“Now that I’ve written in my journals, what good are they?” I’ve asked myself this a couple of times, but when I crack open the storage box and pull one out from years gone past, my question is immediately answered.
It’s the words. It’s the handwriting. It’s the memories. All of these come together and I’m transported back in time. Rereading old journals delivers on the promise of wisdom.
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter” ~ Confucius
Here are 5 more reasons to keep and reread your old journals.
1. Transport you back in time
Forgetting is natural. Unless you’re blessed with exceptional memory (which is not always a blessing), the details of yesterday’s past often go by the wayside. Every minute of every day cements new memories into place like a painter washing his cosmic paint over the wall of our lives. We still have the memories, but they are trapped under layer after layer of memory. Rereading journal entries acts as a toggle switch to wrest old thoughts which have long been forgotten.
2. See what WAS important to you
Our values, ethics, and morals constantly gain new shades, new nuances, changing to the situations with which we are confronted. What we write about in journal entries informs the future reader about what was important to you at the time, and what got only a scant mention might have evolved into the most important thing in our lives. Rereading those old entries conveys how we changed.
3. Reflect on your progress
Journaling can be used as a record of progress for goals. You might have created a food journal as inspiration to lose weight. Rereading your journal and comparing it with your current situation gives you a more well-rounded view of the present. It also serves as a reminder of the initial spark for your actions. Re-reading your original entry about the topic is just the thing you need to remind yourself why you started in the first place.
4. Prepare your memoirs
As you age, an urge can rise to record something for posterity. Journal entries provide the raw data you need to make that record. Journals are usually written from a subjective point of view. They talk about your reactions in the moment. With the benefit of age and time, events can be judged with an objective eye and you can explain why you felt that way at the time. Your memoirs will be a big aid for any future relatives who want to learn more about you.
5. Context for NEW growth
Re-reading your entries puts your memories into your current context. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living, and he was right. Journaling lets you examine your life and understand yourself on a deeper level. You won’t have to rely on an unreliable memory to understand why you are the way you are today. You’ve got a wonderful record to help you put all the pieces together.
You don’t have to read all of your journal entries at once. Just pick a few to read each day. Read them with an eye toward understanding yourself, not as an excuse to beat yourself up or feel embarrassed about how you were back then. See how far you’ve come since those days.