We're coming to the end of another year and if you want to make the coming year special, NOW is the time to start planning for it! How? Believe it or not, the key to looking ahead is actually to start by looking back.
I've come to the conclusion that for me, the key to setting effective goals in the new year is to start by evaluating how things went in the prior one.
In other words, I don't start with "where do I want to go in 2018"? I start with "what happened in 2017?"
Why? Because you must PROCESS YOUR PAST before PLANNING YOUR FUTURE.
So with that in mind, I am reposting something I wrote at the start of this year in relation to one of my goals for the year. The goal was to better get in touch with my feelings and the action item was to journal daily (5 times per week).
As I've begun the process of looking back, I thought to share this post once again and I'll discuss the progress I've made on it - and why it's been so helpful - during today's scope. Enjoy!
We’re now almost three weeks into 2017 and it’s time for me to share about one of my newest habits this year – one that has really benefited me and made a difference in my life…JOURNALING.
Journaling is one of those things that I’ve always kinda sorta done, but never really done with much regularity. I’ve always owned a journal but using it is a different story. It’s one of those things that sits on my desk and gets pulled out every now and then to jot down a few random thoughts. But it’s definitely not something I’ve ever done consistently and purposefully.
One of my goals for 2017 is to journal every weekday morning and so far I've been doing great!
If you’re wondering where the idea came from, it should be pretty easy to figure out… MARIANNE MADE ME DO IT.
Ok, she didn’t actually “make” me do it (I like to at least tell myself that I make some of the decisions around here); but she very convincingly persuaded me of the benefits that I would gain from it. And after almost 3 weeks of trying it, I’m sold!
Why I Journal
The primary benefit that I’ve discovered from journaling is this: it helps ME help ME.
Huh? It helps me (Fr. Anthony), help me (Fr. Anthony). Journaling is a way that you invest in yourself. It’s where you step back, take an honest look at yourself and evaluate what you see. Through journaling, I ask myself some tough questions and challenge myself to come up with tough answers – all for the purpose of knowing myself better and becoming better at whatever area of life I want to improve in.
Simply said, journaling helps me help me.
How I Journal
I do my journaling in the morning. Every day, after I’ve prayed and exercised, I sit with a large notebook and answer six questions. The first three help me process the previous day (past-focused) and the next three help me prepare for the current day (future-focused).
Here are my six questions.
1. How am I FEELING right now?
This is the most important of all the questions because it forces me to be honest with myself and get in touch with how I’m feeling.
I know… I know… some of you are thinking to yourself “Fr. Anthony? Is that you? Get in touch with your feelings? What happened?!” What can I say… I’m a new man!
This actually has been the most helpful of all the questions for me. I'm not naturally “in touch with my feelings.” Marianne is always astounded when she asks me how I’m feeling and the answer 99% of the time is FINE (she hates that).
But this exercise has taught me to dig a little deeper and put some different words to that “fine.”
- Am I fine because I’m CONTENT?
- Am I fine because I am DISAPPOINTED but TRUSTING in God?
- Am I fine because I am NERVOUS but I just don’t want to show it?
Every day, I write the following in my journal: “Right now I am feeling ________ because of ______.” I know it sounds like something you’d ask a 4th grader to do, but trust me, it's helped me more than you realize.
2. What was the BEST and WORST part of my day?
This often will explain the answer to #1 above.
3. What LESSONS did I learn those experiences?
I try to capture life lessons in short, easy to remember phrases. Things like:
- Sleeping in feels good; but working out feels better.
- Don’t let others hijack God’s plan for your day.
- The greatest honor a man can have is to be chosen by God to be His servant” (not as short but very memorable for me).
4. What did I READ today?
After answering the first three questions, I read my Bible. Why not read first?
You may not believe it but more often than not, God addresses EXACTLY how I’m feeling through my daily Bible reading. Exactly! But I wouldn’t realize that if I didn’t know how I felt.
5. What are my PLANS for today?
This is where I go through my day ahead and mentally prepare for what’s ahead.
6. What is the ONE THING that I must get done today?
If all else fails today, what is the #1 most important thing that I can not end this day without having done. DO THAT FIRST!
That’s my system. That's how I do it. Not that complicated. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but the results have been life-changing for me.
And they could be for you too...