Tag Archives: Ego

Redefining Success as a Parent: Raising a Child is Not a Competitive Sport

The concept of success remains a broad, complex, and very subjective one–all the more so when it comes to assessing one’s parenting skills.  For example, I can define a successful parent as something you will consider completely unimportant.

But even if we don’t agree with a certain definition of success, some of them still generate in us behaviours indicating that we just might, after all, give it more weight that we’d like to admit.  When it comes to parenting, one that I am coming to understand is quite insidious is that of comparison.  Most people say that we shouldn’t compare children to each other, as each is unique and develops according to his or her own timeline.  And yet, most people will compare children to one another, and will act deferential to parents whose children they deem “more advanced”.

It feels like this confusion occurs more when things like ego and pride are involved.  It becomes even easier to become confused when we don’t really think profoundly about what we believe successful parenting is and don’t take the time to go though the mental exercise of figuring it out.  I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to do this; it is painful and exhausting to analyse our patterns of thought and behaviour, all the more so when one is exerting so much energy on raising one’s children.

Yet again, I do not have a straightforward answer.  I only have the current state of my thoughts to share with you, based on tons of conversations with individuals who have had children for years, thoughts that have not yet matured within my own personal experience as a parent.  For now, I think that, when it comes to successful parenting, there are two types: the ‘relative’ successes in our parenting  and the ‘overall’ success in our parenting.

To me, ‘relative’ success is when you are successful within a narrow niche.  You are, indeed, successful when you accomplish something for your child—but you are only successful in the niche of what you have accomplished.  When impressive enough, relative success seems to be often mistaken for ‘overall’ success.

‘Overall’ success has to do with fulfilling the purpose of our parenting.  I believe this purpose to be giving opportunities to our children to build on their inherent capacities to become spiritually empowered adults able to pursue their own personal spiritual and material development while contributing decisively to the spiritual and material progress of their community.

Being successful therefore means that our children will become the adults that they are meant to be–and not the adults we want them to be.  It can mean that we as parents can have all the relative success in the world and yet fail to achieve overall success.  We can also do nothing and achieve overall success because of factors external to us.

I wish I could say that having made this distinction helps me not fall into the trap of mistaking relative success for overall success.  Ha.  Quite the contrary!  It’s so easy to forget this distinction when living in a social environment that celebrates relative success to such an excess.

There are three relative successes in parenting that I feel oftentimes get confused for overall success.  The first is achieving milestones early; the second is teaching children to do what we want them to do; the third is encouraging or allowing behaviour limited to our understanding of gender (think of “boys will be boys” or “good girl” situations).

It feels like the number one factor that creates this confusion is the ego.  We want to prove to ourselves and to others that we are good parents, not satisfied with what our child naturally achieves but always wanting more.  And I feel that this contributes to mixing up education with teaching.

The big problem is that the ego is never happy.  It always wants more.  And if you feed it, it wants more and more, until your entire focus becomes feeding that insatiable little beast.  This makes us pressure our children beyond their capacity, pushing them into apathy.  However, if you don’t feed it, you might feel the discomfort of its hunger; but this hunger abates and the overall sense of well-being you will feel will make it well worth it. Managing one’s ego seems then to be very important in becoming truly successful parents, one in which we are educating our children in such a way that their inherent capacities can shine through rather than teaching them things that will make us feel better about ourselves.

Dealing with Parent Guilt: Some of the Best Advice I Got

Speaking of guilt: I’m a very avid advice seeker.  I mean, why not prevent things from happening by getting the advice to do just that, rather than fall into the same trap as others have?  And so, right after we got married, my husband and I started reaching out to our generous and loving friends who had children to ask them about their learnings and insights.  To each, we always asked: what is the one piece of advice you wish you could have given yourself?

My husband and I are also huge nerds; we have been following a couple of the major parenting blogs for quite some time now.  And the case of both our friends and of parent bloggers, one theme seems to rule them all: that of Parent Guilt.

I think any parent, however new, deals with this feeling pretty early on in their journey.  It seems inevitable, and it seems at times that Parent Guilt can even break a marriage long after the last child has long flown the nest.  It seemed to my husband and I that it was something that we had to deal with—and the sooner, the better.

We were lucky enough to get this brilliant piece of advice pretty early on during our own journey as parents, and our friend is kind enough to let me share it with readers.

Parent guilt has to be fought from the bottom up from the very beginning, which means, even before you’re pregnant, on a firm foundation of striving for excellence.

In other words:

  • Make sure that you are doing your best as soon as you decide you want children, and keep that up as much as you can. Compare yourself to only yourself; make sure you are doing a little bit better each day.  What better gift to give your child than that of your best self?
  • Don’t feel guilty about anything.   All.  Even the smallest thing can fester and become a big, gaping, emotional wound.

It sounds great, but in a world that seems to thrive on guilt, what does this process look like in a parents’ day-to-day life?

“Data,” our friend said without hesitation.  “Evidence-based guilt fighting.  You feel that you are a bad parent because of this one thing you did wrong?  Make a list of all the things you did right on the same day.  See which list is longer.  My bet is, the latter will be much, much, much longer.”

This is great advice not just for parents, but for anyone who deals with guilt.  Whatever you do, you will feel guilty if that’s the pattern of thought you choose to engage in.  So don’t let guilt in, even–or perhaps especially–with the small stuff.  It’s just not worth it.  Just think about it — do you remember the times your own mom zoned out in front of the TV, or all the times she was there playing right beside you?  My bet is you remember the latter more than the former.

Dwelling: Reflecting Without Movement

Breaking news: everyone makes mistakes.  What a great thing, since mistakes are a great way to learn and to advance at all levels of our lives, be it materially, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.  The tools we need to make the most of our mistakes include the art of reflection, i.e. to analyse deeply what we did, what happened, and what we can do differently when faced with a similar situation again.  Mistakes, then, as way to inspire change in our behaviour, can become a powerful contributor to the process of individual transformation.

But what if we get caught in the reflection phase?

I think that’s what dwelling is: reflection without the subsequent, essential movement of acting on what we have learned.  The challenge is that when we dwell, the reflection becomes dark, dreary, and depressing.  We focus too much on the actual mistake and we forget about its positive aspects.  And it’s something that a lot of people around me do.

How can we not get caught dwelling and instead reflect?

Regarding Goals

One big stumbling block we ourselves place on our road to change is to make massive, sweeping goals that are impossible to achieve.  For example, we shouldn’t decide to “become patient.”  After all, there is no such thing as someone who is perfectly, 100% patient—everyone has a breaking point.  So the goal to become patient is inherently impossible.

However, breaking down that goal into smaller, achievable ones makes them achievable.  In this case, one trick seems to be to train yourself to reach your breaking point later and later.  So the reachable equivalent goal becomes “I lost my patience after ten minutes.  Next time, I will try to last fifteen minutes at least before snapping.”

Now that you have a measurable goal, you can actually achieve it.  And because it’s just tough enough to make you uncomfortable but not that difficult, soon you will find that remaining patient for 15 minutes is as easy as it was to stay patient for 10 minutes, so you can then see the progress you made and set a new goal of 20 minutes.

Letting Go Of Guilt

Guilt seems to be the coffee of this generation’s emotions.  We seem to love wallowing in it, despite the fact that it makes us suffer so much.  But see, it’s vital to let go of it.  Once you have made a mistake, reflected on it, and set a goal, the guilt needs to go.  I mean come on—the mistake has been made.  What’s done is done.

One way of letting go of guilt is to find something else to think about when the guilt moves in.  One of my friends thinks about the latest piano piece he is learning to play; another thinks about recipes and dinner parties, which he loves to throws.  I think about the next blog post I am going to write.

Mantras are an easier, pre-established way of distracting one’s thoughts of guilt.  Purchasing a print copy of one’s mantra can also serve as a powerful and beautiful remind of what we are trying to achieve.

Tracking Progress

The abovementioned quantitative progress should be tracked, as the numbers can serve as a healthy reminder, on our darker days, that there is hope for us in the future if we keep trying.  But the numbers are a reflection of much deeper work that we are doing in our minds and hearts.  To keep track of those changes, journaling remains the best tool available to us.  Going back and reading my old journals has made me realise how much I have changed over the course of a handful of years, and helps strengthen my determination, even on the toughest of days, to continue forward rather than giving up.

Leggo’ Of Your Ego: The Difference between Perfectionism and Excellence

Throughout most of my life (or at least, as far as I can remember), I have been surrounded by people who are never content with what they have achieved; they always want to do a little more, and do it a little better.

I have noticed two broad sub-categories amongst such people: those who take this opportunity to become better as a joyful path they embark on with much gusto, and those who are so hard on themselves that they become bitter, angry, or try to achieve their goals at any cost.

It seems like these two broad sub-categories mark the two ends of a continuum of behaviour in individuals who try to be the best they can: those who make it about themselves, and those who make it about the journey.

In other words, those who do it to satisfy their ego, and those who do it for the sake of becoming a better person.

Those who work on becoming better for the sake of their ego seem to be perfectionists.  They can accept nothing but perfection.  And because perfection is unachievable, they are never happy, and seem to be at increased risk of negative mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health outcomes.

Those who work on becoming better for the sake of becoming a better person seem to be lovers of excellence.  They accept nothing but a whole-hearted effort.  And because it is possible to give oneself 100%, they are deeply happy despite a state of constant effort.  And although they are extremely busy and always in touch with what their approach is lacking, they seem to be at increased rick of positive mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health outcomes.

When one desires excellence for its own sake, one is inspired to try and try again.  When one desires perfection as a way to prove oneself, the path becomes a burden.

Being a perfectionist is having both high standards and an ego, which leads to a lot of frustration. But being excellent means having high standards and being humble, which leads to you constantly trying without guilt tripping.

It might seem like I am belaboring the point, but I feel it is crucial to know which of these two types of individuals we are, and to seek advice and guidance from those whose approach is similar to ours, as each approach begets a specific set of advice.  I have a friend who draws much joy from the process of becoming a better person.  She doesn’t mind “falling” because of a big mistake; rather, she feels grateful for the opportunity to get up, dust herself off, and try again.  She is friends with someone who advises her constantly to “take it easy,” a piece of advice she has told me really irritates her and causes as lot of tension in their relationship.  But once we thought about the reasons why her friend gives her this advice and the reasons why it isn’t compatible with her view of life, she was able to focus on the love with which the advice is given.  Needless to say, the friendship is doing a lot better.

On a larger scale, the concept of being happy with a constant state of striving for excellence has major implications with the way we learn, be it in formal or informal settings.  While excellence implies striving to become constantly better at something, perfectionism implies constantly trying to be beyond reproach.  It’s easy to see, then, how the latter can cause distressing environments of learning.  When it comes to personal development and community building, then, striving for excellence is, to me, the obvious path that must be taken in order to advance in harmony.

How to Make the Time to Nurture Deep Friendships while Having the Time to get to Know All Community Members: Some Thoughts

Just a couple of weeks ago, Bahá’í communities around the world elected their national administrative bodies in a unique electoral process.  One of its aspects is, as I personally understand it, that each elector has to make the effort to get to know all the members of one’s community.

I also understand that to build strong communities, we have to take the time to develop strong bonds of friendship, the kind within which we can have frank and honest consultations about our personal reality, the reality of our community, and what we can do to help both ourselves and our community improve.

This is a situation ripe for a dichotomy!  Should you take the time to get to know everyone in your community of a couple hundred individuals?  Or should you take the time to deepen your friendships with those you serve the most closely with?

After all, community-building is dependent on two things: our efforts to better our own selves, and our efforts to better the community.  This is our two-fold moral purpose.  On the one hand, spending a lot of time with the same few people does help us gain unique insight into who we are, which helps us in our pursuit of personal moral excellence.  On the other hand, we can’t build a vibrant community if we do not engage every person that composes it!

The first hint of an answer came to me as I realised that to deepen a friendship doesn’t take as much time as one would think; rather, it takes quality.  One hour-long quality conversation can go a long way, longer than a couple of hours of idle hanging out.

This leads to another glimmering of an answer: we can get to know a lot about our fellow community-members just by participating in community activities.  While we have to be careful not to make assumptions or judgments, we can tell if someone has a consistently listening ear or not within a few hours or quality interactions with them.  The trick here, then, is not just the quality of the interactions, but the efforts that we make to be outward oriented—that is to say, the effort we make to be aware of others during community activities rather than lost in our own thoughts (or checking our phones…)

Another path that seems worthy of pursuit is to take a step back and think about our friendships: why we are engaged in them?  What effects do these friendships have on each person involved?  What effects do these friendships have on others?  Do these friendships bring joy to those inside the relationship as well as those outside it?

In other words: do these friendships help us fulfill our two-fold moral purpose?

It seems to me that to fulfill this purpose, we have to be happy and joyful beings living in happy and joyful communities.  This helps us individually go through the arduous steps of figuring out how we can contribute to the betterment of our communities, as well as helps us as a community figure out what structures and systems are needed to create vibrant communities.

In light of all this, I feel like it’s already easier to decide what to do. Both types of friendships—limited number of close friends and all community members—are important.  But not all friendships help us fulfill our two-fold moral purpose.

One final thought: I feel like any decision about which friendship to pursue and which to let go of that is made based on one’s ego is a wrong decision.  Similarly, any decision based on laziness is also wrong.  But on the flip side, any decision solely based on one’s desire to serve to one’s fullest capacity will be the right one, sometimes in surprising ways.

The Insistent Self: Dealing with Desire For Success

The way the conversation around success seems to be going, it remains a broad, complex, and subjective concept.  For example, I can define success as something you will consider completely unimportant.

But even if we don’t agree with a certain definition of success, some of them still generate in us behaviours indicating that we just might, after all, give it more weight that we’d like to admit.  One that I have found particularly insidious is money.  Most people who do not agree that money equals success still act deferential around people who have lots of it.

I find that this confusion occurs more when things like ego and pride are involved.  It becomes even easier to become confused when we don’t really think profoundly about what we believe success is and don’t take the time to go though the mental exercise of figuring it out.  I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to do this; it is painful and exhausting to analyse our patterns of thought and behaviour!

As always, I don’t have a straightforward answer.  I only have the current state of my thoughts to share with you.  When it comes to success, I think there are two types: the ‘relative’ successes in our lives and the ‘overall’ success in our lives.

To me, ‘relative’ success is when you are successful within a narrow niche.  You are, indeed, successful when you become rich—but you are only successful in the niche of “making money”.  When impressive enough, relative success seems to be often mistaken for ‘overall’ success.

‘Overall’ success has to do with fulfilling the purpose of our life.  I believe this purpose to be going through our 70-90 years on this planet developing our personal spiritual characters and contributing to the betterment of our communities.  Being successful therefore means having a job that helps me and the community improve; it means having hobbies that help me and the community improve; it means having a material life that helps me and the community improve; etc.  It can mean that I have relative success without it being essential.

I wish I could say that having made this distinction helps me not fall into the trap of mistaking relative success for overall success.  Ha.  Quite the contrary!  It’s so easy to forget this distinction when living in a social environment that celebrates relative success to such an excess.

There are three relative successes that I feel oftentimes get confused for overall success.  The first is money; the second is power and influence within the social infrastructures most prevalent today; and the last one is being the go-to-person.  And while the first two tend to happen to a limited number of people, the last one is something that can affect every single one of us.

I had a very interesting conversation about this matter with a co-worker of mine.  This co-worker is overall successful; she is constantly and consistently working on improving herself and on contributing to making the community she lives in a better place as well, questioning the way she leads various aspects of her life and joyfully making the necessary changes as she identifies them without guilt.

It was a time in our office during which a lot of extra work suddenly popped out of nowhere.  And yet neither she nor I had been asked to take anything on; instead, other members of our team, who already had extra responsibilities, were asked to take on even more.

My co-worked and I had a really interesting conversation about how we both constantly struggled with the question: “Why am I not being asked to do more?”  We both found out that it made us question our level of success at work; if we were not one of the go-to people, it meant that we were not successful workers, and therefore not trusted to get more to do—right?

Interestingly enough, although we had both been struggling on our own with this question, the answer hit us within a few minutes of opening up to one another: it was about our ego.  We were not taking into account so many other factors in management’s decision to not assign extra work on us, including the massive load we both already had on our shoulders at the time.

But that seems to be the thing with the ego: it’s never happy.  It always wants more.  And if you feed it, it wants more and more, until your entire focus becomes feeding that insatiable little beast.  However, if you don’t feed it, you might feel the discomfort of its hunger; but this hunger abates and the overall sense of well-being you will feel will make it well worth it.

Managing one’s ego seems then to be very important in living a truly successful life, one in which we are fulfilling our entire life’s (timeless) purpose rather than a purpose imposed by the social constructs and priorities of the time.

The Real Meaning of Unity: Removing Obstacles to Fulfilling our True Purpose in Life

Quite unfortunately, community-building doesn’t just happen when a group of good-willed individuals come together. Not that good-will doesn’t help! But it’s not enough. All the good-will in the world cannot be properly channeled unless there is unity. If we think of the community-building process as rowing, it becomes clear that we can have a lot of very eager rowers, but unless they are rowing in the same direction and with the same tempo, the boat is not going to get very far, and might even tip over.

Seems pretty simple and obvious, no? And yet I am sure that you, too, in your day to day efforts to contribute positively to the building of your community, are faced with various obstacles to acquiring a depth of understanding of the concept of unity.

One such obstacle if the use of the concept of unity as a buzzword. Instead of delving into the meaning of the concept through constant action, consultation, reflection and study, we claim that a certain act does or does not contribute to unity. And while perhaps 50 years ago, this was all we had the capacity to do, I feel like we have evolved since then and can embark on a process of understanding the deeper meanings and implications of the concept of unity.

The main danger of buzzwords is that they lull us into a false sense of understanding, and thus keep us from putting in the effort to truly understand what the concept is about. Many people around me seem to think that unity is people getting along; that it implies not having difficult discussions to iron out misunderstanding; and, most dangerously in my opinion, that unity is limited to what the ego wants and needs.

How can we counter this seemingly natural urge to reduce deep concepts into buzzwords? It seems that part of the solution is to cling to the very purpose of our lives, that is, to know and to worship God. I somehow do not think that the unity within a family dedicated to criminal activities is quite the type of unity we are looking for…

If we go back to the analogy of rowing, if all the rowers cling to their purpose, that is, to get to the finish line, then reaching true unity will be easier than, say, if each rower clings to their understanding of how rowing should be done. So not only do we have to work to create unity, but we also have to be united in our understanding of unity!

In light of a previous blog post in which the idea of the family as a laboratory of sorts in which we can develop tools and skills useful to community-building was presented, this begs the question: what does unity in a family mean? If this understanding of unity is ego driven, fighting ensues, because each member of the family wants their version of unity to prevail. But if a family is united in serving God and humanity, it becomes a lot easier; each decision is focused on enabling service, enabling the family members to let go of their ego.

Perhaps this implies that the reason for which we bring up certain topics should not be to prove ourselves right and the other wrong. Rather, it means that we choose to consult about obstacles to the family’s service to God and humanity, and let go of personal preferences. This is, or course, a lot harder than it sounds, and involves a lot of time, energy and effort poured in consultation.

What could this look like in a community? Many spaces for reflection might have to be created so that the members of the community can consult on how they can build a community centered on God. But also, spaces might need to be created in which the members of the community strengthen their relationship with God, which helps them detach from their egos. This gives a whole new layer of meaning to reflection meetings and devotional meetings, doesn’t it?

First published on Sahar’s Blog on 19 January 2013.

The Community and The Baby Shower: Tightening Bonds of Friendship {Includes Free Printables & Pinterest Inspiration!}

When my husband and I were approached for the first time and asked if we were having a baby shower, we said no.  Although we both love babies and baby showers, it felt weird to plan our own.

When we were approached by family members and were told that a shower was being organised for us, we felt both excited about bringing our closest friends together and celebrating the new life about to come into this world and a little weird to be making a fuss about our own selves.

A Baby Shower is Not About the Parents

But then we realised that we were letting our egos speak up and make the shower about us.  Because ultimately it’s not at all about us—it’s about introducing, in a way, the baby to the community.  It’s about building the baby’s relationship with it’s aunties, uncles, and cousins.  And it’s about starting to adjust our relationships as we embark on this journey that is parenting.

When approached that way, planning for the shower took on a whole new turn.  We were lucky that the organizers were on board with this idea of a shower.  One of the things we decided to do was to make the organization as inclusive as possible, although it’s tougher to manage people than to just do things on our own.  But everyone who was approached was really happy and eager to contribute, and some went totally beyond what any of us expected.

Another thing we tried to do was to make the shower co-ed.  Unfortunately, that didn’t work out too well—mostly because so many of the men already had plans, including child-related duties.  But each of them loved the idea and although I can’t say what, there might be a daddy-centric something or other coming up at some point in the close future (my husband does actually help me with these posts and reads my blog, so I’ll leave it at that!)

The Role of Gifts

One thing we did was to insist that gifts were optional and that we would welcome second-hand items, since many of our friends have children who have just passed the initial zero to six-month stage.  It was really sweet though—everyone still brought gifts and the only second-hand item we got is a beautiful, vintage outfit with sentimental value—basically something that is not really what we had in mind when we mentioned “second-hand”.  I think this reflects a couple of things.  For one, shopping for babies is fun!  Also, there is something special about a first child, and there is something special about buying it something new.  But most importantly, I think that buying something new for a baby shower is, culturally (for now), a way to show love.

We decided to make handmade thank you cards before the baby shower with a special homemade chocolate-orange-rice puff bark we are known for.  It was something small that we really wanted to do to give to our friends as they left the shower.  I think it took a lot of people by surprise to receive something.  It was our symbol of appreciation and love, and I think that, most importantly, it helps people remember that we do, indeed, appreciate them.

Final Thoughts

So what lessons have we learned about community-building and baby showers?  Not many, to be honest!  But sometimes it’s not about learning a lot.  Sometimes it’s about planting seeds and I have a feeling that perhaps a baby shower is just about that: planting the seed of contributing to the strengthening of a community through the introduction of a new member.

Pinterest Inspiration!

Check out the sunshine dappled inspiration for our baby shower on this dedicated Pinterest board!

Free Printables!

Since I don’t know yet how to put a download link on the blog, email me if you are interested in the printables that were created for the shower, which you can spot on this Instagram picture I posted.  I have generic ones available for immediate emailing, or can make you a personalised one upon request!

From Obvious to Obscure: Obeying (or not) Physical and Religious Law

When it comes to “physical” laws—for example, stopping at a red light—it’s usually pretty easy to convince people to obey (however frustrating it might be) because of the immediacy and obviousness of the consequences of not doing so: an accident that could wreck our car and cause physical if not fatal harm.

But put religious laws on the table and the conversation goes haywire. Even those who believe in God and understand how a Creator cannot abandon its creation and sends Teachers to educate it tend to have a tough time accepting religious laws. The more obscure the commandment, the harder it is to accept.

Obedience to religious law is even more difficult in a society that deifies the pursuit of scientific knowledge and glorifies the self.

In its most extreme version, the former implies that only knowledge of things that are tangible and can bring us immediate results is worth pursuing. In this light, obeying religious laws we do not understand makes no sense, and results for example in people choosing to follow only religious laws they understand. But… What if we only followed the laws of the road that we understand?

As for the latter, it is quite simply incompatible with the essence of religion, which calls for the abandonment of the self. However, it is much easier to pursue than selflessness, especially when everything around us encourages it. For example, in the case of a law common to many religions, it is much easier to follow the dictates of our hungry selves than to fast, especially when there is so much food available everywhere at all times, food scientifically engineered to hit all the right buttons and make us crave for more.

On the one hand, the independent investigation of the truth is a vital component of a healthy and fruitful life. On the other hand, religion comes with a set of rules the inexplicable nature of which tests its followers. How do we balance out these two realities? And how do we make sure that the thick veils imposed by history and present-day cultural currents about the supposed evil of religion do not blind us?

Image courtesy of Chad Mauger.

First published on Sahar’s Blog on 30 June 2015.

Journaling: Fleeing Mordor to Seek the Safety of the Shire

More Sketchbooks

The advantages of journaling have long been touted. On the scientific side, studies list its many health benefits. On the spiritual side, it can help us bring ourselves into account each day. There is also the sheer pleasure of putting pen to paper which might be linked to the number of beautiful journals (here, here, here, and here) and wonderful pens (here, here, here, and here) available for purchase.

Journaling can be a great tool in our efforts to live our best lives. Just like with any tool, it’s important to keep firmly in mind the reason for its use, lest it becomes counterproductive. Recently, while discussing how to become increasingly efficient contributors to the well-being of our communities, some of my friends and I realised that journaling sometimes easily slips from a tool to pinpoint obstacles to growth to a forum for the glorification of our own selves.

Okay, fine, I’m being a little overly dramatic (but it makes for good reading, no?). My friends and I realised that often, journaling is centered on our feelings, our emotions, and our thoughts. But when we are trying to lead a life of selfless service to others, reinforcing thoughts about our own selves seems a little counter-productive.

How then could we journal in a way that helped our personal growth in the context of our responsibility to contribute to the growth of the community? Perhaps it could begin by remembering that while journaling should be about our feelings, emotions, and thoughts, these are set within the context of our efforts to contribute to the betterment of our communities. This might imply that instead of going on for pages on why we feel justified in how we feel and what we think, we might want to spend some time reflecting on what other people might feel and think, and how the coming together of their emotions and thoughts with ours affects the process of building a strong community.

Another would be to think of journaling as “consultation with oneself”. This implies that the principles of consultation should be applied here. For example, we should be both frank and loving with ourselves; identify clearly what we did without judgment; and not beat ourselves over the head when we identify something we could have done better. Another example would be to eliminate repetition from our “self-consultation”, as going over the same thing multiple times could lead to dwelling.

Another thought was that of cycles of growth: perhaps daily journaling can be enhanced by a regularly scheduled reflection during which one goes over two or three months’ worth of entries to glean insights into patterns of thought and behavior enhancing or undermining one’s personal development. This could help extract some of the main topics of concern which can then be reflected upon with carefully identified friends.

It seems that the benefits of journaling can be greatly increased when one sets them within certain healthy boundaries described by the psychology and religious communities. The broad range of personalities, needs, and emotional makeups that exist make it necessary for each person to consider careful how, even in this most personal of spaces, principles guiding the development of the community can be judiciously applied.

Might want to spend some time journaling about that…

Photo credit: Sage Brown.