What's the Real Deal with Journaling?
Deep dive into how journaling can be a supportive practice in getting to know yourself and align with what you want in life.
What do you want to do when you grow up?
That question still brings me a level of unease to this day - it packs the punch of a $2,000 double Jeopardy question with the game on the line. At 32 years young, I have continued to refine who I want to be and what I want to do when I “grow up” - it will also be a journey I will endure for the rest of my days as I continue to evolve.
Want to learn the secret that helped me find my answer?
Rings buzzer: “What is Journaling?”
Before I started journaling regularly, I viewed it as a “nice to have” habit, but I didn’t have the emotional spark to make the commitment - kinda like my relationship to flossing consistently. But in January of 2019, I made the commitment to journal every day for the month to see what effect it would have. I had been struggling to answer several questions about what I wanted to do with my time outside of the near term commitments, and I hoped that journaling might help me find a nugget about myself that I hadn’t seen. Even if it didn’t though, I believed journaling could be another tool to add in my development utility belt. It was a win-win.
During that month, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the practice along with the insight it revealed about myself.
My journaling started by simply writing down my thoughts at the time I decided to write. After a few days, I discovered that I rather enjoyed talking to myself; after a few weeks, the practice did indeed begin to reveal new insights about me that I hadn’t seen before.
Here are three elements that have supported me through journaling and why I recommend this practice to nearly everyone I work with:
Thoughts Become Tangible: There are thousands of thoughts flowing in our minds - I’ve had a number of brainstorms when I’ve gone deep down the rabbit hole of my mind only to snap back to reality with little to show outside of a foggy fragment of what I had uncovered. Physically writing my thoughts down on paper brings the opaque to transparent. Journaling has created a pathway to effectively capture, review, and ruminate upon the thoughts in my mind while allowing me to see them with my own two eyes.
Identify Trends: After you start writing, you are left with a trail of ideas to follow. Having the freedom to literally turn back the pages and re-read how you felt a day, week, or month ago enables you to connect the dots in where your feelings are attempting to lead you. As I was searching for answers early into my journaling experience, I began to notice that I was continuously writing about how lethargic I felt at my sales job. After a few months of evidence, I finally started getting real and asking myself tough questions about how I wanted to be expressed in my career. It’s fascinating, even though I felt the feelings, it wasn’t until I read them that it prompted me to get super curious and eventually crack the code. I wholeheartedly believe that having data points of feelings to analyze and understand is incredibly supportive to better understand yourself.
Benefits of Using Pen & Paper: Physically writing almost feels like a lost art in the digital age that we live in, but for me, there is something soothing in physically writing words on paper. The words you write feel more personal, your journal becomes a private gateway to the depths of your soul. Being able to navigate and explore your spirit without the influences of the outside world is both calming and liberating. There are other benefits too - numerous studies have illustrated that people retain information differently when writing things down than if they were to type it out.
There are a number of additional benefits but this list is what has kept journaling a staple in my life.
Journaling became my outlet to reorient myself with myself. A safe and judgment-free zone where whatever I share can be processed as neutral without a lingering judgment or interpretation.
Journaling helped me identify my purpose and organize my mind in all of my life projects.
In my coaching practice, I routinely work with clients to help them find clarity on what they want in their lives while empowering forward action. I believe journaling is such an effective tool because it is one of the few exercises that captures what may be elusive in our minds and brings it to life on paper. As you build your personal forum of ideas, feelings, and aspirations you create a pathway with less friction to move closer to your goals.
I invite you to try it out for yourself. Even if you have a journaling practice of once a week, you’ll start collecting precious insights that may be supportive in ways you can’t even fathom. The only caveat I offer is consistency. Whether you choose a daily, weekly, or ad hoc practice, be sure to build a support structure that will reinforce consistent writing. A great way to do this is to set reminders or find an accountabilibuddy to join you in the practice.
As for what you should be writing about, it is ultimately up to you. I generally recommend my clients to journal about a specific area of their life that they’re focused on refining and go from there. If that is still too vague for you though, here are a few more ideas to help get you started:
Describe how you feel - Yes, get in touch with your feelings.
Share what you want in life and ask how you are going to get there - What’s the next step you can take?
Make a list of wants and needs - Define the “nice to haves” from the “must haves” in your life.
What would you have done differently - Replay a scene again in your mind and write how you wish you would have responded.
Write down what support you need to get close to what you want in life - The ability to state specifically what you need can be a powerful accelerator in taking forward action.
The possibilities are endless. For those new to journaling, don’t overthink it - just start. It’s possible you may not yet know the end goal in taking the time to express yourself, but it won’t take long to figure it out. I promise you, whatever you decide will lead you down a path of generation. As your relationship with journaling grows, you’ll begin to notice what best serves you. And next time you find yourself on the receiving end of the “what do I want to do when I grow up” question, you’ll be quick to the buzzer, ready to answer.
If you’re interested in talking about journaling in your life, I invite you to schedule a free discovery session, so we can discuss how this can support your aspirations.
If anything in this blog resonated with you, please share in the comments below!