From 1986 to 2011, Oprah Winfrey hosted The Oprah Winfrey Show. It was the highest rated talk show of all-time and familiar to nearly anyone who owned a television set in North America at that time.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the “Queen of All Media” built a brand that stretched far beyond the television screen. She went on to become a billionaire, a well-regarded philanthropist, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And as she was busy working toward these otherworldly accomplishments, Oprah relied on a simple habit: journaling.
Journaling is simply the act of thinking about your life and writing it down. That’s it. Nothing more is needed. But despite its simplicity, the daily journal has played a key role in the careers of many prolific people.
As you might expect, journaling is a favorite habit of many writers. From Mark Twain to Virginia Woolf, Francis Bacon to Joan Didion, John Cheever to Vladimir Nabokov. A journal was rarely far from any of these artists. Susan Sontag once claimed that her journal was where she “created herself.”
Journaling has been utilized by scores of brilliant thinkers and inventors. Charles Darwin. Marie Curie. Leonardo da Vinci. Thomas Edison. Albert Einstein. Similarly, leaders and politicians throughout history have kept journals in one form or another. People like George Washington, Winston Churchill, and Marcus Aurelius.In the sporting world, athletes like Katie Ledecky, winner of multiple gold medals, and Eliud Kipchoge, the world record holder in the marathon, rely on journals to reflect on their daily workouts and improve their trainingWriting down one sentence about what went well today gives you something powerful to look at when you're feeling down. When you have a bad day, it can be easy to forget how much progress you have made. But with a journal, it's easier to keep a sense of perspective. One glance at your previous entries and you have proof of how much you have grown over the months and years.
Of course, despite the numerous benefits of journaling, there is one problem.
Many people like the idea of journaling, but few people stick with the act of journaling. It sounds great in theory, but making it a habit is another matter.
This is where we return to Oprah's story.In November 2012, after wrapping up her 25-year television career, Oprah wrote, “For years I've been advocating the power and pleasure of being grateful. I kept a gratitude journal for a full decade without fail—and urged you all to do the same. Then life got busy. My schedule overwhelmed me. I still opened my journal some nights, but my ritual of writing down five things I was grateful for every day started slipping away.Most people know that journaling is helpful, but they never get around to making it a priority. How can we make journaling frictionless? What is the simplest way that to get the benefits of journaling without it feeling like another obligation?