Journaling for Growth Series: A Look Inside My 2017 Journal

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In the Journaling for Growth series, we tackle the benefits of journaling, how I have used journaling to change my life, and how you can get started journaling too.

When I started personal development journaling, who would have thought it would become the single most useful tool on my journey toward intentional living. Using a method developed by one of my favorite YouTubers Clark Kegley, I separated an 8.5 X 11 sketchbook into seven sections that I felt were the core of the value I was seeking in 2017. This post will cover a description of my journaling sections, as well as an inside look into the contents of my 2017 journal.

I’m going to break down my 2017 journal from front to back cover. Discussing the rationale behind the various sections I choose as my framework towards living a more intentional life.
Forces of habit Journal

NOTE: Looking for additional information about the process? I would like to highly recommend you check out the Refusing to Settle YouTube channel, as well as Clark’s Journaling class, MyBestJoruanl 2.0.

Front Cover

The front cover of my journal represents what I stand for, and insights into what I am fighting to become.  I find it invigoratingly motivational. As the beginning of the best book I’ll ever read, I hit the ground running with inspiring tidbits of wisdom gathered throughout the year.

These are the insights that underlie mental models I use to address any issue that could arise in my day to day life. Let’s take a look at some of my favorites.

“Never Send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee” -John Donne

This resonated with me instantly. Growing up, my grandmother was the type of figure who never turned away an opportunity to serve someone. At one point she was accommodating ten people in her home leading to a bed needing to be installed in the dining room! This quote is a sentiment to my dedication to serving others. I ought to never question ‘who will help?’ Me of course! Because that person will be me.

“Great performance is not reserved for the preordained few. It is available to you and to everyone”

When I started putting in real hard work into developing my life. My peers would ask me was ask me how or where to start and every time I would always get the same response in one form or another.

‘Well, I’m just not smart or dedicated enough of a person to do that?’

Yeah well, neither is anyone. We become smart dedicated people when we stop limiting our potential through self-limiting perceptions of what is possible. Becoming a better person is not a trait you win in the lottery or have to apply for; its something everyone can 24/7, 365 days a year.

“We ought to always be perpetual learners. Always in ALL ways”

As my motto says, every day is the best day of my life. I am dedicated to learning.  Another day is a chance to learn, and I will never stifle my progress. Who is to say that I get another moment at accepting the gift of knowledge?

“Read Less Write +”

I had a discussion with a professor that lead me to talk about my reading project. His response was simple, yet brutally enlightening.

‘That is great and all, so what have you been writing lately?’

It struck me that I was hoarding knowledge, learning constantly with no aim to share the wealth of insight I was consuming. So I wrote down this quote as a promise that I would share in due time; that was the spark for the creation of the idea now know as Forces of Habit.

Book Notes

52 in 52

Reading and journaling seem to be the power combination. That meant if I wanted to really kick start my growth I needed to find a way to take full advantage of both of them; the 52 in 52 challenge was born.

I decided that I would read one book every week for the entire year, and then condense the lessons from each book into 2-page journal entries using quotes, images, mnemonics, and thoughts.

The first thing I did when I arrived at the library in the morning was dedicate 2 hours of solitude to reading every day I could I also carried the books in my hand instead of my phone. With the book in my hand, it is a constant reminder that I had the choice to read at every free moment. It also opened me up to the opportunity to share with others what I was reading when asked.

Everyone in my personal circle knew my plan and energized me with social pressures. Even the jokingly ‘what are you reading this week Kia?’ made sure that I was not only reading for my own growth but as a representation of all that I stand for. Goals are meant to teach lessons, and I wanted to teach others that you breed your own success when you are obsessed.

I post a new 52 journal entry every Friday on Forces of Habit! Browse the 52 in 52 book summaries series here.


The default mode of thought for humans is to look at the world under the veil of danger; a negativity bias. Our brains want to make sure we are not in danger, so we are constantly scanning for sensations that may lead to an outcome that would lead to our harm. Now what is considered harm may vary, but one thing is the same, negativity plagues our thoughts. A given mood can prompt our memories to retrieve information that matches the mood. Say if we are sad, we can notice that thoughts that come to mind are colored in this sad frame.

Gratitude focuses on things in our life that are good with intention.

Rather than prime ourselves for the harm or danger in our reality, we can hijack our systems emphasize the good in our lives. Finding in the scientific community have uncovered how Gratitude has impacted our state of reality.

Research conducted by Michael McCullough, a professor of psychology at the University of Miami, has shown that deliberate focus on thoughts of gratitude has emotional and interpersonal benefits. His work has also shown the positive effects that gratitude has on our sleep, as well as evidence that reveals gratitude as a trait that can be fostered and developed through various forms of practice.

For more scientific studies on gratitude, I would highly recommend you check out the positive psychology blog Happier Human. They summarize the most prominent studies on gratitude and provide links to where readers can find the full studies.

Backed by loads of data, I wanted to be able to pinpoint opportunities to be grateful wherever available. With Gratitude journaling, I created a place where I work to clarify what I had to be grateful for and thereby predispose me to a more cheerful well-being.

I incorporated a list of 10 things I would state I am grateful for in my morning routine because the practice became so useful. The journal became a secondary method of gratitude.

On days that called for ‘extra gratefulness’ (Days of great accomplishment & happiness, or of great adversity) I wrote 5 things I was grateful for that day.

Brain Dump

A general notes section. If I wanted to create a mind map on a potential project or write down a book recommendation, this is where it went. A place for externalizing potential nuggets of brilliance. As discussed in part one, a habit for recording our thoughts, goals, and ideas was long held by many of the greatest minds in human history.

“I had, also, during many years followed a golden rule, namely, that whenever a published fact, a new observation or thought came across me, which was opposed to my general results, to make a memorandum of it without fail and at once; for I had found by experience that such facts and thoughts were far more apt to escape from the memory than favorable ones.”

Charles Darwin

Darwin understood that his mind would quickly dispose of ideas that he did not agree with. To combat this, he wrote them all down to eliminate the chance of ever leaving holes in his thoughts about any given publication. He prepared rebuttal after rebuttal to all the concerns of his colleagues.

Philosophical Meditation

It is a western philosophy take on a meditative practice; one that focuses more on self-reflection a means of providing clarity to a broad range of feelings and emotions that have recently arisen.

I highly recommend you check out this video from School of Life that explains the exercise more elegantly and british than I ever could.

School of Life has developed this exercise as one to be done alone, but I chose to use it as a tool to help foster communication in my relationship.

It acted as a reflection activity that my partner and I stared. She and I would sit down twice a week and write out things from that day that upset us, made us anxious, or got us excited. After a heated game of rock, paper, scissors, we would choose one of the categories to share with the other person.

The practice helped my relationship flourish. It forced us to learn to communicate with one another about things we didn’t even fully understand yet and gave the partner information about current challenges. Information like this allowed us to become more compassionate and integrated. I could gauge the type of week my partner was having and make a mental note to help her through that with whatever seemed most appropriate.

Back Cover

The back cover is where I outlined some general stretch goals and placed some helpful graphics that I used for reference.

My big goals list while rudimentary, was a great start on focusing my life. I found that on days where I felt aimless, it helped to refer to my list and spend the next 30 mins doing something measurable that would help me reach that goal.

The 48 laws graphics is from Robert Greene’s book, The 48 Laws of Power. To become a diligent observer of the power dynamics fluctuating around me, I posted this list as a reminder to be wary of those whom will attempt use power against me and what options I have to use my power to influence others.

The 10 Growth Mindset Statements are from Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. It encourages me to always view a challenge as an opportunity to adapt. Our mindset is what will guide how we view any given situation we are exposed to.

What Went Wrong?

You may notice that if you discount the front and back covers, only four sections are listed above.

Lifeology was designed to request people with conflicting insights to explain themselves to me to broaden how I was thinking about any given topic. The other two where extra note-taking sections that became space for the 52 in 52 book summaries because I miscalculated how much space the project would actually take up.

A Brief Note on Failure

The sections I chose not to detail above did not work out and that is okay. Failures are important in moving forward from where you are. Without them, habitual decay would leave you in a state of stagnation.

Without failure, you will never break the boundaries of what is. How could you ever discover a model of the world that differed from your current if you don’t make an attempt to shatter what you know in exchange for something better when the opportunity arises?

In short, WE NEED FAILURE. The trial and error process is what our brains use to strengthen and fragment synaptic links that make you who you are.

This was a deep (and personal)  look into my 2017 journal that I hope gives you an idea of what is possible for a self-development journal. Now that we have talked about the benefits and some lessons I have taken from journaling. In part three we will teach you how to start creating the best book you’ll ever read.

Are you ready to get started? Check out my Top 5 Habit I Do Every Day to see if you’re on the right track towards forcing your habits towards intentional living!


Forces of Habit. Explained

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A lot of the feedback I’ve gotten about the site has been about the name.

‘What even is a force of habit?’

I’ll be using this post to clear the air about what Forces of habit means. To define the title of the site we’ll need to know a little about habit formation and the path that you and I will be traveling on our journey towards intentional living.

Forces, Habits, What Does It All Mean?

In physics, a force is any interaction that, when unopposed, will change the motion of an object.  When anything, whether it be internal or external, acts on anything else it creates a relationship that impacts all parties involved. For example, when a force like stress acts on our bodies, it impacts all parties involved, meaning not just our bodies, but how we think and interact with others.

As for habits, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the bestselling book “The Power of Habit”, Charles Duhigg defines a habit as an ingrained pattern of behavior. From brushing our teeth to drug addiction, we as humans are truly creatures of habit.

The study of habits spans across modern history.

In 1890, Psychologist William James in his seminal work Principles of Psychology says.

“When we look at living creatures from an outward point of view, one of the first things that strike us is that they are bundles of habits…. It thus appears that habit covers a very large part of life.”

-William James

Habits matters to one of the greatest psychologist of all time. But how much? Recent research at Duke has revealed that a substantial amount of our daily decisions weren’t deliberate choices; they were habits.

Habits matter. But aren’t we just slaves to our habits? Do we do things due to ‘Force of Habit’? Sure, but my goal is to think about the forces of habit differently.

Putting This Together

Keeping these two terms in mind, a force of habit can be thought of as any interaction that alters the status of an existing ingrained pattern of behavior. Ordinarily, the saying goes that things are done out of some involuntary or automatic pattern of habit. But what I’ve come to see is that people are interpreting this all wrong. People say ‘Well, it’s ingrained in me, or it’s in my genes, so there’s nothing I can do.’ This is just not the case.

My distinction is that forces do not have to be strictly innate or automatic. We can learn and unlearn almost anything, we can Force the habit.  The involuntary feelings, behavior, or thoughts, we can identify are interchangeably malleable.

Here’s an illustration. In high school, I had the irresistible urge to shake my legs. Night and day, I would shake my legs out of agitation automatically. I was convinced that it was just part of who I was and I had no control over stopping it.

I couldn’t take it anymore. As a busy teenager, more energy meant I would be able to save energy for cramming. I came up with the idea to ask my friends to bring it to my attention anytime they noticed I was shaking; that was the beginning.

Each mention changed how I viewed the behavior. Gradually my leg shaking went from automatic, to constantly on my mind, and ended when I began to catch myself before I started shaking. I don’t shake my legs anymore.

The Habit Loop

How did something I thought would plague my life forever change so quickly?

I changed the habit loop.

Through the suggestions of my friends, I had been opened to the first stage of what is known as the habit loop. The habit loop describes the framework for how all habits are established and sustained. It has three key components: the cue, a routine, and a reward.


Cues are what prompt the habit. In its simplest form, a cue can be thought of as a signal to your brain to begin the desired behavior automatically.

The form the cue takes can vary broadly, but research has found that cues tend to fit into one of these five categories:

  • Location
  • Time
  • Emotional State
  • Other People
  • Immediately preceding action


The behavior. The cue prompted something, and that is what the routine is compiled of. Thoughts, actions, and feelings are broadly what the routine will encompass.


Each routine ‘seeks’ a specific type of outcome; this is the reward. Rewards are what routines gravitate towards. What rewards all have in common is that they follow a routine systematically because they are set as the preferred next step by our brains. The brain desires positive reinforcement, this is why rewards tend to be pleasurable, or anxiety reducing.

This is only an explanation of what the habit loop is. We can use this information from each component to rewire out habit loops for whatever we realistically desire. For actionable solutions to controlling your habit loops check out Charles Duhigg’s post on habits.

Forcing Your Habits

We can no longer deny the importance and existence of habits as one of major operations managers of our lives. It’s my goal as a writer to teach you about the mechanism that put habits in motion (Forces) and strategize a formal plan of action to address the forces through the development of “keystone habits” as your main line of defense.

This is the beginning of a long-term relationship. Together we will continue to dissect ourselves, piece by piece uncovering what we are, so we can properly become what we want.

Welcome to Forces of Habit.

Are you ready to get started? Check out the Top 5 Habit I Do Every Day to see if you’re on the right track towards forcing your habits towards intentional living!