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Choices Are All We Have
This article is a shift from our standard format. I want to share a few passages from my journal with you. First, I hope to inspire and motivate you all to keep a journal. Maybe not daily, or even on a planned schedule, but to build the habit of writing for yourself. Write to help yourself think. Write the thoughts that you want to explore. Write out emotions as they arise, especially those that you wish to process and release. Write out your goals, plans, and values. A journal can play any of an infinite number of roles in your life. Regardless of how often you use it or what you write about, a journal is a personal laboratory - a walled garden where you can bring your internal world to life. Thoughts take on a different form and meaning when we put them into cohesive sentence structure. We cannot truly know what we think about anything until we attempt to express it, if only to ourselves.
I journal (almost) daily. It’s been an everyday presence in my life for years, but I also do not stress when external factors occasionally keep me from it. My journal allows me to define my direction, explore the ways that I can improve, and celebrate victories large and small. It’s often just a simple accounting of my daily life. But for me, one purpose shines above all the others - reaffirmation.
One of our defining guidelines for IHD is: define values, act accordingly. This guiding principle seems easy enough, but letting it direct your life is a constant challenge. This rule is an iterative process - constant trial and error, assess and tweak, rinse and repeat. For me, this is the true power of a journal. It’s a place to define my values and examine how they might be shifting. It’s a place to outline the patterns, choices, and behaviors that flow from these values. And finally, it’s where I reaffirm my beliefs - a place to give myself the constant necessary reminders of how I want to live and how best to do so.
This brings me to the second reason to share my personal journal with you - to share a message that I needed to reaffirm for myself.
The following are two short excerpts from different recent journal sessions. I wrote them for myself but I think you’ll find value in them too. Not only value in the thoughts but in the example of how my journal best serves to anchor my life.
(I jump in and out of first and third-person. I often write to myself as though I’m speaking a student - theoretical Justin instructing real-world Justin. It looks silly to see it typed out, but it feels right to me as I’m processing the original ideas.)
Choices are all we have. For the writing of a recent article, I became obsessed with the concept of freedom. Our choices are the only realm in which we have true freedom. The only realm. Every other aspect, even our physical bodies, are subject to outside control.
We are simply a collection of our choices.
Our personality might come from someplace deeper, but as far as the world is concerned, our personality is just a summation of all of our actions, words spoken, and personal interactions.
I might believe internally my personality to be one way, but what does the ledger of my actions really show?
Your health might seem ethereal, outside your control. It might also seem fixed, constant. But your health too is just a tally. It’s a collection of everything you do to and with your physical body. Every movement you do (or don’t do), every ounce of food you ingest, every posture you assume and the amount of time that you spend there, even your emotional state (and yes, you have ultimate control of this as well), add up to make your physical health.
What do these two truths about personality and physical health mean?
In every second, you are becoming yourself. Every second of your life you are adding to the ledger. Take responsibility for the moments and the choices that you’re throwing on the pile. There are no free passes.
Self-work, self-love, and personal development are not practices separate from life. No journal practice, workout routine, nutrition plan, or morning meditation can make up for a lack of intentionality in other areas. Personal growth might come super-charged in specific practices and patterns, but it isn’t made up of these isolated habits. Growth is a lens on your life. It’s a filter through which all of your choices pass. And that never goes away!
Intentionality feels good. Simple as that. Applied intentionality might help us maintain the positive aspects of our lives. It will guard our values against outside direction. And it will help keep the ever-present pulls on our time, attention, and money at bay.
In other words, intentionality’s application will bring good things. But, one level deeper than these practical benefits, intentionality itself is a satisfying end. Being choosey and discerning, and (when required) disciplined feels good. We feel freedom, agency, and autonomy. Simply by applying a value structure and conservative lens of assessing what’s best, it makes us feel in charge of our lives.
Thank you for reading.
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