Episode 73: How to Keep Your Sanity in an Insane World

Do you ever wish that you could recall events in your life that were extraordinary? Jimmy shares his approach to capturing, recalling and building on events in life through the power of journaling. His technique for capturing life’s best, and worst, moments helps him stay grounded during times of disruption.

Episode Keys

  • The simplicity in journaling and the powerful benefits it provides.
  • Why journaling is one of the best methods of dealing with controversy and celebrating milestones in your life.
  • Discovering a private place to share you most intimate thoughts about any subject and feel safe.
  • Creating a legacy your children and grandchildren will appreciate that guides them in an understanding of why you made decisions you made in life.

Podcast Transcript

Good morning! Hey, this is Jimmy Williams with Live a Life by Design, your Monday morning moments of motivation to help you build a bigger, better, and bolder you as you take on this crazy disruptive world we live. You know, I look back over the last few months and I just wonder how many of us have learned something? And how many of us have just looked back and life’s a blur? This morning I want to share with you some thoughts on how I create sanity in the midst of an insane world. You gotta admit one thing guys, this world has gone completely crazy and I mean that in a serious tone.

Today I want to share with you one of the tools that I use, and I call it a tool, but it’s really much more than that. This is an opportunity for you to understand how what I do during my day to day world can get a little crazy, but this one tool brings it all right back to a basis, or a foundation of where I can really think, move forward. Take advantage of circumstances going on about me that are out of my control. And then also control those items that I can control and it’s done with a simple tool. 

I’m gonna share that with you today. But before I do, let me say this. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share with you every Monday morning. It has been wonderful, this is our 73rd episode of Live a Life by Design. This podcast has sought out to do nothing more than bring you a smile on a Monday. Some tools of how to attack the world that’s attacking you. How to go one offense during this time of disruption. I hope that we’ve done some of that. If we have, would you do us a big honor. You please go to Live a Life by Design on iTunes and leave us a rating or review. And if you need advice on how to do this simple task, it takes 30 seconds. If you need advice we actually have a video to assist you in how to leave a rating and review on iTunes by simply going to www.livealifeby.design and look at Leave a Review. 

We certainly appreciate it. We got another five star review just this last week and a rating that that review reflected through the words of this person. Such good encouragement for us, we are just fired up to bring you the best each week that we can to help you live a bigger, better, and bolder life.

So today I want to visit with you about this important tool. It is one that I have been doing, using this tool now, goodness, since I was in undergrad school in my 20s. And I will tell you it has made a big, big difference during times of my life that were not as smooth and positive as I would have liked. This tool is one that’s easily done. It’s called journaling. Now I’m not talking about where you get your crayons out and you make coloring journals. You can do that, that’s your journal. You can do what you wish. I use mine more from the perspective of gathering thoughts, ideas, reflecting on life. How to get my mind wrapped around certain challenges. I think on paper, you’re gonna hear me talk about a little bit deeper in just a few moments. But the key ingredient here is a piece of paper. I like to use a nice book. So I buy a nice journal, typically leather bound. I like to have one with good thick paper stock in it. I whip out my Monte Blanc writing instrument and I can just have a few moments each day with myself in thought and gather around me those thoughts now in the quietness of my study or hotel room, or wherever I may find myself. And simply start writing about what is challenging me. 

So I gathered up my top three reasons why everyone should seek out an approach to maintaining balance in their world when the chaos swirls around them. So these are my top three reasons why you should journal to help you find grounding during this world’s disruptive period. So, journaling to me does a lot for my brain. First of all it calms my brain from all the frenetic activity of the day. It allows me to have those quiet, still moments where I can literally do a brain dump on the page of what’s occurred today. And I don’t always do this daily. So for example, sometimes I may have two or three entries on a given day. And then I may go a couple of days and not have any entries. The point I’m making is, it’s not one of those habits that you need to do just to be doing it. It’s not something that you just write about, well, today I did this, this, and this. That’s not the purpose of the journal for me. It may be for someone else. And that’s the beauty of this, is you can do it anyway you wish. 

But I want to give you my approach to this, so that I can help bring you some real solid foundation today. I basically take the journal, and I note two important things on each page that I write. First, I note the date. It’s important for me, for purposes I will talk about in just a few moments on why the date must be on each page. The second thing I note on there is I note the time of day. And then often I will put on the left hand side of that same page, the location on which I’m writing this. So, for example if today I’m in California, I’m actually recording this podcast while visiting our daughter out in California. So the point I do with my journal today is I may write the city she’s in, and state. And then I’ll write today’s date and time. Why that is important is this, as we’re gonna talk deeper in just a moment about reflecting on those entries. But I’ve often noted that when I am around certain people. Or I am in a certain area or certain company I have different emotions. Different feelings. Different thoughts that I put down on paper. 

So let’s talk a little bit about how this is going to work in reality. The top 3 reasons is this, number one. Journaling allows me to think on paper and voice my opinions on any matter that I choose. You know, this is a much better approach to me, then simply verbalize my thoughts on social media for the world to judge. You know, I don’t look for people to agree with me, and what I place in my journal. I don’t look for people to disagree with what I place in my journal. These are my innermost thoughts and feelings and my basically brainstorming of the day. You know, this to me, is the reason for journaling. I like to think on paper. Now, I hear what you’re saying already, hey, Jimmy, I like to use my iPad. Or I like to use my laptop. And I want it available 24/7. Hey, there is nothing wrong with that if you want to journal in that manner. But there’s just something to me that’s powerful about a piece of blank paper and that Monte Blanc pen in your hand. It just oozes out the ink on the page and the thoughts just start rolling and it’s a much more fluent for me than trying to type out my thoughts as I hear the click of the keys. 

But the real point of writing for this, is the way the brain functions during the writing process. Scientists have proven that if you write notes versus type notes, on a laptop for example, that your brain performs differently in the process of writing. Your brain will hold in memory much more content, it will be more vivid and have more opportunity to utilize that content in your thought processes when you write. I do understand and utilize though, technology to help me with my writing. So for example, I take certain areas that I need to give deeper thought in my journal, and I will use Evernote on my iPhone to take a photo of the page and keep in my Evernote and I will tag is journal. And when I do that, it gives me that opportunity to look back and reflect in a different environment than I was when I recorded that entry, and I see it from a whole different perspective. It’s like reading the bible for me. There are passages in the bible that I have read numerous times. But depending on where I’m at in life, the circumstances in which I find myself, or the environment of where I am physically, those words read from the same passage of scripture mean something totally different.

It’s that way with my journal entries. I love to record them fresh that day, some people say well, I journal better in the morning from the previous day’s events. Hey, that’s all well and good. I like to do my journaling before I lie down at night. And the reason for it is so I can get these thoughts out of my mindsets out of my brain and into something else so that I can reflect on nothing but rest. So that I can find myself an opportunity to simply clear my mind of all the day’s events, all the discussion, all the challenges and I can simply rest. You know, it’s a private system as well. When you record in your journal, you’re recording into a private area of life. Unlike anything electronic where someone may, you know, find your password can read whatever you’ve written. This is a private book that no one, even my wife and daughters have not looked at my journals. It’s such a private nature I have made my wishes known to them, and I have volumes of journals from way back in my mid 20s, I’m now in my mid 50s. I started my own library, if you will, of my writings about life. 

And I ask my wife and daughters not to look at my journals until such time as I have passed. To me that’s when they will learn more about what I have not communicated verbally in terms of how I think, how I function, historic events that were to me remarkable and needed recording. I wanted it to be a time of where they could simply sit down and read and reflect on how dad functioned in the world and what made him unique. Now that is presupposing that I am unique, right? But I do believe we’re all unique in a certain way. Journaling to me has helped me write about those areas and times where I felt frustrated in life. Now, I know you do as well. So what’s the typical person do when we get frustrated? We take it out with some verbose profane language perhaps, or we go take a golf ball that we didn’t want to keep anyway and we see a body of water out there about 250 yards and we just knock the soup out of that ball. Or it may be where you take it home and you unleash it on your family which creates even harsher dynamics than what you had in your previous location.

So, I like to release these frustrations on paper. Sometimes, and I am admitting this 100% honest, because I am always honest with our subscribers and listeners. I don’t always have the most pure thoughts about how someone has treated us either in business or personal. Or even in politics. Not to get into politics here too much, but I don’t place my political beliefs and my thoughts about political candidates on Facebook or any social media. I don’t feel that’s the platform that proper context can be given and it’s not positive at all. So I will always use my journal as a means as noting what my frustrations are about a candidate’s position. Why I think their position should be different than it is, and talk myself through that understanding cause the more I understand of them, the better they will understand me and my communication. And I also journal about this important area of life. Brainstorming ideas. 

This is for our family or our businesses. I just love to put stuff down on paper, now those are the pages when I do a brainstorming of an idea for business purposes, how we can bring a new service, how we can provide a new deliverable for our clients. I love to write those in my journal, but then I take that Evernote app on my iPhone, and then I take a picture of it so that I can then retain it much easier to reflect on later in my Evernote system.

There are a multitude of other ways and other reasons to have a writing journal. The act of writing is a means of simply triggering different areas of your brain that releases hormones to help you learn and cope with the current feelings or thoughts that you are experiencing. If I’m not really feeling jovial and I don’t want to be very happy that day because something has happened, and folks I’m gonna be honest this doesn’t happen very often to me. But you will note in my journals where I have written, this is why I’m not very happy about what has occurred. This is why I am not happy how this person reacted or responded or the words this person used in describing an event that involved me for example. I often believe that we could utilize this means of getting our emotions out of our minds before we engage our mouths. You know, the old saying, I hope that your mouth doesn’t write a check that the rest of your body can’t cash. That’s an old saying we had as a kid. I’d like to think that I could put anything in my journal and it is there forever to my eyes only until they are no longer functioning. So, number one, the reason to reach out and get a journal and start writing down your thoughts, your opinions, you know, those things that may not need to be seen by the world is that it allows you to think on paper. It is your instant repository, your place to go if you need to store anything for your eyes only. That is your journal. You’ll find that I have books, and books, and books. Volumes of these journals, and I had to put dates on the binds of them so that I could remember what year and so forth without opening them. So, my kids someday are gonna look at this and go hmmm, wonder what dad was thinking in 1989, March of 89 for example. And they’ll pull out that particular volume and look at it and I hope it brings them some joy and maybe even brings them some concern. So, number one think on paper is a reason to journal.

The second reason I journal is to measure my progress in life. Now you’re gonna laugh. I’m not going to give you my thoughts and beliefs on goals. I’m just gonna tell you for those of you that don’t believe in them I can almost guess within a few thousand dollars how much money you have in the bank. I am that big of a believer in goals. I believe you have to have goals. I believe my life could not function without my goals in place, pulling me along, directing me to the highest marks of my life. Stretching my boundaries of physical and mental and spiritual belief. I need to know how I can grow in each of these areas. So how do I measure my progress in life through my journal? First of all, it’s one thing to live life. It’s another to experience it. And what that means, is that you learn from experiences you encounter and you can reflect on those experiences in your journal. You can then reflect on those in years later to see how much you’ve grown emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, financially. It’s all about the measurement. You know, too many people go, well, I just don’t like to write. Or I don’t like to write things down. I’ve got a friend of mine that keeps an audio journal, and he leaves each journal entry with a sequence of a date so that it is date and time stamped and he can go back and search and listen to them. There is no one way, there is no one way. The key to this is are you getting from the process what you should be receiving, and this case number two reason is to measure progress in life. You gotta have something that says I went from point A to point B was that in alignment, what my goals were for that period of time.

You know, reviewing your journals periodically allows your mind to revisit those entries on the pages and place things now in life in a much better perspective. For example, some of the entries in my journal may appear to be a dark place to the uninformed reader. If you didn’t read around those pages before and after the entry of that moment that may appear dark, you lost the proper context of that day’s entry. There were times in life that were difficult for me. One of those times was a very dark day in 1995, April 20, 1995 I lost the younger, youngest of my three sisters. At the age of 35, you’ve heard me talk her story before on the podcast. She left at home a 12, 8 and 3 year old children. These children along with her husband, my brother in law, he lived another 10 years, and you’ll see some more dark writing probably in my journals in 2005 when we lost their father now. 10 years later. That means that we have someone 18 graduating high school, one that’s graduated college now at 22, and the youngest of the children was only 13 years of age. And now they have lost both of their parents. It was a dark time for me, but it wasn’t a time of lacking hope. 

I had hope, I just had questions of trying to understand how these events could be processed in my mind to find the good. To find the positive. To find the powerful reasoning behind such events. You know, we don’t need to ask ourselves why certain things happen. But we do need to understand the why. That’s my approach to all of my journaling. So at the end of the day you’d read in this period of time, in April of 1995 that I probably had some pretty dark comments. I had a difficult time accepting my sisters death to cancer when in the same hospital, the same cancer treatment center a gentleman of 74 years of age had the same treatment and was literally up walking, pushing an IV stand down the hallway and commented to me directly saying, “I just don’t understand why things work as they do. Your sister age 35, her whole life to live has now ceased to live. I’m in my 70s, I’ve lived a good life, but I’ll continue on”. His words rang into my mind like an echo chamber. As we drove the five hours home from that cancer treatment center I couldn’t get out of my mind his words. How prophetic. 

But these are some things that I had written in my journal. Sometimes we need to just vent. Now if you’re married to an angel as I am, it’s easy to vent to my wife. She’s seen me at my best, she’s experienced me at my worst. She has been There for all parts of my life. Good, bad and otherwise. But I feel better sometimes, because guess what, she’s got to process that negativity of just placing my vent on paper. Sometimes I like to simply just start writing of how I felt overall about the helplessness of certain situations where as an entrepreneur I’m a type 3 enneagram and what that means is I’m an activator. I like to see things get done and I like to be proactive. And you’ll find that I’m the guy that pushes forward. I never take no for an answer and I never quit. That’s my personality. Well, when you fight something as big as cancer, of which you have no background to understand, it is more difficult for me to relate in my mind how I can comprehend the effects on our family. And I hope that you wouldn’t just read those pages in our journals that are not of the times of high points. In other words, if they’re in a low point in life I hope you don’t form your opinion of me, for example, if you read the few pages in my journal that were not very positive.

Now I hear what you’re saying, wait a minute Jimmy, you are a writer, you’re a podcaster, a blogger of all things that are positive in life. I can assure you 99% of the time I am the most positive person you’ll ever see. I just have so much to live for. You have so much to live for. You have got the whole day ahead of you today to make it what you wish it to be. And I wish for you today much more than just bigger, powerful, positive, I want it to be a blessing for you today to have this day to enjoy.

But then again, if you think about it I don’t want you to think I’m a complainer because there’s three days of journal entries in my journal that you may read some day that are not very positive. But then you need to read further because what you’ll then find is a tremendous number of pages that are entries from the most joyful times in my life. And that I am living in a dream world it seems of how I could have such a blessed life and it all comes together by being thoughtful on the page. You know, these times would be those when our daughters were born. Man I was on cloud 9, I helped deliver both of my daughters, granted some days I’d like to take them back and trade them in at the hospital. Just kidding. If you two girls are listening, just joking. And when I’d receive recognition in my career, it’s always been important for me to make a contribution to help others and to get some small recognition. I was always so thankful. But each of these experiences, good or bad, make up a well rounded life for me. You should have the same. I would like to say to you that you most likely have had more positive and good in your life but you did not write them down so you could archive them for later review. 

So I can truly say that I’ve experienced in my life far more positive moments than I have negative ones. So if number one in journaling is to think on paper and get items written down. Number two would be measuring your progress in life through reflection within those pages at points during the year. I personally like to review my entries every quarter. I go through a quarterly review process through my goals, I look at my goals every week, but then I like to do a review on a quarterly basis to see what progress I’m making. You know, we definitely don’t want to wait until the 11th month of the year and go, oh my goodness I’ve got a lot of work to do in 30 days. Cause it will not happen, right. So you know, inch by inch it’s a cinch. Right? So I do everything on that quarterly basis. We literally try to live 90 day years in our company. That means in 90 days we have to be on target, reach our goals and so forth or if not the year is literally over for those goals. And so we work on 90 day goals. I do the same in my journaling. So the second reason, like I said, measure your progress in life. 

Now here’s the really important third reason. Why I think it’s very, very important for you to start a journal today, I’ve been to far too many memorials before Covid-19 and I’ve been to just a few since that time. But one of the things that I always remarked were that the individuals given the eulogy or sharing about the life of the deceased had wonderful stories. Had moments in life that these people that are now passed our life and going on to their next life set part in their writings and said these were important times in my life. This is what I wanted to make certain no one forgot. So the third reason to journal is to leave a legacy for your children and grandchildren to learn more about you. You know, this is one, as I said the most important areas of journaling for me. I’ve literally asked my children and my wife not to look at my journals until I have left this earth. It is critical that we preserve history of our family and my journals, I believe are the place for learning about my daily life and how I responded to certain circumstances in life. You know, we can often sit down and write just a few words a day that would capture the high points of your life that day that could be preserved for the future. There are stories that I have captured in my journals over the years that when my kids read them are gonna say I don’t remember it being like that, but perhaps it was. 

So maybe I used a different adjective to describe the moment, maybe I was just on cloud 9 as I am most of the time in life and I captured those thoughts those moments on a different plane of belief than my daughters. I will tell you I have never seen anyone regret writing down the memories of life and sharing them with their family. I will mention to you this, if you would, take a moment today, think just in the last few days what high points of life you would like to retain and preserve for the future of your family? If our forefathers and this country, of the United States of America, had not been prolific journalers , many dates of our history or at least the understanding of why they made decisions that they made at critical times in the formation of our country would have been lost. This would have been a tragedy to not just the United States but all of us as citizens of this great country to understand how our country was founded and why the decisions were made by those men and women that created this country we now enjoy so much. 

To me this legacy leaving process is something that all of us should be focused on and we should work toward, as we go through the ages. So if number one is basically thinking on paper, number two reflecting and measuring on the various entries of your journal to see how you can measure life, and ultimately in leaving a legacy is the third reason for having  a written journal these three reasons alone should be empowering to you, and I hope inspiring you to leave something. Now I know what you’re thinking, Jimmy I don’t have time to write a full page. I’ve got news for you, some of my journal pages may only have on that particular date and times entry three to four sentences. If I didn’t have enough time to write it down I just wanted to capture the bulk of what happened that day and some verbiage that I could reflect on later. I may come and add a little bit more color to it at a different time, but that is my thought captured for the day and how I want that day to be remembered. If you would look at my times of my professional life and look at my personal life, you’ll see that entries have different approaches of being recorded. So for example, in my professional life I may have only jotted down a few things such as ‘got recognized with this award today’ or ‘hey we met our goals at the company today and the team had a big party for us to celebrate’. Whatever it takes. 

But the real key to this is, start the process. Every journey of a million miles has to start with that one bold step. You have to quit listening to all the neigh-sayers around you. You have to quit listening to all the critics out there that’s never gonna have anything written down but are gonna allow their families to just wander in darkness as to their thoughts and meanings of when their dad or grandfather was alive. Instead what I want you to focus on is recording what’s in the best interest for your family, for your children, for you to understand later in life I truly lived a good life. 

As I said earlier, living life is one thing but experiencing it, that is the key to success in life. Thank you for joining me today on this episode. I hope that you take the challenge that I have given you and this week, seek out, I don’t care if it’s a small spiral notebook to get started, it does not have to be anything exotic. I would love to have everyone write something on our Live a Life by Design Facebook page that says here’s one thing in life I will start doing. I will start journaling something starting today. Don’t put off tomorrow what the blessings of life today could capture, and our minds will soon forget. Because tomorrow’s a new day. A new slate will be on our mind and perhaps the most vivid and detailed of items you should have captured today are now gone. 

It’s been a pleasure joining you today. I hope you have a wonderful week and go out today. Find someone in your life, write about them in your journal and live your life by design. 

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