Develop awareness with the perfect friend

This is the 2nd post in my "Mental Strength week" series. Click here to start from the beginning.

When was the last time that you had a lot on your mind and just needed to be heard?

And you found someone was willing to listen to you. Just listen. No interjections, no advice. Just listen. And you could simply talk and talk. And talk.

And there came a point whilst you were talking where you weren’t really sure what you were talking about anymore. You were still spewing words but you found yourself thinking “hold on, I’m not sure if this is actually true”.

And then somehow you ran out of steam and there weren’t any more words. No more feelings to pour out. You’re empty. You’re free.

This doesn’t happen very often does it?

Because there aren’t many people who just listen. They’re waiting for their opportunity to talk. Often people want to give advice. Or maybe they want to add fuel to the fire and you get each other amped up. In a bad way.

But what if you found the perfect friend? Someone who...

  • Could just listen

  • Could reflect your thoughts and feelings back to you

  • Doesn’t expect you to fit their idea of you

  • Enables you to just be you

  • Is available whenever you need them

Well, you are in luck. Meet your perfect friend...

 
The perfect friend / a journal

The perfect friend / a journal

 

The trusted journal - simply a pen and some paper.

Are you disappointed? Underwhelmed? Is it too simple? Did you expect an advanced AI-driven personal assistant with built-in therapist to speak to and dispense sympathy?

To see the power in this simplicity, it's worth noting some hard truths, which you might find triggersome:

  • You don’t understand yourself because you are not aware of your thoughts. Whilst I shouldn’t be absolutist, it is highly unlikely that you are aware of your thoughts 100% of the time and understand everything going on in your mind.

  • You cannot improve something that you don’t understand. The “founder of modern management” Peter Drucker said “if you can't measure it, you can't improve it”. Whilst it is tricky to truly measure thoughts, you can definitely form an opinion on the quality and consistency of them.

  • To improve your mental strength, you must increase your understanding of your mind. You must increase your self-awareness. Tolerating blindness will not serve you.

Now, what is the best way to increase your self-awareness? A mirror with which to see yourself. And what is the perfect mirror of your mind? The journal - simply a pen and some paper. This is your perfect friend. Unfacilitated, untethered, uncut.

Maybe the idea of journalling scares you. Maybe it feels to undefined or intangible. Allow me to offer you 2 ways to use a journal:

  1. Morning Pages: Upon waking up, pull out your notepad and write longhand for three whole pages. That’s it. Not sure what to write? Whatever you’re thinking about. Whatever that voice in your head is saying. Quite literally anything and everything going on in your mind.

  2. Listen to Monkey: Our minds have a tendency to behave like an unchecked monkey and our usual response is to chastise it, thereby triggering an internal riot rather than the peace we crave. The solution? Simply ask it “what is on your mind?” and write whatever your monkey-mind comes up with. “Ok cool, what else?” Keep writing. “Ahh I see, what else?” Keep writing. “Ok I get it, what else is going on?” Keep going. You get the idea? Keep going, until monkey-mind has nothing more to say. The destination is nothingness, and it is blissful. This form of journalling can be more time-consuming, so I would recommend doing it after work or before bed.

If you develop a practice of journalling in either of these ways, you will find that you experience…

  • A more tranquil mind - There will be fewer thoughts spinning around in your head because they have been extracted. They have found a form of expression, so that pent-up energy has been spent.

  • Greater clarity of thought - It will be easier to focus on the present and 'new' thoughts entering your mind. With less noise in your mind you can more easily choose where you want to focus your attention, whatever that might be... preparing for an important meeting; kicking off a creative side-project you’ve been thinking about for months; being present when you’re with your loved ones. Take your pick.

  • Insight into the patterns in your thinking - You will notice (i) which topics tend to pre-occupy your mind, (ii) how you feel about these topics and (iii) what you are assuming to be true. These can become boring as the journalling starts to feel repetitive. This is when you should keep going because your mind is getting tired of holding on to that story. Allow it to cleanse itself completely.

  • Insight into the patterns in your behaviour - You will become more aware of how you are behaving. Which actions are you taking more frequently or less often? Do you take certain actions when something is going on in your life or you’re feeling a particular way?

  • Insight into why you behave the way you do - Similarly, you will notice what is causing you to behave as you are. And as your unwanted thoughts start to ease and shift, you will notice your behaviour will shift accordingly.

So now what?

Don’t just take my word for it, give journalling a try. I invite you to…

  1. Commit to trialling this practice for 7 days, then decide if you want to keep going. If you do this experiment, I would love to hear about your experiences - email me at hi@sukhkalsi.com

  2. Read the next post in this series.

You have nothing to lose and potentially lots to gain.

NOTE: This post has focused on using undirected journalling pointed at generating awareness, since greater awareness is an important foundation for building mental strength. On the other hand, ‘directed' journalling can move our attention to desired topics and trigger shifts in your state and/or actions. Examples include a gratitude journal and “brag book” - if you would like to know more about these, email me at hi@sukhkalsi.com

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About the author: Sukh Kalsi helps people to replace chronic stress, anxiety and depression with peak states of being. You can find his online courses at https://www.WeFlowAcademy.com and find out how to work with him at https://SukhKalsi.com

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This article was originally published on LinkedIn

Sukh Kalsi