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Six good reasons to keep a personal journal

1st March 2017 | Beverly Landais

In an age of rapid change and instant communication, it can be hard to slow down and reflect on what really matters. Keeping a personal journal is a means to achieve this. A journal can be used for many different personal and professional tasks. One of the most beneficial is its ability to help you capture learnings and reflections as well as record great feedback and inspiring quotes.

A journal is a private place to retain what is important and meaningful to you. Over time it becomes a personal ‘power pack' to support you on days when things get tough. I encourage my clients to keep a personal journal and provide one for this purpose. This article sets out six good reasons to use a personal journal and provides some tips on how to get started:

Promotes self-awareness by enabling reflection. Writing what's on your mind can help to put things in perspective. Here are two questions to prompt you to reflect on situations that you may find challenging. What’s really going on here? and What have I learned today? A good question to regulate your thoughts and reactions when confronted with difficulties is How important will this be in a year’s time?

Generates mature thinking and encourages self-discipline. Externalising what's going on in your head during times of stress will slow the ‘fight or flight' response. This helps you to act without being driven by emotion. Thus, you can review your thoughts away from the heat of the moment. You can then discard what's not useful and develop the strategies and responses that serve you better.

Captures thoughts, dreams, and ideas. There's magic in writing down thoughts. The very act of sharing your thinking in this way helps to clear the mind, organise ideas and improve your mood. Thoughts no longer dart about. Your journal has anchored them enabling calm reflection. You can then step back to review and mull over your options and consider the merits of alternative choices.

Helps foster creativity. This is a private space. You are free to express yourself with words, mind-maps, doodles, sketches or whatever stimulates your creativity. All of this without fear of judgment or need for explanation. This is amazingly liberating. It allows you to dare to be innovative not caring about spelling or sentence construction. Just simply enjoy the sensation of flow. If you wish, you can choose what you want from the output of this stream of consciousness to turn into specific practical actions. Or you can just enjoy the freedom of expression as a relaxing mood enhancer.

Builds self-esteem through positive affirmation. The word affirmation comes from the Latin affirmare, meaning “to make firm or strong.” Writing positive affirmation about what you value and why you are valuable is a great way to strengthen mindset and bolster self-esteem. Add to this a list of your achievements, useful feedback, and encouragement from others. You have created a powerful repository which will help build grit and resilience on tough days as well as motivation to push on to even greater success on the good ones.

Holds you to account for what you promise to do. A strategy is just a dream without a concrete plan to turn it into reality. Keeping a personal journal also enables you to capture specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time-based actions that move you closer to your goals. Writing down in detail what you are going to do, in what timeframe and with what help and resource, then recording the outcome will help achieve this. It takes discipline and practice but gets easier as holding yourself to account and writing regularly will ensure you stay on target.

Tips on writing a personal journal

  • Some people like to dictate or record their thoughts by typing on a device which can be great for capturing 'in the moment' thinking. For others, like me, there is something incredibly satisfying about long-hand writing in a beautiful paper-based notebook. Whatever the process and medium you pick is your choice. There's no 'best way' - only what works for you.
  • Make writing in your journal part of your daily routine. When is entirely up to you. Some like to journal first thing as they plan their day. Others keep their notebook with them and take time out for reflection during the day. An evening debrief might be your preferred option. Little and often is the way to build a solid habit. If you don't journal for a while, not to worry. Pick it up at any point and start again.
  • You need the right expectation about a written journal. Your journal is not meant to be a work of art. It is a place where you can collect your ideas, organise your thinking and ignite your creativity. Unless you choose otherwise, it is private and personal so you don’t need to worry about grammar or perfect sentences.

Once you have established the habit of keeping a journal, you'll find it an incredibly useful repository of ideas and dreams. It can become a never-ending source of motivation and personal support. 

1st March 2017 | Beverly Landais

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