Do you know what both Marcus Aurelius (A Roman emperor from 161 to 180) and Serena Williams have in common?
No Marcus hasn’t won a Grand Slam tournament. And Serena was never involved in the Marcomannic Wars (although, if she were born back then she would have been a great warrior).
No, it’s much simpler than that. They journaled. Nearly every single day.
During his rule, Marcus Aurelius found himself in the middle of many wars and under a ton of pressure from outside events. He used journaling as a way to put his thoughts onto paper, as well as keep himself accountable to his own values. And to this day, his journal entries have survived in the book Meditations.
As a matter of fact, many other influential people throughout history have kept journals. Including Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Anne Frank, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Virginia Woolf, Henry David Thoreau. The list goes on.
When looking at famous journalers it can be difficult to pinpoint a specific reason or purpose for why they did it. But ultimately, there is only one reason that it matters: it brought them value.
For some of them, maybe it gave them a chance to review their day, others may have found it as a way to relieve stress, and for many, it was a great way to plan out how they should live their lives.
Now here is the question I’m sure you are itching to ask: How can journaling help me as an athlete? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Here are 8 reasons every athlete should be keeping a journal:
1) YOUR BRAIN IS A MUSCLE: Writing down your thoughts is like stretching for the brain. When it’s feeling a little stiff or tired, you need to spend some time opening it up to ensure it doesn’t get tight. Just like you warm up and cool down your muscles around training to avoid injury, you have to apply the same strategy if you want to keep your mind healthy. Otherwise, you risk mental fatigue, the potential for injury, and a slower recovery process.
2) YOUR GOALS BECOME CLEARER AND MORE ATTAINABLE: Goals by themselves are great to have. But just saying you have them or thinking about them is not enough. Through a daily journaling practice, you can create the structure for goal achievement. Every morning you can write out and plan the steps required to achieve your goals. In essence, you can create a psychological blueprint for success. By doing so you will no longer find yourself distracted by long-term goals because you know your daily actions are always moving you in the right direction.
3) IMPROVES SELF-CONFIDENCE AND SELF-BELIEF: Research has found that people who use reflective journals have higher levels of self-efficacy and belief in their abilities. This increase in self-efficacy is strongly linked to task completion. When you use a journal that is based on the principle of daily tasks, you are given frequent feedback which illustrates you are on the right path. By journaling in a way that cultivates positive affirmation and activates your neural reward systems, you allow yourself to build on tiny successes, with each one being just as valuable as the last. Over time these compounding micro-successes translate into higher levels of belief in one’s self and the ability to get things done.
4) TRACKS PROGRESS: When you look back on a year, it can be tough to really see how far you’ve come. This is why so many people take progress pics when they try out a new diet. The changes can be incredibly subtle and difficult to see without a direct comparison. Through a journal, you get to write down your thoughts and experiences on a daily basis. And after an entire year, you can look back and reflect on your younger self and truly see with your own eyes how much you’ve grown.
5) IMPROVES DISCIPLINE: In the same way that completing more small tasks on a frequent basis can improve overall self-efficacy, staying disciplined with a particular habit can improve your discipline with other habits. If you are constantly telling yourself that you are weak, you will become weak. Vice versa, if you are regularly being reminded that you have strength, you will build it. Discipline breeds more discipline; Momentum builds on itself.
6) FORCES YOU TO PUT IDEAS INTO YOUR OWN WORDS: When you’re getting started there is nothing wrong with looking elsewhere for inspiration. But just in the same way that you retain information better if you write it down in your own words, you should always be looking for ways to apply ideas, goals, and visions into your own life. You can have similar ideas, but at the end of the day, you should always bring things back to your own circumstances. Otherwise, you will always be trying to sort out someone else’s life, not your own. Through a journal, you can put those dreams and ideas onto paper and find ways of living that align with your own values. In addition, WORDS ARE REPRESENTATIONS OF IDEAS. By writing words onto paper, you are actively causing the mind to compose and re-compose ideas. Therefore, increasing your brain’s ability to retain information.
7) TURNS YOU INTO A BETTER LEARNER: The most successful learners know how to identify questions and problems as they reflect on what they already know, what they want and need to know, and how they will proceed to increase their understanding. Less successful learners need to develop the habits of the mind that are the underlying strategies of the learning process. A Reflective journal can create opportunities that allow people to think about their learning, their own lives, and the world around them. This process can often highlight problems, misunderstandings, and confusions, which ultimately helps determine new areas for growth.
8) CULTIVATES SELF-AWARENESS: When you wake up each day and stay present focused on the immediate, you don’t have to worry about what is going to happen in a week, a month, or a year. You start your day with one simple question: What can be dealt with in a single day? This question is not only a lot easier to answer but encourages athletes to be more present minded on the small tasks. Being too caught up in the past or the future is often what causes poor performances. This moment is all that matters…now this moment…and now this moment. Always present, always going forward.
Putting it all into practice
Now here comes the real challenge. Are you going to read this article, and say to yourself, “wow, that was some really interesting stuff.” And then go right back to doing what you do every single day. Or are you going to take some action?
Journaling doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to write your life story or produce a hand-written masterpiece. It can be as easy as answering a few questions to start your day, and then a couple more to review how it went. That’s it.
Still not sure where to begin? Try this.
Go buy yourself a nice little blank notebook or even a fancy journal for that matter. Then follow this template:
What are you grateful for?
List three actions you can take today that will move you towards your goals…
What is one thing you will improve today?
What was your biggest challenge today?
What did you learn from it?
Name two things you did well today? Or big wins you have today?
What do you want to accomplish tomorrow?
NEED A JOURNAL TO GUIDE YOU? CLICK HERE
By simply answering these questions on a daily basis you can accomplish quite a bit. First, by starting off your day with gratitude, you put yourself into a more positive state of mind. And when you can start things in a better state it translates into a more positive story that you tell yourself. And when the thought loops running through your head are positive, it leads to a more effective strategy. STATE > STORY > STRATEGY.
Second, by choosing small daily actions that align with your long-term goals, you are ensuring that each day you are making steady progress. Instead of hoping that you are making progress you know you are because you’ve taken the time to figure which actions make the biggest difference. In the words of hall of famer Ray Lewis,
“Greatness is a lot of small things done well. Day after day, workout after workout, obedience after obedience, day after day.”
Third, by spending some time each day reflecting on your biggest challenge you get a chance to put it to rest. Instead of letting it ruminate in your mind all night, you can find a positive from it and then move on. The ability to reframe your experiences into lessons and give them value is something that many of the greatest performers, athletes, leaders, and entrepreneurs will take the most pride in. There ability to find meaning in suffering and sacrifice.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl
Lastly, by taking the time to find the things that went well, the challenges that arose, and then planning how you could be better tomorrow, you are taking one of the most essential journaling steps. You are using that past as a means of bettering the future. The normal routine for most people is to celebrate great days and forget about the rough ones. But what happens when you are having a few rough days in a row? What about a rough week? A rough month? What are you going to do when the great days are vastly outweighed by the rough ones? You can’t just purge them all from your memory.
If you do, you will find yourself, like many athletes, in a state of regret and resipiscence; realizing that you have wasted the past week, month or year, not making any valuable progress. A journal, however, can keep you accountable each day. It gives you a chance to learn from what has happened and get better. Day by day.
Journaling doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be a few minutes in the morning and a then a few more in the evening. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. The one thing it must be is consistent.
Are you looking for a way to make journaling as easy as possible? Do you just wish there was a journal that had all the important questions laid out in front of you?
Well, today is your lucky day!
This past week we officially launched The Daily Athlete Journal. Which contains the previously mentioned questions along with a ton of extras, including:
- Weekly reviews
- Weekly challenges
- Goal setting worksheets
- Monthly goal evaluations
- Future planning worksheets
- Mental training resources
If you are interested in getting a copy or finding out more, click the button below ↓↓↓GET YOUR COPY TODAY
And don’t forget to use the coupon “FIRST10” to get 10% off your first purchase. Get your copy today, before your competition beats you to it.