At the beginning of the year, I blogged about how I was starting a new habit for a new year. Gratitude journaling every morning was something I started January 1st, and I kept up with it for about a month! It became a habit I started to enjoy. Well, the gratitude part I enjoyed. I also journaled my intentions for my future daily, and after a month, I came to a conclusion that I thought was important to share.
What I did and how it impacted me
Every morning for a month, I opened my journal and wrote down five things I was grateful for. Usually they were things that I was excited to do or accomplish. Sometimes as simple as a warm cup of coffee and other times, gratitude for an upcoming event. Some of my gratitude lists included: coffee, Mike coming home after weeks of being away, three kids that mean everything to me, a trip to the store by myself, hope for better days ahead, and having goals to achieve. A couple times I forgot and would catch up the next day. It felt good to be grateful, and I liked it. I want to keep these small pleasures on the forefront of my mind in the future, because they remind me why I love my life.
The part that started to irk me? Writing my intentions for the future every day.
I am a very goal oriented person, and I love dreaming about my future. My future income, goals, career aspirations, the type of person I hope to be, etc. And writing out a list of my future intentions when the person I am today is leaps and bounds away from the person I want to be in ten years? It doesn’t feel very good. It makes me feel anxious, unsettled, and unworthy. For me, it did not foster a feeling of self-love, but it started making me feel like self-loathing. Ironically, one of the points on my list was “Be a peaceful person.” And writing that down every day when I was feeling so crappy about my progression with my goals made me feeling anything but at peace.
What I’m doing instead
The part that made me realize I really needed to stop intention journaling was something my therapist said. The future isn’t promised. The present moment is the only moment we are guaranteed. Practicing mindfulness, being grateful and finding joy in the little moments I’m living in right now will bring me far more joy and peace than rubbing my face in a list of ten things I hope to accomplish for myself in the next ten years. It’s ok to dream, but living for the future or even in the future as a way of gleaning more happiness for my life is a recipe for anxiety.
While it might work for some people, for someone like me who struggles with depression and anxiety, intention journaling felt like chasing a dangling carrot and was a recipe for feeling disenchanted with my current life. “If only I reach that goal, then I’ll be happy.” “If only I lose ten pounds, then I’ll be happy.” “If only I have $10,000 in savings, then I’ll be happy.” News flash: if you’re looking for happiness in your personal achievements, it’s never going to stick. Accomplishing more goals should not be synonymous with loving yourself.
Instead of intention journaling, I started writing down a list of things I accomplished instead. For me, this is a more mindful way of striving for future goals. My therapist told me striving for one big goal at a time is the healthiest way of striving for a better life. And even then, breaking that goal down into bite sized chunks is the best way. Instead of saying “I’m going to run a 5k” and then setting out to run exactly that far this week, if might help to simply say you’re going to put your tennis shoes on tomorrow.
And writing down a list of daily accomplishments? I started doing that but shortly after realized it wasn’t really necessary for me because I started feeling joy even when I wasn’t doing anything. Happiness used to be getting a bunch of stuff done before bed. Now I like to watch something on Netflix or read a book. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Practicing mindfulness means finding pleasure in the little things in life, because each small thing that brings us joy contributes to contentment.
So for me, the verdict is in…sorry Rachel Hollis. I stuck my intention journal in the burn bin.
If you’re reading this I’d love to know if you intention journal, or even journal at all! Tell me in the comments how you manage your goals and dreams. I’d love to hear!