I first came across this highly amusing phenomenon when I started out in my career as a Holistic Wellness Practitioner. I used to coach national athletes and C-Suite executives in their health and performance journey. Every consultation always began with an understanding of their ‘typical day’ – what they ate, how they moved, their stress levels and specific activity. I would get them started on the tedious task of writing down a ‘3-Day Tracker’, with a lot of groaning and complaining at their ends! They had to record everything they ate and did for 3 continuous days (using a very simple, quick bullet format).
They hated this! They would offer to expeditiously recite their ‘typical day’ for me at the very first meeting itself, with absolutely no need for real-time tracking. “But I do pretty much the same thing every day! Very few exceptions! I swear!” or “I don’t have the time for this! I have meetings, unending work, family! Please just TELL ME what to do to lose weight and let’s be done with it! I shall follow your word like it’s the Bible!” and “Come on, yaar! Mein jhoot nahi bolti! Trust me, no!” Some pretty funny moments we’ve had there… And when I insisted that we do our 3-day tracking anyway, they would reluctantly give in. Just to keep their hearts, I would retain their ‘typical day’ description, and then compare with their 3-Day Real-Time Tracker.
99% of the time, when we evaluated after 3 days of real-time tracking, they would be aghast. With big, round eyes, they would ask me in shocked voices, “What is this dark magic? This is not what I thought I did…” Sometimes, they would even insist that these were an abnormal 3-days. Life was usually different, wasn’t it (all while frantically clutching their hair and wringing their wrists). To say the least, they were always dismayed. WHAT THEY THOUGHT THEY DID, AND WHAT THEY WERE ACTUALLY DOING – WERE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. The 3-Day Tracker gave them irrefutable proof in black-and-white. ‘PERCEPTION’ and ‘REALITY’ are two very different things. The process of writing down your daily activity, though requiring some effort, is a very powerful tool. We will instantly see the gap between what we ‘know’ and what we ‘do’ – the gap between who you are and who you ‘want’ to be. You’ll be able to see what you didn’t want to see and listen to what you didn’t want to hear – in other words, we face our denials and escapism.
And you’ll finally get all your answers:
“I eat so consciously. But why am I not losing weight? It’s the curse of the Indian working woman!”
“I measure how many grams of broccoli and chicken I need to eat. I workout 2 hours a days. Still my sports performance lags.”
“I have a carefully structured schedule, meal plan, workout plan, goal system – everything! But why am I so fatigued and brain-dead all the time at work?!”
“Whatever I do, this thyroid problem doesn’t leave me…”
“I have everything in life, yet I’m depressed.” And the best of all,
“I don’t know what to do. Please tell me what to do.”
Look at your actual daily life in writing, and you’ll see in an instant what’s wrong and what you need to change.
Journaling unlocks the door to self-awareness. It shows you what you need to unhook from and what you need more of. Food. Time. Sleep. Work. Play. Community. Family. Spirituality. Finances. Creativity. Compassion. What’s being over-done. What’s being underplayed. Everything is revealed – as clear as daylight.
The difference between the Healthy-Happy-Successful people and those struggling – is in self-awareness and corrective-action. What modern society lacks the most is REFLECTION. Reflection precedes right action. Taking time to reflect everyday, to come out of our self-created ‘stories’ about our lives, and instead meditate on the reality of our thoughts, words and deeds – has the power to completely TRANSFORM us in every aspect.
Questions are portals. They open our thinking to whole new worlds. After taking a look at what we have done each day, here are 4 questions that can heal and liberate us: 1) What am I proud of today? (This one question can strongly draw us out of negative self-worth issues and help us believe in ourselves) 2) What could I have done better today? 3) What are my top 3 priorities for tomorrow? 4) What am I grateful for?
Pose every question with child-like curiosity. Keep ego 100% out of this conversation. Be ruthlessly honest, yet compassionate. Don’t try to outsmart yourself. And above all, listen deeply for answers within. You’ll be astounded at the revelations and wisdom you contain, which will pour forth through your journaling.
Writing down your every-day doings and learnings will help you uncover myriads of mysteries that affect your health and happiness. It invites fresh perspectives and surprising ways of looking at the familiar. The devil is always lurking just below your consciousness, hovering in your ignorance and refusal to see the obvious. This devil holds the strings against your growth and achievement. Expose the devil, and the light will blind him.
Even science says there are 4 steps to lasting change and habit formation:
Stage 1: Unconscious incompetence (Ignorance)
Stage 2: Conscious incompetence (Awareness)
Stage 3: Conscious competence (Learning)
Stage 4: Unconscious competence (Mastery)
Ignorance about ourselves is the No.1 barrier to our well-being. As you grow wiser, you’ll agree that we never stop learning about ourselves. It is a daily practice. Self-awareness is the foundation of peace, joy and success. Take time everyday, even just 5 minutes, to reflect on paper.
I promise you – you will surprise yourself!