Value versus Worth – Journaling
“The world seems to think I have no worth. It seems to think that some people are worth more, that their substance means more, that their very being should give them certain privileges because they will contribute more. The person who seems to be content is often overlooked. If one feels one’s life is full enough, then one lacks value. Living has become a race to the top of the mountain of possessions. I quit. I refuse to run that race. My faith tells me I have value even if the world believes me to be insignificant.”
The above journal entry might seem to be an argument against mindfulness but actually, it is a great defense for being mindful. Worth is often used as a synonym for the word value and sometimes, vice versa. They are, however, two very different words, at least for our context of mindfulness.
The term value denotes importance while the word worth refers to the price or cost of an item or its usage. “The word ‘value’ is used in the sense of ‘importance’. On the other hand, the word ‘worth’ is used in the sense of ‘the cost of production’ of a particular thing or the ‘greatness’ of a particular person. This is the main difference between value and worth.” This quote from differencebetween.com, written by the author Aron, is an interesting explanation but I am not certain I agree. Do you? I would really like to hear your ideas on this.
For our purposes with this post and our series on mindfulness, value will be defined as the intrinsic amount of feeling an item/person brings to us while worth I’m defining as the effect it has on us, whether in terms of actual cost or perceived price. Keeping a mindfulness journal helps us delineate between the two.
I have mentioned keeping a mindfulness journal before and someone asked I explain the difference between it and a diary or regular journal. Just as the terms worth and value can be used interchangeably, journals can also serve various purposes. A diary is both a calendar of events and a listing of hopes and desires. A regular journal is often a tracking of a day’s events or thoughts. The mindfulness journal helps us focus on specific moments and includes not only the event but our reactions, visceral and consequential.
The manner in which you keep your journal can be as varied as there are different riding a city bus. In other words, you need to do what is best for you. Before we discuss methods of journaling, though, let’s discuss why we would do such. Keeping a daily log of your thoughts and feelings based on each event or creating lists that you can add to over time, such as the happiest moments of your life, the people that make you happiest, what motivates you, and what you love most about yourself will help you take action towards making your dreams a reality. It can illustrate the difference in the worth of an activity and the value it holds in your life and help eliminate what is not productive in your living.
The best way to accomplish something is to set goals and a mindfulness journal will help you set achievable goals. It can also verify that what you have set as a goal is rely something you want to accomplish. Often we end up striving for something that someone else has decided we need. Because our own heart is not in this quest, it will take forever and most likely not be successful. A mindfulness journal can also help identify those things that are hindrances or annoyances. By keeping track of such, they can be eliminated and dealt with before they become larger, more stressful issues.
Life is, as I have said before, messy. No one lives without encountering frustrations and most of us face them on a daily basis. Sometimes they seem to overwhelm us. If you are constantly losing things, important things like bills to pay, a mindfulness journal can help identify this and with some forethought, help correct the problem. Maybe you need to clear off a shelf and designate a certain basket or box for those bills. By placing a table by the door I most often use and putting a bowl specifically for my keys, I stopped needing to search for them when I was leaving the house. That one small thing saved me five minutes or more each morning. That added up to me gaining over an hour each week and I left the house less hurried and harried.
A mindfulness journal is a great motivator and often can serve as the catalyst for necessary change. Many think of mindfulness as a first cousin to meditation and I agree with that. However, one of my favorite mindfulness writers is a financial analyst, not a yoga or spiritual teacher. Andrea Cannon recommends mindfulness journal for this reason: “Once you begin to realize a trend in your journal entries, you’ll want to make a list of the problems you’ve noticed and what actions you’re going to take to correct them. Fixing items around your home, workspace, and vehicle can help change your day-to-day life and can save you time and frustration. In most cases, people tend to wonder why they waited so long to make the repairs in the first place. Procrastination is likely what made these small daily frustrations a larger problem over time. That’s why it’s so important to keep track of what needs to be changed and what steps you’re taking towards achieving these goals in a timely manner.”
When we journal, we put a spotlight on our day and become more aware of it. yes it does take time but how we journal can help with just how much time. As I said before, there are a variety of ways to journal. One of my favorite is to get a family day planner, with columns for various family members. Instead of using the column for each family member, though, use them for different categories. For instance, one column is for the actual activity or scheduled event. The next is for whether it was successful or not – no explanations, just a yes or no to the success of the incident. The next column is for how I felt approaching it, the next for how I felt doing it, the next for the results and my feelings about that. Then the next column is a quick, briefly worded assessment about hindrances and finally, a column for new goal(s).
Here is an example of this type of journaling:
Column A/Event: Doctor’s appointment
Column B/Successful: Yes; kept the appointment
Column C/Feelings leading up to event: Bit of trepidation
Column D/Feelings during event: Informed
Column E/Feelings after event: Hopeful; positive
Column F/Hindrances: Diet changes bothersome
Column G/Goals: Eliminate eating an entire pizza, eating one slice and a small salad instead.
Your journal does not have to be formal. If you would rather have an informal journal, then any blank or lined notebook will suffice. There are a few brief formalities that precede any entry – the date, the name of the meditation practice, and how long you meditated for. Then you can write more generally about how the practice went – what distractions you had, what you did about them; what positive factors (like calmness, patience, concentration, etc.) that were present and what you did to strengthen them. You can write about factors in your life that had an effect on your practice – things like lack of sleep, or a particularly busy day, or that you felt refreshed after a day’s hiking with a friend.
Mindfulness is about knowing where we are (being in the moment) and also about maintaining an awareness of where we have been (reflection) and where we are going (having goals). A journal can help us with all of those areas of awareness, helping us to have a more unified awareness of ourselves. An example of an informal journal might look like this: “Mindfulness of Breathing. 25 minutes. Had a hard time staying focused. Nodded off to sleep a few times — hadn’t had enough sleep. Felt a bit despondent.
Psychotherapist Dr. Ronald Alexander offers these tips of journaling.
• Schedule your time to write when you sit quietly in a peaceful, restful place, perhaps in a room surrounded by books and pictures that inspire you. You may also want to sit on a meditation chair or cushion with peaceful music playing, wrap yourself in a meditation shawl or blanket, and light a candle or incense.
• Categorize what your mind churns up. Our minds create a mix of emotions, thoughts, and sensations, all of which influence each other. The thought, “My boss is so insensitive; I can’t believe he was so abrupt with me today,” might not surface in your mind until you sit and begin meditating, and might appear not as a fully formed thought but as a headache or an overall sense of vulnerability and defensiveness.
• In meditation, it’s important not to go wherever those sensations and feelings take you but to simply sit with them, allowing them to reveal themselves. Afterward, as you write in your journal about your experience, work with a therapist, or ponder where that feeling or sensation came from, you might discover that it has deeper roots.
• Recognizing that your experience bears a powerful emotional resemblance to a past experience can be a helpful and freeing insight, but in the end, the story of its origin is just a story that can distract you from healing. If you come to realize that your defensiveness around your gruff boss reminds you of the way you reacted to your highly critical father, the value in that insight is acknowledging how deeply your mind has been programmed to respond to criticism or abruptness with fear and defensiveness. It’s easier to be patient with yourself when you recognize that your mind has actually created an elaborate neural network to support this reaction, because clearly, it will take time, patience, and repetition to change that instantaneous response.
• Don’t give too much weight to such a revelation as you can reinforce that reality. You reinforce your habitual thinking and feeling patterns when you subscribe to a narrative of suffering such as, “I can’t help being the way I am. My defensiveness goes way back to my childhood.” I call this the “big story.” It has the potential to shut you off from the art of creative transformation.
• Once you’ve identified the big story, categorize it as “old stuff” and set it aside whenever it comes up. The major healing work most people need to do is to transform and move beyond their “big story” whether it deals with their parents, lack of abundance, insecurities or fears. There’s no benefit in retelling it to yourself over and over again.
• It’s also important to let go of the “new stuff”: each “small story,” or rationalization for why your present life is the way it is. The small stories are worth examining to discover what lessons they hold, but if you hang on to them, repeating them to yourself, they become “old stuff” and part of the big story as well.
“As long as you remain in these stories, you create suffering for yourself. To change your life, you have to see the story for what it is: a way of framing events that doesn’t contribute to your happiness and holds you back from positive change. Holding on to your story, big or small, giving it life in retelling and embellishing it endlessly, will cause you pain. The point isn’t whether or not you’re justified in telling that particular story, or its veracity, but whether you’re suffering because of it. This takes practice but the more you meditate the more it will feel as if you’re simply sorting the laundry as you observe what your mind generates.”
Andrea Cannon explains the benefits of a mindfulness journal. “A mindfulness journal can help you focus on the things in life that make you happy so you live with an attitude of gratitude. Rather than focusing on a crowded train, you can instead focus on the song you’re listening to and how it makes you feel, your posture while you sit and wait for your next stop, and what you’re looking forward to in your day. Over time, this will become natural so you can turn negative moments into positive experiences no matter what the day may bring.”
With a mindfulness journal we can begin to understand the difference between value and worth. The opening paragraph was taken from a journal of someone who had contemplated suicide. Fortunately, the writer realized that their value exceeded the world’s perception of their worth. We all are valuable to this planet and no one has the right to diminish your feelings of self-worth. Mindfulness reminds us of our own purpose and right to a prosperous living. Start journaling and find your joy!