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Are you counting your blessings or focusing on what’s missing?

In the previous blog I talked about how the rat race to achieve more and meet our life objectives often prevents us from being present and living our life in the moment.  

This is a very common modern life dilemma that many ambitious and successful people face: how to set exciting goals in all areas of our life, work hard to realize them (because that is what it takes), and while doing that fully enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

How do we slow down enough while we are going so fast?  

How to grow as many roses as we want AND also stop and smell them on a regular basis?

This has definitely been one of my life learning curves. I am a visionary and an ambitious person. I have big dreams aspirations in all areas of my life: professionally, in business, financially, staying healthy and fit, having an amazing marriage with my wife of 30 years, and deep closeness with my 3 kids and extended family. I want to ‘have it all’ and I want to be present and enjoy my journey as I go through it, not just when I get there “someday”.

My wife Na’ama has made a huge difference in keeping our focus and awareness on our accomplishments and how blessed we are, in all areas. The conversation of gratitude has become an integrated part of our family life because Na’ama has been a relentless champion for this. She constantly reminds each of us, especially when we face adversity, how lucky and blessed we are in our life. She always helps us shift our focus from what’s missing, wrong, and not working to what IS working and what we feel grateful for.

Several years ago we started a practice of ending each day with ten minutes of writing down (journaling) the answers to the question: “What are four things I accomplished today? and “What are four things I feel blessed and I am grateful for today?” Even if we had a bad day, or felt that we didn’t accomplish anything we still answered these questions.

What I learned from this process was that I had an abundance of things to claim as accomplishments, and an abundance of things that I feel blessed and grateful for. In fact I had many more than 4 each day. And, the more I focused on accomplishments the easier it became to find them and the more fortunate, empowered and energized I felt. Standing in that space enabled me to accomplish even more.

Our writing practice compelled us to have more conversations on a regular basis about what we are accomplishing and what we feel blessed and grateful for. The ‘counting our blessing’ conversation became a daily affair, and as time passed it infected our kids and close friends as well.

As Fr. D’sousa wrote – the events, obstacles and ups-and-downs of our life should not keep us from living our life to its fullest, now. On the contrary – our day-to-day journey, no matter how good or bad, contains in it an abundance of small, medium and large victories, accomplishments and things to feel blessed about.

Living courageously means highlighting these accomplishments, embracing our fortunes and allowing ourselves to be inspired by our own life every minute and day.

If the ideas and practices that I shared in this blog resonate with you I encourage to try them on and share what you learned from that.

If you feel that you are great at living the moment – please share what you do to live in that space.

Living Courageously Through Journaling

My last series of blog posts focused on living courageously: doing something everyday that scares us, eliminating cynical and jealous thoughts, making time for self-improvement.

Courageous living means identifying your dreams and goals and taking an honest look at the situations and circumstances between you and your dreams. A great place to start your journey to a more courageous life is in a daily journal.

The Benefits of Journaling

Scores of studies have been done on the benefits of daily journaling. By turning into ourselves and disclosing our feelings and thoughts in a safe environment, we are giving ourselves permission to process, reflect on, and take responsibility for our actions and reactions. Daily journaling has been shown to relieve stress and ease psychological strain. It’s also a very effective tool for realizing our subconscious goals and determining what’s really standing in our way to living a courageous life. Journaling is a way to regain control of emotions in a safe environment, which instills a feeling of “powerfulness”, even mastery over our emotions.

I consider myself a very lucky man. I have an extraordinary marriage, a loving family, great friends, I am healthy and in good physical shape, I have built a very successful international consulting business, and overall I am a very passionate, energized, positive and optimistic person. But, like many other successful people my life is often very intense.

The opportunities and challenges associated with providing high quality services to my clients while continuing to generate and grow my business and make the time to keep myself and my family in great shape often keeps me up at night.  And beyond the day-to-day I often think about my goals, how to achieve them and how create the next levels of success.

I have people in my life who serve as sounding boards for bouncing ideas, and clarifying thoughts. However, given everyone’s hectic schedules we are not always able to have these enlightening conversations on a real-time basis. Journaling has been a very powerful and useful way for me to clarify my own thoughts, gain insights into what I need to do about challenges and opportunities that are on my mind, create the next steps in personal and professional areas that are important to me and sometimes simply clearing any clutter that accumulates in my head from time to time.

My wife introduced me to journaling more than 15 years ago and I have been practicing ever since. I don’t do it every day, only in periods in which I feel the need and desire to stay focused, centered and objective. I have also recommended the practice to my clients on occasion, and they’ve always acknowledged that this has made a difference for them too.

How to Get Started

Daily journaling is like any other habit; you acquire it through practice. For some, the blank page may instill a sense of fear. Where do I start? What should I say? The beautiful thing about journaling is that it doesn’t matter where you start or what you say.  This is your own, private space to say whatever comes to mind.

An easy place to start is, “Right now, I feel ________. “ or  “Today, this happened and this is how I feel about it.”  Start small, a few sentences, or give yourself a time limit.

Do not worry about being judged, sounding foolish, or making mistakes. This is your domain. Be courageous! And most importantly, be as honest as you can in that moment. It takes courage to admit to yourself when you’ve been living cynically. But when you journal about your feelings and about your situations, you can identify the patterns of behavior that are keeping you from living a truly courageous life.

Join the Conversation

What experiences do you have with journaling? What’s keeping you from trying it? Or if you are an avid journal keeper, what benefits have you noticed?