There are times in our lives that things happen that completely change us. Sometimes we call them epiphanies, some people call them turning points, some call them watershed events but I prefer to call them what they are: life-changing experiences. Sometimes they are major events, obvious not only to us but to the world: the death of a loved one, a major move, an ending or a beginning of some stage of our life. But more often they are small events, sometimes unnoticed even by ourselves until, months or even years later, we look back and realize that somehow, we have changed and our life is different than it would have been had we not had that experience. Often they are sad and difficult experiences, but not always, though all events that change us produce some amount of stress in our lives. Would it be helpful for us to learn to recognize these events as they come or even to seek them out when we want to change our lives? I think so. I believe that if we learn to be aware of our lives and to closely examine and to savor these events as we recognize them, that we can use them to change our selves and our lives more fully, to achieve our potential and to become the person we truly want to be.
How can we do this? How can we learn to recognize these experiences and turn them to our advantage? There are many ways but one of the best and easiest ways to do this is to keep a journal. Regular writing of the events of your life and of the thoughts of your heart helps you to focus on those things. A journal does not need to be a daily laundry list of the things that happen to you, but rather a regular reflection on the events and ideas that seem significant to you in your everyday life. Some of the things you should keep in a journal are:
A record of your “physical” life. Talk about the events of your life. What you do during the day, your job, your schooling, your duties as a homemaker, your hobbies, your church callings, books you read, movies you see, family activities, outings and vacations.
Record births and deaths and marriages, illnesses and injuries. Not just your own, but for the members of your family. Someday it may be the only record of those things. Where you live and where you work. Talk about the weather. Each of my journal entries has a header giving the date, the weather and the place where the entry was made. It takes me only a minute and may give my descendants some reference as to where I was and what I was doing when I was writing that day.
Your thoughts and analysis of the events in the world around you. This may not seem like much but it will be of great value to your children and grandchildren who will live in a world much different from your own and for whom these events will be only footnotes in a history text. These events as related from your point of view, however, will help them to see history as much more than dates and places. It will help them to develop a bond with you, to see history as having happened to people and help your descendants to see you as a person, as the kind of person you are.
Many times these events also become the triggers for some of our life-changing experiences. Even when they happen half a world away, they can impact our lives. The events of history often cause us to stop and take stock of our own situation. What is our life like? Is it safe? Is it stable? Could this thing happen to us, in our home, in our community? Sometimes it may cause us to simply count our blessings. Sometimes that is enough.
Your testimony. It is important to share our testimonies frequently. For many it seems daunting to stand in front of others and so we share them rarely, much less than we should. Share it in writing. Even if you are the only one who reads it in your lifetime, write it down anyway. Writing is sharing just as much as speaking is. Also, if you write it down, you can go back later and review it. You can compare it to other times when you have written your testimony in your journal and see how you are progressing. Where is your testimony becoming strengthened? Where are the weak spots? Where should you be focusing in your gospel studies? If you have written your testimony in your journal, it can answer these questions for you.
Your challenges, your failures and your successes. Write about the hard parts of your life. What were they? How did you face them/ Did you come out victorious? If not, why not? As President Kimball said, don’t dwell on the failures. Just note them and what you could do differently next time. As for the successes, you can dwell on those a bit more. What did you learn? What strengths did you gain? What weaknesses were you able to overcome? Share your feelings about your success and how it has changed your life. Note how it is made things better or more challenging.
There are many more things you can include in your journal. If you journal, what are some of the things you write about? Are there questions you have about journaling? Please share your comments, questions and observations in the comments section below.
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