So, my wife recently told me I am husband version 4.0 her. She feels like she has a new husband. Wow!
I asked her who were the other three? This is what she said.
Version 1.0 of me was after we met and before we had kids. Version 2.0 was after we had our first son, (during my time at a major international corporation) and up until I started my own company. Version 3.0 lasted from the the birth of our second son (which was almost exactly at the same time that I started a new company—don’t do that) and until I sold that company and created feelgoodrituals.com. After that, version 4.0 started to emerge. That’s also the period when I made serious changes in my life and my thinking, as well as my priorities.
A Friend You Can Always Turn to
If there’s something that really helped me make the changes I made in my life (and there were plenty after I turned 40), it was journaling. Without exaggeration, journaling helped me become a better husband, father, and friend.
My journal is my silent, trusted friend I can always turn to.
The Benefits of Journaling
- You reflect on your life. Life moves quickly. Journaling offers you a great opportunity to stop, reflect on your life, and get a more balanced view of what’s going on. Sometimes we are too critical of our life. Sometimes we are too optimistic and wear rosy glasses. Journaling provides a much-needed balanced view of what’s going on.
- It helps you understand. Writing about what’s going on in your mind helps you develop a much better understanding of yourself first, then others— including your spouse. It helps you get to know yourself and your partner much better. But it also helps you see things in a different light. Journaling gives you a better perspective as to what happened. If you follow my advice and keep your journal (just) once per week, you’ll probably be writing it with some days of distance. This makes it much easier to identify what went wrong (or right!), and what was your part. Consequently, you become a better person to be with.
- It reduces the chance of repeating costly mistakes. I have a habit of asking myself the same set of questions in my journal each week. One of them is “What will I do the same or differently next time?” It’s not a silver bullet for not screwing anything up again, but it provides enough clarify so I become consciously aware of things I should not be repeating much. It helps.
- It’s an emotional outlet. Journaling is a wonderful tool to instantly release tension, unload your thoughts, and make you feel better—especially when the not-so-good stuff happens. It helps you vent, which is (let’s be honest) something we all need every now and then. That’s because you have shared your thoughts with someone, even if that someone is just a note in your journal.
- It prevents you from reacting prematurely. Many times, things that look bad at first reveal themselves in a different light after a while. Maybe, after all, your spouse didn’t want to hurt you (most probably they really didn’t). When something annoys me quite a lot, especially if it’s not urgent, as it happens many times, I make a note in a special folder within my journal. I named it “To discuss” and it enables me to write the issue down, and then forget about the whole thing. I can forget about it because I know it’s there. It has an almost instant soothing effect. What’s more, after a week, some things that I considered worth writing down (and later discussing with my wife) turned up in a different light. They are not relevant anymore.
- It helps turn dreams into goals and goals into actions. Done the right way, journaling can make you so much more effective in anything you want to achieve than you have ever imagined. That’s because when you start writing down your dreams you’re more likely to establish a timeline of how to accomplish them. As soon as you establish a timeline and the steps you’re going to start taking, you’ve turned a dream into a goal. The right template and prompt questions (see below) will lead your thoughts—and you’re much more likely to reach those dreams once you begin writing down action steps of what you’re going to do.
- It reduces mental clutter. This is a big one. Journaling can help you reduce mental clutter, stress, and anxiety. Instead of feeling like you need to keep track of everything in your head, simply knowing that you’ll be journaling later can free up your mental energy to address other tasks.
- It encourages gratitude. By keeping track of everything that you are grateful for, you become happier and more optimistic as you start enjoying the little things. Making this a regular habit can help you become more optimistic by reminding you to enjoy the little things in life each day.
- It helps you follow your North Star. Writing about your activities and what you were busy with during the past week really gives you insight into where your time goes. If you say family is important but you notice you’re working much more than participating in family activities, it can be an eye-opening experience. A journal can keep you honest and can help you make changes to your life that are more in line with your vision of your life and your value system.
- It provides you with mental candy. This is something I just wasn’t used to doing. That is, I forgot to celebrate my successes. As soon as I reached my goal (and often well before that) I was already on the lookout for the next one, a higher one. The truth is, we are not machines. We achieve goals faster and with greater energy if we give ourselves a little pat on the back, a little mental candy. After all, who else is more qualified to do it than yourself? Journaling is a great way to celebrate your accomplishments, and not just work-related ones. The tiny little steps that don’t matter to the world, but matter to YOU. Did you calmly resolve a major disagreement? Have you noticed a growing anger at the right time, stopping things from going downwards? Well, good for you! This is a true achievement, and I’m not saying that lightly! Celebrate this small victory. Write it down in a journal and reflect on it each time you do it. Why? Because your subconscious will remember it, and you’ll have an easier time repeating the positive behavior in the future.
How Can Journaling Improve Your Relationship?
If you are looking for a change in your relationship and you don’t know where to start, start journaling. Start writing down what went great and what went wrong. Write down the reaction from your spouse. Think about your own responses and the reasons for them. This is invaluable because there’s no one to judge you. You can be honest with yourself. You can vent, but you can also look for solutions. You can decide what you will do tomorrow, or the next time.
You’ll evolve into a better version of yourself, just like I managed to upgrade myself to version 4.0, according to my wife.
Furthermore, your journal will be a nice memory of your path toward the intimate marriage and relationship you desire and deserve. One day you’ll be able to revisit the ups and downs and say, “Hey, we did it! We turned it around. Life is good.”
That’s what I did, at least.