Read an Excerpt
How to Use This Journal:
WHEN TO USE THIS JOURNAL
There are as many right times to use this journal as there are people who have lessons to teach and people who want to learn them. Words to Live By can be a heartfelt gift for any big moment in life, from heading off to college, boarding school, or military service to graduating from a school or program to having a milestone birthday (turning thirteen, sixteen, eighteen, twenty-one . . . ) to a celebration of young adulthood (bar mitzvah, quincea–ero, etc.) to a wedding, first job, first child, or other new beginning.
But you don't need to be celebrating a milestone to share wisdom. Writing down some hard-won life lessons is a great way to leave a footprint in the sand. You may want to use this journal on a visit with an aging relative to help you understand their values and record them for posterity, or as a tool to ask questions of someone whose life you admire and to honor that person's viewpoints. You may want to use it to chronicle your own views for clarity and insight into your own approach to life.
There is no one right way or one special occasion for using this journal. Trust yourself to know when to record your or someone else's views on living fully and beautifully. It could be at a big juncture in life or at a quiet, reflective time.
PLANNING THIS JOURNAL
Once you've decided to give this unique book to a loved one, you'll need to decide how you'd like to use it. Before you begin, determine how many contributors you want. Having lots of contributors can make for a rich variety of styles and viewpoints and can give a more complete picture of "the village"that raised the person getting the journal. On the other hand, a journal written just by parents or a favorite grandparent can allow these writers more space to express themselves in an intimate and personal way. Whichever you choose, make sure you allow plenty of time for contributors (yourself or a group) to fill in the advice. If you're giving this as a gift for a particular occasion, start well ahead of time, or give the gift with a promise to have it filled out within a certain time.
When thinking about whom to ask to contribute, think about whom the person ultimately receiving the journal would want to hear from most. You could ask them whom they would like to have contribute or you could surprise them. Besides key family members, are there others who have been important? Is there a neighbor who has been just like family? A teacher who made an impression? A scout leader or coach who really understood the person? Think about who is likely to have some interesting, funny, poignant, or opinionated entries and plan accordingly.
When asking for contributions, consider directing particular people to specific topics. If your brother has no money sense but has a loving thirty-year marriage, flag the section on relationships or e-mail the questions from that section to him. Likewise, steer your fitness-guru sister to the physical health section. But keep an open mind; inviting people to write in any section that inspires them will produce a colorful, interesting mix of advice.
Decide how much time you want to invest and how much control you need over this project to make it happen. Look at your list of desired contributors. How available are they? How close? Do they like to communicate in person or by phone, e-mail, or regular mail? Is there a procrastinator in the bunch or someone likely to forget this journal on a park bench? Fit your plan to your contributors.
Assure contributors that they don't need to be experts or have it all figured out in order to make a meaningful contribution. Some people may also be concerned about their handwriting. Either let them know that sloppy is fine (it adds character), or offer to paste in their typed entries. And if people have a lot to say, consider starting a second volume rather than limiting their space.
The number, distance, and preferences of your contributors will guide the approach you take to completing this journal. We suggest any of the following approaches.
Quick and Easy
Of course, if only one or two people from the same household are writing, it's simple. You can fill it out when you please. If the additional people you are asking to contribute are local, have them write in it the next time they stop by or loan them the journal for a weekend. Are any big family gatherings being planned, or could you initiate one? Pass the journal around at the next family event to complete it in one fell swoop. Let people know in advance if you want well-thought-out entries, or surprise them to get more spontaneous responses.
When Contributors Are Distant or Busy
In these cases, use e-mail to request responses. E-mail usually gets quick responses and works well with long-distance or busy contributors. Send some suggested topics, then paste or hand- copy their responses into the journal. If you have people who prefer talking to writing, interview them in person or by phone and record their responses.
If You Have Time
A terrific way to personalize the journal is to send the journal on a house-to-house adventure. Send it to the first person along with a list of other participants and instructions on where to send it next. Consider including stamped and addressed mailing envelopes to keep it moving. This way takes a little more time and follow-up, but you end up with a tapestry of well-thought-out entries in each contributor's own handwriting.
Any of these approaches work. Whether you have ten people giving advice over Thanksgiving dinner or two parents lovingly filling out entries at bedtime, the result will certainly be a caring and heartfelt gift.
TIPS FOR WRITING IN THIS JOURNAL
You have found a wonderful way to support someone embarking on a new life. This journal will be a very personal and appreciated gift. Words to Live By is designed to help you share your advice, thoughts, favorite sayings, or quotes on a variety of life themes with someone special to you. The complete journal will be enjoyed as a collection of lessons learned from cherished friends and family.
Take Your Time. Don't try to rush through this. It is a one-of-a-kind gift and will require some thought. It may help to keep notes throughout the day as ideas of what you want to say start percolating. When you're ready to start writing, sit down with a cup of tea, away from the phone and other distractions, and begin. If you find yourself tiring, set it aside and continue later. If there are other contributors, write your name and the date after each entry.
Say only as much as you have to say. You don't have to write on every topic or fill every page. Your advice will be most authentic and helpful when it's something you feel strongly about, so feel free to skip categories that don't inspire you. Write as much or as little as you feel is necessary. We may have provided a full page for a topic, but if you feel that a one-sentence response does the job, that's fine. If you need more room or have something to say outside of the categories or topics we have offered, use the "Other" pages at the end of each section or at the end of the journal.
Speak from the heart. Don't censor yourself or write just what you think people will expect to see or deem the "right" advice. There are hundreds of expert advice books out there. This journal is different; it is created especially for your loved one by the people who know and love the recipient best. Some of the best tips for living come from hard-earned wisdom that may be startling or go against the grain. Work-in-progress wisdom works, too. If you're still fine-tuning your approach to, for example, balancing work and family, just tell it as you see it now. Be true and be yourself.
Embrace your mistakes. A lot of life lessons are won the hard way. Some of the most memorable stories are the ones in which someone messes up but learns and ends up the better for it. When someone we know and respect tells such a tale about himself, the moral is all the more personal and powerful. Honor the times you stumbled and learned from it by sharing the story. Many people appreciate this humble approach to teaching instead of a lecture.
Draw from any source you choose. If you are inspired to pen an original masterpiece, go for it. But also feel free to quote favorite leaders or comedians, or to borrow lines from songs, scripture, movies, or even television shows. Use any voice that expresses your point of view and that you think is good advice.
Say it your way. If you have something profound to say, say it, but simple truths can pack a punch, too. If humor is your style, say it that way. You can be philosophical (e.g., "True success is only achieved honestly") or be downright practical (e.g., "Balance your checkbook every month"). If you believe it is important to good living, it belongs. There is no wrong style and there are no wrong answers.
Sit down, relax, and be generous with your thoughts and wisdom. As with most gifts, the giver is made richer for the giving. As you reflect and write on various life topics, you might find yourself rededicating yourself to following your own good advice. And you will surely feel good about passing on a few words to live by.
An Active, Happy Mind
I'd describe a healthy mind as one that:
Keep your mind fit and active all your life by:
You might find these classes or activities interesting at some time in your life:
Some reading I've gotten a lot out of that you might too is:
You'll laugh a lot in life if you:
I think people with good judgment, intelligence, or "people smarts" got that way by:
A good "support system" for your well-being includes:
Here is how I've learned the way people keep a positive attitude, and how it helps them:
This person has been one of my role models because:
People who deal well with conflict, anger, fear, or other strong emotions seem to do it by:
This can be a great way to let off stress:
When you're lonely, down, or have lost something important to you, try this: