A notebook with a drawing of a cloud with the words

Why You Should Keep a Journal and How It Will Change Your Life

If there is one activity that has vastly improved my life in multiple ways, it’s journaling. I’ve mentioned this to numerous people who’ve asked me for success advice over the years and the reactions are varied. Some stare back like I’ve spoken a word in a foreign tongue while others downright wince. Maybe it’s not sexy enough for some or sounds like too much effort for others. Truth is, succeeding at anything does take effort, and whatever sex appeal any endeavor radiates is often the aftereffects of an extreme amount of hard work. But journaling is nowhere near an extreme effort, and the rewards are great. At the end of this post, I’ll tell you how to do it with minimal effort.

So why is journaling life-changing? The reasons are many but here are my top five:

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Beautiful spring weather, three balloons flying over the field. The huge field of white, red and yellow buttercups (Ranunculus asiaticus).

What Fills Your World?

I sometimes envy people who travel the world with everything they own slung over their shoulders in a backpack. How carefree it must be to only keep up with whatever is packed in that modest canvas bag. While I don’t consider myself someone who craves material possessions, I’m often taken aback when I look around me to see an overwhelming amount of stuff collected through the years.

It’s not the big ticket material possessions that weigh on me. I kept my previous vehicle twelve years before getting a replacement. My wife’s car is well over a decade old and still running strong. We’ve lived in the same house—the only one we’ve ever owned—for eighteen years. But the small stuff seems out of control. We’ve given mounds of possessions to charity over many years, but I’m hard-pressed to tell it. 

What would I save in a fire given my family and pets were safe? Truth is, not much. Family photos and important files are synced to the cloud, so no worries there. I would grab the 140-year old journal my great, great, great grandfather kept, 254 pages of handwritten prose and beautiful color sketches of his multi-year adventure exploring the pacific northwest. I’d also save my...

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A sand castle on the beach on a sunny day

A Course in Nature

From the deck of our oceanfront rental, I watched my boys play in the sand. “Play” is probably the wrong word. Looked more like work to me. Shovels and elbows moved in unison to pile sand beside widening holes. Feet carried bodies with arms and hands that carried buckets to the low tide line and back, over and over, to bring ocean water that helped shape sand into castles. Nearly every day of our week’s vacation, a new sand castle emerged from the smooth beach right below the high tide line. Each time the boys put great effort into their creations, only to watch the ocean reclaim them, bit by bit, until the sand was flat once more.

You’d think watching nature level something you spent hours building would be difficult, depressing even. But for my boys, it was...

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A tree stump resting in front of a lake with mountains in the background

When a Flaw Becomes a Strength

I drive through an old neighborhood on my way to the office and back every day. It’s the highlight of my commute because I like to pass under the sprawling canopy created by massive trees that meet above the street.

Last year, a For Sale sign appeared in front of one of the houses. It’s a modest thing, fairly small, but the yard is full of great trees. One morning, the tree closest to the street was gone. Storms had moved through a few days before so I guessed it had been one of the casualties. Too bad. It had been a majestic fellow. Now, only a massive stump remained.

When I passed the house again on the way home, I felt bad for the owner. A stump that large would cost a lot to grind down. But what choice did the person have? Who wants to buy a house then pay for stump removal? Yet, the stumped stayed as I passed the house each day.

At some point, a huge pot with colorful flowers appeared atop the stump. Red and yellow petals stretched toward the sky to...

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Watch the Moments

Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.

My friend’s dad used to say that often. It sounds old-fashioned in this day and age. Most people used to snatch pennies from the ground in days gone by, but now, I bet they are left lying there as much as they are picked up. 

Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.

The saying may borderline on quaint these days, but my friend listened to his dad. He’s not much older than me, but I sense he’ll never have to worry about money for the rest of his life even if he stops working today.

I don’t want to worry about money either. But what I fear more than not having enough money at the end of my days, is not accomplishing what I want in life. Right now, the biggest hurdle to accomplishing what I want is wasted time.

This isn’t about watching too much TV or idly surfing the internet for long periods of time. I’ve learned to avoid those activities most of my days. Instead, I find myself...

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tan colored, spiral shell with a blue background

No Coincidences

Have you ever watched a movie that follows multiple characters over a period of time as they unknowingly weave in and out of each others lives? Then fate brings them together near the end? Critics grumble that these movies are unrealistic, their depiction of life contrived and too chocked full of coincidences. But aren’t all movies contrived to a degree, a cinematic reveal of meaningful events using elements yanked from real life but with all the boring parts left out?

Critics be damned. I’m convinced those coincidental events happen frequently; we just don’t recognize them. Film cameras don’t follow us around to capture every wide-angle moment as life flows past us in a river of unknown individuals, some who return later to become meaningful in our lives. Sometimes we know the significance of the coincidences, sometimes we don’t. But something is behind them all.

Years ago, a friend of mine and her husband had some laughs looking over old photos of him, ones taken before they met. Sifting through them, one caught her eye. In it, he stood inside the city mall. Shoppers milled behind him as the photographer snapped the shot. My friend’s heart raced when...

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The Bright Side of Storms

Pilots of small planes give thunderstorms a wide berth. Accidentally flying into a brewing system is feared by many aviators and I’m no exception. But in my everyday life on the ground, thunderstorms elicit a different response. They excite me. 

When I’m outside on a hot day devoid of wind and a sudden breeze cools the back of my neck, I’ll sometimes turn to see dark clouds building over the horizon. The temperature ticks down several degrees before the wind starts to gust, the updrafts making the nearby trees flash the pale green underbellies of their leaves. When the day goes dark and distant thunder rumbles, my body begins to brim with energy. In these moments it’s easy to imagine a cosmic force has torn an invisible rift between worlds and who knows what awaits on the other side?

Why do storms energize me so? They bring damage, they bring loss. Sometimes they bring death. I don’t want that for anyone.

But storms also bring change. Storms roll in when...

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cell phone with blue skies and clouds on the screen

A Magical Power

Hundreds of years ago, remote communication on earth didn’t extend beyond smoke signals, drums in the night, or the written and spoken word traveling vast distances by ship, horse, or the lonely runner. If you had lived back then and spent the day plowing a field or hunting the woods to feed your family, you would have spent much of it in isolation. That solitude would have given you something a lot of us are missing now: time to think, time for deeper thoughts, time to discover who you were.

Communication is instant now. We have near-constant access to friends and family and they have access to us. We can find the answers to pressing questions with ease. So much power and information sits in the palm of our hands from little boxes, magical devices we carry all day long that makes us feel connected. But are we? Are we really connected or are we tethered?

When you look at the flip side of the instant communication, the constant barrage, there seems to be many who are overwhelmed and agitated by it. I sometimes hear people wish for simpler times, an era before the little boxes when each of us weren’t so accessible. I’ve had those thoughts too.

But when those thoughts flash in my head, I stop them and remind myself of one thing: I’d much rather live now, than in a time before the devices existed. Because the most magical thing I can do with that little box after I’ve used it for what I need, is to press and hold down the power button. I control my life, not that little box. I have the choice to power down to make time for deep thoughts and to ponder questions whose answers can’t be found on the internet.

You have that power too. Don’t be afraid to use it.

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How to Foster Peace and Limit Stress

When I started training for my pilot license, I was amazed at how I felt after a flight ended. If I ever lifted off from a bleak world, one drained of color from life’s challenges, I always landed in a revived landscape, bright and vivid. No matter what mood I’d been in before the flight, a lightheartedness afterward kept my feet hovering an inch above the earth for the rest of the day.

At first I thought flying to be a magical elixir. If everyone could float in that mystical well of blue sky and peer down on the greens and golds where most of us spent our days, all would find their stress left on the ground. But then my perspective shifted...

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message in a clear glass bottle sticking up out of the sand

Remember What You Came Here to Do

I’m a sucker for a distraction. I often walk into my home office with a specific purpose in mind only to waste precious time doing something unplanned. Maybe it’s grabbing a magazine off the desk to read a tempting article whose cover title is far better than the piece itself, or tumbling down the internet rabbit hole when I simply want to pay a bill online. The worst part is that after the detour ends, not only do I feel listless, I’m irritated because I find myself staring into space trying to remember what I originally came into the office do. Over the months, those small detours turn into long stretches of time I can’t account for… and will never get back. And what do I have to show for them?


The same thing happens to our lives. String together countless detours of unplanned activities and they can turn into...

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