3 Ways Perfectionism is the Ultimate Procrastination

I’ve come across several people in my life who have stopped themselves from finishing a project, or even getting started in the first place, because they believed in some perfectionist ideal on how the process should be—instead of simply letting the process be what it is.

The process of creativity is often a long, messy, and emotionally enduring endeavour. It is almost never a straightforward process, rather a bumpy road with lots of twists and turns. Although the inherent challenges that come with creativity can make you anxious about the road ahead, it is actually within this struggle where our greatest work resides.

Resistance is a natural part of the process, and often times, the more resistance you have toward something, the more important it actually is. Resistance is your ego’s way of trying to preserve itself by bringing your self-esteem down, and it is your duty as a creator to squash your ego in its wake and get to work anyway.

As a life long procrastinator, I am no stranger to this process, and am still a victim to it when I’m not mentally prepared enough for it, but nonetheless I hope you find what I share today to be helpful in your own journey.

So without further adieu, here are the 3 Ways Perfectionism is the Ultimate Procrastination:

  1. Not feeling competent enough.
  2. Not feeling original enough.
  3. Not feeling motivated enough.

Practice Makes Progress

If you don’t feel confident to get started on a project, it might mean that you’re lacking a few fundamental skills of the trade to even put a dent into that said project. But do not fret because there is a lot of joy and meaning to be found in learning and practicing new skills. As you learn new things, you will naturally feel excited to employ these new skills and techniques to whatever you’re working on.

I know in my experience, whenever I’ve learned a new guitar or piano chord, a writing concept, or a new music production technique, I’ve always felt the need to experiment with that new skill in my latest project in any given field. It didn’t matter whether I employed the new skill in small doses, in excess, or scrapped it from the final project entirely. What mattered was that I gave myself the freedom to experiment with something new and broaden my skillset.

A lot of people feel like they’re not good enough to start on anything because of this lack of self confidence. And since we often equate competence with confidence, that lack of competence holds us back. I’ve heard the same excuse a thousand times by now:

“I can’t write a song/write a book/make a painting, I’m not creative enough.”

It’s like saying, “I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible enough.”

Well, here’s the kicker: you become flexible by doing yoga. Likewise with anything creative, you stretch out your creativity at a certain artform the more you engage it. Who cares if you don’t know how song or plot structures work or how to mix colours properly?

You learn by experimenting and actively choosing things to learn either through a class on or offline, a teacher or mentor, and/or by observing the works of art that inspire you and comparing your work to theirs in a reasonable and non-self-esteem-crushing kind of way. The only important thing to note is that you don’t keep yourself stuck in training mode because you’re too afraid to actually create something. Study your techniques all you want, but actually put them to use at some point or that can become another side of this same coin of lacking competence.

Nothing and Everything is Original

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; do not be overly concerned with being original. It’s a huge waste of time and energy, and a surefire way of crushing your own morale. This is another thing a lot of potential creators often contend with. They want to be above the crowd by way of originality because they have it in their heads that they must be this wonderfully unique snowflake, or there is no point of creating anything because they’ll just be making more of the same to put into the stratosphere.

Stop this kind of thinking NOW!

Think about this instead:

There are only 7 plots in fiction.

There are only 7 notes in a scale.

There are only 7 colours in a rainbow.

Nothing you create will ever be entirely original because you’re already using established artforms such as fiction, music, or art. Just because there are only seven plots in fiction, doesn’t mean you can’t write the story your way. Just because there are only seven notes in a scale, doesn’t mean you can’t rearrange those notes your way. Just because there are only 7 colours in a rainbow, doesn’t mean you can’t mix and match those colours your way.

Most of us want to think outside of the box, but we need to know what’s in that box in order to know what we’re straying away from in the first place, and to do so with moderation that serves our work. Otherwise it can come across as, or actually become, trying too hard to stand out instead of genuinely trying to expressing ourselves.

Maybe your novel can have a mix of more than just one of those 7 plots in fiction. Maybe your song can include a chromatic note or two that isn’t in the 7 notes of its original scale. Maybe your painting can blend those 7 colours in a varying degrees to achieve different hues of colours you didn’t think possible. But the most important thing is to use these lucky 7 things to your advantage, rather than something you actively work against.

Originality, then, isn’t about coming up with something entirely new, rather taking pre-existing matter and mixing and matching different elements into something new by design of how you’ve personally conveyed it. If your goal is to be original, you risk trying too hard to be eccentric and esoteric to the point of drawing too much attention to how weird and different your artwork is instead of actually having something useful to say with it.

“Originality comes from genuine self expression, not concerted effort.” – Marlon from Your Write to Live

Motivation is Random, Discipline is Free Will Power

As someone with ADHD, I have often fallen under the seductive spell of hyper-focus whenever I’ve come up with a new idea or discovered a new hobby. I go at it full force, basking in its novelty with absolute certainty that I will do this forever, until I stop dead in my tracks because I’ve burnt myself out from going too hard at something instead of pacing myself accordingly.

Then I spend weeks, sometimes months, wondering if I’ll ever have the motivation to start writing another song or editing a new video, writing a novel etc.

A lot of people say that they will only create something when they feel motivated and will not force themselves to do it otherwise, and for people who have created some great volumes of work that have only come from allowing their muse to motivate them by her own accord, that’s all well and good.

But for those who haven’t even completed or started a project, this kind of thinking is detrimental to creativity and can often be an excuse for never creating to begin with.

It pains me to talk with people who contend with all of these ways in which procrastination manifests as perfectionism, but when it comes to motivation I probably relate to it the most because it’s the one and only demon on this list that I’ve yet to conquer. But basically you really don’t want to be waiting around for those times you feel motivated enough to create because you’ll either be waiting for a long time—which will then result in small bursts of creativity for a short amount of time before you spend another several weeks, months, maybe even years wondering if it’ll ever happen again—or you’ll be waiting forever.

The decision to create needs to come from you and you alone.

You cannot rely on random happenstance to get you there. If you start feeling bad for not having worked on your creativity for a long time, that anxiety around it is actually unspent energy that could easily be going into your project as opposed to crushing your own self-esteem with the self imposed guilt trip. What you want to do is create healthy habits that prime you to start working, even on your most resistant days, all to the point of turning your routine into a ritual.

You want to get to the point where you can’t not create something on most, if not all days. It’s something you need to get done or the day does not feel complete otherwise. Even if you don’t turn out your best work for several days straight, at least you’ve gotten the crappy ideas out of the way so that when you get back into the swing of things, you’re at least glad that you’ve committed to your practice. That is how you know you’ve turned a habit into a ritual.

While there is the danger of turning your ritual into a superstition where you think, “I gotta have my large coffee and cookie every morning or I can’t create anything!” Having some kind of routine in place to at least increase your chances of getting something is better than having low to no chance in hell that you create anything at all.

We’ll get into overwork and burnout in a future post, but for now, let’s simmer in the idea that maybe we aren’t working enough to ensure we get our creative needs met. And I don’t know about you, but I get pretty depressed if I’m not creating at least one or two things on nearly daily basis, and I’m starting to realize just how much of that depression is a lot of emotionality that is being left unexpressed that can be transmuted into writing fiction, producing music, or even the simple act of journaling.

It’s actually through journaling before almost every writing session where I tackle my demons and empty out my mind to make space for creative ideas. I need to check in with myself and see how I’m feeling about my life and the work laid out ahead of me, otherwise these unchecked doubts will creep up in any given writing session. Only then I’ll feel like I’m strong and smart enough to get on with the project.

Feeling and Being Enough

That’s what this entire post comes down to in a nutshell: feeling enough.

Creative people are notorious for not feeling or being enough and that’s why a lot of us over or under perform where we can be finding a happy and healthy medium between the two. Just notice that whenever you encounter any self doubt, imposter syndrome, or resistance, it’s all pent up energy that is being left unexpressed, and you need an outlet for it.

Personally for me, creating a slew of work doesn’t mean I will guarantee a sense of meaning and contentedness in my life, but it sure as hell increases the probability for them, provided that I am coming at it from a place of stillness. A place where I’m not using my creativity to avoid uncomfortable thoughts and feelings about my life, rather taking them head on with confidence that I will get through it all no matter how difficult it all is.

It’s a tough balancing act.

You want to create because you have something in you to express, and you have to fight your ego every step of the way as to not do it for the wrong reasons like fame, fortune, or fear. Like the fear of not feeling or being enough. Feeling and being enough starts with you right here, right now in making the decision to take your creativity into your own hands, not the whims of fate. And definitely in not submitting to the whims of our egos that hold us back in making us believe we are not good or original enough. That’s not what’s important.

What’s important is giving ourselves the permission to express ourselves as that is Your Write to Live.

Therapeutic Journaling Part 9: Improving Your Self Talk

What all journaling comes down to is improving how you talk to yourself. It’s definitely what I’ve learned from my Trifecta of Tribulations a few years ago. We all have a tendency to narrate and frame our lives in a certain way that can cause us suffering. A lot of it has to do with unmet needs, unmet expectations, and just a general sense of pressure we put on ourselves to be a certain way and experience life a certain way, instead of just letting ourselves be.

With journaling, you can write down the ways in which you behave, how you think and feel about them, and then decide on a course of action on how to proceed knowing what you know. Take stock of who and how you are throughout the day and compare it to how you would like to be better in the future, but also be kind to yourself if you don’t live up to these new ideals you set for yourself.

That’s the important thing about goal setting: aim high, but don’t break your neck.

We all know of a multitude of ways in which we can operate better in the world at large, but we often feel disappointed in ourselves whenever we don’t live up to that standard. This is where journaling can be helpful in keeping track of your past, present, and future trajectory. By observing yourself as objectively as possible, and maybe even seeing yourself as a protagonist to your own novel, you get to write yourself out the way you so please.

Do you want to be the protagonist or the antagonist of your own story?

Sometimes we’re both, such is the human condition. We are walking talking contradictions claiming to have one value and then betraying them seemingly in the next heartbeat. Then comes the shame and the guilt around it. Why? Because we all have a potential future self that is actually judging us in the present. We know we could be better, but often make excuses as to why we’re not living up to that potential.

It’s one thing to have that inner commentary constantly justifying why we squander our time away, but it’s a whole other thing to write that down and face the painful reality that that’s what you actually think all day. When you read back on your journal entries as if it’s a good friend reporting to you the contents of their mind, then it becomes excruciatingly clear how much work you have left on improving yourself.

Whether you write an Internal Family Systems Journal or not, a journal is essentially a conversation you have about yourself, with yourself, and to yourself. So much of the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our thoughts because the quality of our thoughts affect our words, and in turn our words become our actions. To keep track of all these things is to develop the self awareness required to move forward in life.

That’s all life really is in the end, an ever going journey to understand ourselves and operate better day by day until our final breath. The learning never ends until our lives do.

And that’s another thing journaling can help you discover. That you are constantly faced with your own mortality and so much of it has been squandered on self defeating thoughts that hold you back from moving forward in life.

It’s perfectly fine if you fill an entire notebook full of yourself doubt for the catharsis, but what do you once you get that out of your head and onto the page? Well, you do the excruciating practice of actually reading back to yourself what you’ve written and imagine your journal self as someone you care deeply about. What would you want to tell them in counter or support to what they’ve said?

I know in my experience I could be quite harsh on myself to the point of causing my own depression for several days. I used to beat myself up for making mistakes or not living up to my potential to the point of not letting myself do any writing or not letting myself reach out to friends or family to talk to. I was too ashamed of myself to think I was worth all that trouble for people to care about, let alone believe my writing had any merit beyond mere self expression.

Self expression is key, though.

That’s the most important thing about journaling that people need to understand. It has nothing to do with being a good or bad writer or if it makes any sense. It’s all about getting to express yourself as freely as you want because the page is the safest place on the planet.

Anne Frank said it best when she said, “paper is more patience than people.”

The page won’t judge you or shame you for thinking what you think.

The page won’t challenge you on your thoughts.

That’s all completely up to you to do. You can start off journaling with the express purpose of letting your darkest, deepest secrets and desires onto the page, but in the end it’s up to you whether you want to do something about any of that or not. My opinion is that you should, but my opinion shouldn’t matter to you when you’ve got your own intricate inner world that I will never understand, and you’ll have your own reasons for resisting the challenge that journal brings forth. Let alone journaling at all.

But once again, in my experience, I’ve become acutely aware of how damaging myself talk has been, calling myself names, making myself feel guilty and ashamed about certain things I do or say, and giving myself an overall lifestyle of dread and misery.

After several years of journaling and about half a year of therapy, though, I’m starting to see how much time has been wasted on doubting myself and not believing in myself enough. Trusting myself is an even bigger point of contention, but I’m getting there. I’m finally at a place where I can get depressed and tired of life, but simply retreat to myself and recover instead of telling myself how much of a failure I am and unloading my negativity onto others.

If I have a trusted friend or family to talk to a certain thing about. Hell, that’s what my therapist is for when I want an even deeper dive for help beyond unconditional empathy. She will challenge my thoughts and beliefs, pose questions about them, and I am left speechless and mindless a lot of times because it stops the usual noise that goes on in my head.

With journaling and therapy, the goal is to tackle your thoughts and feelings to the point where you really do need to take a moment to stop, breathe, and think before you answer. Whenever your mind stills itself and stops the usual chatter, that’s when you know you’ve hit some big and need to take your time to figure it out.

And in the end you will learn exactly how you need to approach yourself on a daily basis. The kind of empathy and compassion you know you deserve, giving yourself the kind of self talk you need to survive the throes of life. This doesn’t mean delude yourself into thinking everything is fine when things are going to hell, but it does mean taking ownership for the ways in which you can influence the circumstances of your life to the best of your ability.

Improving our self talk is important because we get so used to hearing the same thought patterns over and over again, and we start to believe them. We don’t even know where so many of our thoughts and beliefs come from, whether we’ve come to these conclusions rationally, emotionally, or simply by default. We’ve given our power away by getting influenced by our peers, family, or society, but in the end we are the ones, at the individual level, who are ultimately responsible for the way we think, feel, and act in the world at large.

Therapy, coupled with journaling, is how reclaim that power.

Therapeutic Journaling Part 7: Pre and Post Meditation

As I mentioned in Part 5 of this blog series, I have learned to manage some of my ADHD symptoms through journaling. In addition to that, I also like to meditate before and after I do any kind of writing, whether it’s journaling or creative writing.

In today’s Meaningful Monday post we will explore what meditation is, how you do it, and why you should add it to your writing routine.

What is Meditation and How Do I Do It?

Meditation is a formal practice of mindfulness. Where meditation requires you to sit or lay still, mindfulness can be practiced in motion like when you’re doing yoga, going for a walk, or even cooking a meal. It’s the practice of being aware of your thoughts and either accepting them as they pass you by, without judgement or attachment, or by trying to keep your mind clear of thoughts entirely especially when you need to focus on something.

Meditation is mindfulness to the max where you set a certain amount of time to simply sit, breathe, and observe your mind. For each inhale and exhale, you bring your mental focus more and more toward the flow of your breath and recognizing all the sensations that are occurring in your body, as well as becoming aware of the thoughts passing through your mind.

Once again, without judgement or attachment to your thoughts. Just let them be.

A common misconception about meditation is that you are supposed to sit still and have an empty mind, which can be achieved and quite liberating, but you cannot expect yourself to do that the first time. Let alone the first 100 times because meditation is actually difficult to do if your mind races like mine. ADHD or not.

Because of this, people think that they’re “no good” at it and will just fail because of how much they think, but that’s the point! To get some control of your mind, you need to let it do its thing while you observe from a bit of a bird’s eye view rather than being honed in on ground level. Let your thoughts pass like the wind, and not that gaseous kind of wind, but an actual gust of wind.

Why Should I Meditate Before Journaling?

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s preferable that you handwrite your journals so that it forces your mind to slow down, focus on one pattern of thought, and create some sense of order of the chaos that may be occurring in your mind. While putting your thoughts down on paper is one good way to slow your mind down and free up your mental real estate for better thoughts, meditation is the perfect aid to it.

Meditating allows you to slow your mind down even more, especially if you’ve gotten good at focusing on your breath. You should be inhaling slowly until you ca no longer inhale any further, and then exhale slowly until you can no longer exhale any further. You might notice that your breath is shallow throughout the day and this lack of oxygen to your brain is what causes it to think anxious thoughts. Without a proper air supply, your brain’s ability to breathe is obstructed.

Meditation will help you lift as many obstructions as possible.

As you meditate before you journal, what you can do is start setting intentions for what you want to write about. Think about the order in which you’ll convey your thoughts, what kind of entry you’ll be writing, and what the purpose of that entry will be. Maybe you want to gain some insights on how to resolve a relational conflict, work out the pros and cons of life decisions you need to make, or maybe you just want to make sure you get the most of your writing time.

You are definitely free to sit down and write whatever comes to your mind (which is all writing anyway, fundamentally), but for journaling in particular, it’s good to construct a game plan of what you will be writing about it in particular. This will allow you to increase the chances of making sure most, if not all, you write ends up being beneficial for you at the end of the session.

I Already Meditated Before Journaling, Why Should I Do it Again Afterward?

It’s important to also meditate after journaling because putting an abrupt stop to your self reflection might make you forget all the lessons you just taught yourself within your writing practice. If you drive a manual transmission car, it’s the difference between stalling in a parking spot vs slowly shifting gears down and turning off the car properly.

Meditating after journaling will help you ease out of that mindful mode you might find yourself, especially when whatever you’re writing happens to grip all your attention and you allow your mind to truly spiral toward every conceivable thought and feeling you happen to recognize in yourself during that session. For some, myself most especially included, journaling can be a very intense process where it brings up a lot of discomfort, and tackling all that discomfort by bleeding it out of the pen can leave you mentally and emotionally wiped.

Sometimes even physically.

All the more reason to meditate because you might feel a sense of adrenaline reaching certain insights about yourself, and you need to breathe and contain that adrenaline so it can be expended in a healthy way afterward. Plus, meditating after journaling can literally allow you to meditate on everything you just learned about yourself so your mind makes the distinction between what you took out of it and what you’re putting into it in return.

Catch you all in the following parts of Therapeutic Journaling!

Therapeutic Journaling Part 5: Giving Order to My Disorder

It’s not easy for me to admit this to anyone, especially since it was hard for me to admit it to myself for a long time, but I have what’s called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The symptoms beyond inattentiveness include difficulty multitasking, low impulse control, and emotional dysregulation among many others. While I won’t go into great detail of which symptoms I have and don’t have, suffice it to say this mental illness of mine has held me back in life for as long as I can remember—and for a lot longer than I care to admit.

One of the things that helped me to get my scatterbrain into order, though, is journaling. Because of the hyperactivity in my brain, it’s difficult to maintain a linear form of speech, let alone thought, and it can be quite the Hell to go through when I am presented with a task I need to concentrate on. As a result, my inattentiveness to the present moment has cost me better grades in school, concentration at the various jobs I’ve had, and most especially overall motivation to do anything in life—even the things that I love like writing, composing music, and even playing video games at times.

While my brain still fires at 1000mph making me think of everything and anything across all space and time, I have managed to slow it down a bit through journaling. Even if you are neurotypical and do not suffer from ADHD, you might still have some times in your life where you can’t stop your thoughts from racing because you have found yourself in a stressful situation in life.

For us ADHDers, though, that’s basically our default mode of being; constantly overthinking things and having branching thought patterns that lead in seemingly unrelated directions.

However, it is through journaling where I’ve come to understand where some of these branches actually intersect. There are certain things I often think about that if I were to convey them to you, you might not see how they’re even connected at first, but let my motormouth fly and maybe you’ll see how I associate one trivial thing to a more significant thing.

ADHD Tangent Alert!

For instance, I’ve gotten a lot strange glares whenever I’ve said that you can develop self-knowledge through video games. People often dismiss video games as mere leisure and possibly a waste of time, but I’ve put a lot of thought into it and I can confidently say that they are more than what meets the eye. Ask any gamer, myself included, what a certain game means to them, and more often than not, they are more than happy to talk your ear off about all the things they love about it. They might not know it, but I am hyperaware of those reasons being reflections of what we value in art and in life.

After all, art is what we are when we’re paying attention, and video games are an amalgamation of different artforms condensed into one interactive experience. The visual arts of graphics, the sound effects created to go along with well crafted animations, along with the music they have to heighten the feel of a level. Video games are interactive experiences where you learn how to master yourself in a given environment, all with its own set of rules, boundaries, and possibilities.

And much like a video game, journaling also allows for the freedom of expression the way an open world sandbox game could, as well as provide a clear and concise experience when constrained by linear level structure more commonly found in the games of yesteryear. The former kind of game makes it hard for me to find much value because too much freedom can feel aimless, whereas the latter is just what I need to make some order out of my disorder.

Let me explain!

While you can type a journal entry in a word processor, I highly suggest you handwrite your journals because there is no way your hand can keep up with your brain, ADHD brain or not. Whereas typing you might write everything off the cuff at the speed of light, and sure your output will be plentiful, but it might not be as bountiful as I’ve found handwritten journals to be in the past decade.

The reason being, of course, that handwriting forces me to slow down my thought process and choose my words carefully. Typing out a journal could lead to too much randomness and a lack of structure the way an open world game can, but ultimately it’s really choose your own adventure at this point.

But for me personally, I prefer the linearity of older gamers as it provided a structure for me to follow so I don’t get lost doing one pointless side mission after the other, constantly getting sidetracked from experiencing the main story, but anyways.

How I Strive For High Scores in Journaling

I write with a fountain pen and the ink for it runs out faster than your typical ball pen. The ink can also become quite expensive if I’m zipping through ink capsules and refillable ink bottles when I’ve got lots to journal about as I have the past few months. My 2021 was quite eventful and there is a lot to process, so I’m going through ink as fast as I go through underwear.

So because of this, I come at every session with the sole intention to at least try to stick to one topic so that no blot of ink is wasted. My entries aren’t always perfectly linear and on point with one track of mind, but at the very least, the past 10 or so years of this habit have helped me improve my capacity to reach near perfect linearity in my entries in ways I never thought possible before.

When I first started journaling in my early twenties, my entries started off as blatant rip offs of the New Age Spirituality and Self Help books I was reading at the time. They served as reminders of how I should approach life with a positive attitude as to not get crushed by the weight of cynicism and nihilism.

It wasn’t until the second volume where I started actually writing about my life at the most local sense rather than the universal and woo-woo sense. Simply put, I started becoming more honest and vulnerable, not to mention specific about my life, writing about things that I’ve gone through and trying to extrapolate lessons from them. All this, though, unfortunately brought out some cynicism and nihilism in me, but they were attitudes I was willing to challenge and improve from.

When this more open and honest approach to journaling began for me, it was an ADHD hell-scape because my thoughts were so much more scattered than they are now. I had almost no idea what to write about consistently because awakening to my own self-consciousness, it made me realize just how much I’ve repressed throughout my life and haven’t put much thought into.

This is why, even to this day, I’m still an avid advocate for self-knowledge. I surprised myself so many times in my journals admitting to so many faults I’ve had to correct, obstacles I’ve had to overcome, as well as realizing how fortunate I actually am as a human being despite how hyper-focused I might have been on negative emotions.

And that’s another symptom of ADHD that causes emotional dysregulation. While hyper-focus can give rise to creative and productive hyper-fixations—like I once had with studying Korean and playing video games, and that I now have with music production writing—it can also make me obsess over my negative emotions and get me lost in my own thoughts. Journaling about these thoughts and emotions have allowed me to take a step back and look at life in a broader picture. Reading back to a lot of my entries, I often scoff and chuckle at how seriously I took something that now feels trivial in hindsight.


Reason #873 For Journaling

So whether you’re an ADHDer like me, have some other mental illness, or are simply neurotypical, I highly suggest journaling for the same reason. To create an honest narrative of your life and discover what you truly. It is in journaling where you begin to notice certain thought patterns and what kinds of things you busy your mind with on a constant basis.

You may not even be aware of a lot of them, and that can be scary, but that’s the beauty of journaling. You can surprise yourself with not only how much you can remember or how much you actually desire in life, but also with the amount of strength you might actually have in tackling the challenges of life. Especially when you’ve verbalized what those challenges, what you think about them, how you feel about them, and what you choose to do about them.

Journaling, after all, in my eyes, is kind of like writing our own personal instruction manuals to this game called life. As we discover new rules and boundaries in life, jotting them down gives us a clearer picture of what’s possible for us and what isn’t. Then, and only then, is it up to us how much of personal agency will be spent toward the things we can control, and how much we are willing to let go of the things we can’t.

Therapeutic Journaling Part 3: Meditations on Marcus Aurelius

For the past couple of months, I have been reading some Stoic philosophy, and I am starting to see how the intended goal for therapy is to help people become Stoic. And I’m talking about the real kind of Stoic, not the lower case s stoic that is attached to the common misconception of what the state of being entails. A Stoic isn’t entirely devoid of emotion, rather a Stoic is hyperaware of their emotions, but not let their emotions guide their actions. A Stoic chooses and controls how they react to their feelings, along with what ever external stimuli and circumstances they are exposed to.

One of the most prominent Stoic philosophers is Marcus Aurelius, the author of the world renown collection of books called Meditations. The funny thing about these books that so many people have read to ease their minds and gain wisdom from is that it was never meant to see publication even at the time of Marcus’ lifetime. They were personal journals that he wrote to himself in order to keep his ego in check being the most powerful man in the known world at the time.

What we can glean from Marcus’ example beyond his rare and virtuous being as an emperor, and of course his powerful and punchy philosophy, is what journaling can mean for not just the individual, but for the whole world at large. These books are so short and few in number, but their wisdom transcends the ages and remain universally acclaimed to better those who read it, especially repeatedly.

After all, he wrote these books while he was in campaign for a decade, and being the busy guy that he was, had very little time to himself to write, and so made the best use of his time when he found possible.

You too, could follow in his example, especially if you lead a very busy life that leaves very little time to yourself. If the Emperor of Rome can do it, so can you. Just a few lines a day is all it takes. You don’t even have to recount your entire day if you don’t want to, what you can do is reflect on it as you live it, then by the end of the day, write what insights you can glean from the failures and successes of today.

That’s what Marcus did.

Barely ever did he detail the minutiae of everyday life and little events he experienced. Instead, he wrote the words that would remind him on how to be a better man based on all the philosophical teachings he had been blessed with throughout his life. He could have easily sank into his power and enjoy endless luxury, but he understood the responsibility of power he held and how important it was for him to lead a good example for his people.

It’s really interesting to think that something a man wrote 2000 years ago that was deeply personal would end up becoming something that would universally understood. Most philosophers wrote books with the audience in mind, be it their students, the general public, or even letters that they wrote to each other. But Marcus wrote solely to and for himself.

The beautiful irony is that even though he was the Emperor of Rome, what he wrote to himself can easily apply to us naughty future readers who are prying into his personal diary. We may not have had his friends or family, nor his power, fame, or wealth, but what we do have as he would call it, is kinship of the mind. We are all humans who share the same emotions and desires like everybody else. We all seek to love and be loved, and love requires virtue. And so Marcus’ Meditations are fundamentally reminders and demonstrations of virtue.

One way to give and receive such love is shown in the very first pages of Book One in Meditations, where Marcus lists off all the important people in his life and what kinds of blessings and virtues he has received from them. In turn, you can write about the people in your life whose virtues inspire you to become a better person and express your gratitude for their role in your life.

Another prominent theme in Meditations is mortality. It’s a scary thing to think about, but it is a reality we must accept that we will all become dust one day. It’s already cliché enough as it is to say that life is short and how you should make the most of it while you can. Even more pressing is Seneca’s rebuttal to that which is life isn’t all that short, a lot of us just choose to squander a huge fraction of it on trivial things.

In either case, we are given ample time to live and we must not waste too much of it if we can help it. Every day, nay every moment, should be spent consciously in the present moment with intentional purpose. That means less complaining and more action taking. Less worrying and more pondering. Less wasted moments and more fulfilling days.

It can all be swept up in an instant so whatever you do or say should carry the weight of someone who only has one day left to live. See each day you live as your last and be thankful to wake up every morning because you can consider that a bonus.

And if you’ve been journaling, reflecting on your way of being and how to improve it, then each day can stack on to the last providing everlasting change and fulfillment for you.

While we sure as hell hope that our personal journals never end up in the hands of the public, it doesn’t hurt to have stern dialogues with ourselves within them. Okay, I’m lying, sometimes said dialogues can hurt and that’s fine, that’s all part of the process. Consider it a slew of growing pain. But nonetheless, perhaps our very own personal insights can have universal appeal, and while you may not want to share your journal with everyone you meet, you can instead embody the kind of person you present on the page.

Stick around for Therapeutic Journaling Part 4 where I will briefly touch upon a huge variety of different journaling techniques you can awaken the Marcus Aurelius within!