipline.
It’s so easy to skip a day between journal entries. Before you know it, a week has passed, and then a month. That’s the frequency most of my journals consisted of, up until 2011. So what changed?
That’s just a fancy way of saying that I share my journal, specifically with RaeLea. She shares her journal with me as well. We have found that knowing someone else will be reading our words means that we are much more likely not to let too many days pass between journal entries.
Even though we are sharing these “inner thoughts” with one another, we have a strict rule: anything we write in our journals is sacred. On the rare occasion we write about subject matter which is sensitive to one another, we make a point of being nonjudgmental and noncritical. That is not always easy to do, but we both understand that the alternative is self-censorship.
We use Google Drive to create a new journal document each year, and use the “Share” tool to grant access to one another (the documents are completely invisible and inaccessible to anyone else). A nice bonus of using Google Drive is that we are able to insert comments in the other person’s journal. These comments appear on the side and can be responded to, kind of like the comments section following this blog article you’re reading.
Since Drive is cloud-based, we can access our journals anywhere, from any computer or smartphone using our personal login. No more excuses not to write!
Using this method, it’s uncommon for us to go more than a few days without writing in our journals. For each of the past three years, we exceeded 100,000 words per year, per person. That’s a lot of journaling!
I maintain several different journals, but these are the three biggest ones:
Personal Journal. This is my primary journal, where I detail the events of the day, new experiences I had, and what I learned from those experiences. It’s motivating to read old journal entries and see where my predictions ended up being correct and what happened to make some of those outcomes turn out differently than I expected. This journal has become something of a chart for me in plotting my personal evolution (including recognition of weaknesses I still possess).
Writing Ideas Journal. If you’re a creative person, you doubtless have fresh, new ideas spring from your mind regularly. I distrust my memory, and so my Writing Ideas Journal was born. It is an improvement from its origin: a dedicated notebook I kept by my bedside, where I often would awake from a dream with new story ideas. Most of the story ideas are not exactly flashes of brilliance, but every once in a while a new gem is unearthed.
When I experience a dearth of story starter ideas, I have this treasure trove of story concepts I can dig into. Usually that ol’ “writer’s block” gets kicked in the ass pretty quickly after a review of my Writing Ideas Journal.
Just as with my Personal Journal, I didn’t want to lose these insights if a notebook-bound journal was lost, so I transitioned into the digital cloud (Google Drive) as my format of choice. I adore being able to add new ideas from my phone when I am out for a walk or sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s office.
Random Ideas Journal. For everything else, there’s the Random Ideas Journal. New business ideas, marketing experiments, productivity improvements, and so on, find themselves in this expansive document.
I credit my most recent wage raise at work as being at least partially a result of mining my Random Ideas Journal for nuggets which I found applicable. I shared those ideas with the owner of the company, as per my belief in the principle of abundance. Fortunately, she found some of those ideas to be worth considering, and by extension the creator of those ideas to be worth keeping around!
How my Future Self benefits from my journal.
Each of us are evolving. How we view the world now is vastly different from how we viewed the world ten years ago, and how we will observe the world ten years into the future. That development happens gradually, over a long span of time.
If I was not keeping a journal, I would lose perspective on my rate of personal evolution. I do get frustrated with myself, specifically my penchant for procrastination and the lack of discipline I exhibit. When I am grumbling about my slow progress towards my goals in life, I take a moment to open up one of my older journals and begin reading. It doesn’t take long for me to regain my perspective and to acknowledge that while I will never evolve as quickly as I wished I could, I am making progress towards my goals–even from just a few years ago.
This is a gift that my Present Self is able to give my Future Self.
I have not yet figured out a way to send messages back in time to my younger self. I think if I could send just one, it might be: “Thank you for the gift. Keep journaling!”