Type ‘life journal’ into a search engine and you will be presented with an array of beautifully bound books, which claim to help you achieve your goals and make your existence more rewarding: Big Life Journal, My Goals, Daily Greatness, Get Your Sh*t Together Journal. But the truth is that life journals make you unhappy.
I’m not talking about empty notebooks for doodles and thoughts. We’re talking goal focused, list packed, tick box exercise books of achievement. Productivity is so 2019! But it’s all an illusion, which is taking us further away from our happiness, not closer to it.
1. They Encourage Narrow Mindedness
Life journals encourage narrow-mindedness because by their very nature they have a fixed focus. Putting your ideas down in black and white might feel safe but it’s also limiting.
Toilet seat analogy 1:
Let’s say you want to want to earn £10,000 in quarter 1. You have decided to sell hand painted toilet seats online (I’d buy one). You purchase http://www.paintedtoiletseats.com and start a fancy website. You paint the seats, follow a social media schedule and meet your pre-planned productivity targets. Everyday you fill in your life journal check lists:
5 things I have done today to bring me closer to my goal
3 things I could do to achieve more
5 ways I will make tomorrow count
It’s all super focused and you feel like you’re really achieving, being uber productive.
But it turns out that painted toilet seats are very, very niche. Go figure! And you don’t reach your target. In fact you can’t even cover the cost of website hosting, paint materials and the expensive leather bound journal you bought. You feel like an idiot and what’s worse, you’ve wasted all that time on social media instead of creating new designs. Suddenly you forget why you ever loved painting.
Toilet seat analogy 2:
Run the scenario again, this time without a plan. You love painting toilet seats so you do it with pleasure and a vague idea to sustain your creativity with sales. By placing 5 toilet seat designs on Etsy you learn what works and what doesn’t. Soon you notice that painted chairs seem to be doing well elsewhere on Etsy. Ooh, chairs! You love chairs. So you diversify. Business picks up. It wasn’t your plan to sell painted chairs but you are happy with the new path you’re on.
You earn the 10k at some point, or you don’t. Your state of mind is one of acceptance not wanting: peace of mind not dogged growth.
He hits the nail on the head when he says, ‘You can come up with a plan that is perfect—for a world that passed you by while you were spending all that time planning.’
How many wonderful success stories have you heard from people who had a plan and a fixed career path but one day it all changed and now they are happier than ever.
Louise Avery was a 9-5er in London when she suffered illness and quit. This was not her plan but she returned home to Scotland to regroup. She discovered that kombucha is incredibly good for gut health and so she started to make it for herself. Fast forward 10 years and she is running LA Brewery, supplying Whole Foods and Planet Organic with her award winning Kombucha and Kefir.
I’d like to see Louise’s life journal where all this was written down.
3. They Can’t Tell You What You Want
I started my working life wanting to be a pop-star. I dreamt of world tours and stadium success. It wasn’t until I got started that I realised I suffered from crippling stage fright. Bit of a bugger. Alcohol got me through the worst of it but it also pretty much ended my career before it started. Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink!
But don’t feel sorry for me. It worked out well in the end and my song-writing career is so much better for me than stage life. I had no idea ‘songwriter’ was even a job when I started out at 17. And do you think I planned to quit drinking and start a sobriety blog!? Of course not.
Most people have no idea what they actually want and even if you think you do know then don’t hold on too tightly because it will change. I guarantee it. Being fixed on an outcome all your working life only to realise at 45 that you have missed out on some key living will land you at that very well know destination – the midlife crisis.
4. They Take You Away From Life Now
You may think that committing a plan to paper and then enacting sections of it on a day to day basis is living in the now. But it absolutely isn’t. When you undertake an activity with a fixed outcome in mind then you are focused on the future, not the now. It enforces the toxic belief that happiness will arrive on the back of your achievement.
You may think, ‘if I paint toilet seats then I will earn £10,000.’ But ask yourself, ‘if I didn’t get £10,000 at the end of this would I still want to paint toilet seats?’
If the answer is no then you might want to rethink things. Happiness is here and now. It isn’t dependent on some future goal. If you think it is then you will wake up one day and realise that you haven’t been happy for sometime. That can be a crippling realisation.
5. They Create Unrealistic Expectations
You wouldn’t buy a journal called ‘My Big Disappoinment Journal’ would you? No matter how pretty it was. But If you are going to plan your lovely life then you need to plan your crushing disappointments because they will come. 100%
Failing, underachieving, forgetting, missing are all an unavoidable part of life. You already know that but you don’t want to write it down as part of your plan because it’s unpleasant and inconvenient. Well, if you’re not going to put the bad stuff in then you might as well be writing a fairy story because it’s about as realistic to expect nothing but good.
Life is a bit shit sometimes and there’s nothing you can do about it. The best you can expect is to learn from the bad times and regroup.
I planned to be more organised as a mother. To have everything ready for my children on the correct days of the week. I didn’t plan to be racing to school at 10am, drying my son’s PE kit on the dash board so he could wear it for football at 10.15. Shit happens. Deal with it.
6. They Encourage Procrastination
This final point is a real killer of action. The only way to achieve something is to do it.
When I was taking exams at school I was a great planner. I had colour coded schedules and folders, divided into days, subdivided into subjects, etc. It’s that illusion again: planning something is almost as good as doing it. Not only is that a lie it’s entirely counterproductive if you are taking up valuable time that could be spent actually doing.
If you want to achieve something then just start it now. Get going!
Agility is a new corporate buzzword because it works. As Paul Brown says, we need to ‘act, learn, build.’
Be agile, be free, be spontaneous, be creative, be youthful in your outlook, be you. You can’t plan life so stop trying. Happiness is already here. Get on with it!