All too often, my awesome mates at BROJO ask how they can improve their personal growth, and work through their challenges more quickly and effectively.
These challenges vary immensely. For some people it's "meeting the One," or improving their relationships. For others, it's physical fitness & weight goals, or getting over a breakup. Still others looking to motivate themselves on a major life project, such as starting their first business.
Interestingly, I never really need to know the specifics of the challenge they are working on.
My first question is always the same. "Are you journaling?"
And the response is usually, "once in awhile, but not consistently."
It has been difficult to convey how important Journaling is, and to explain why Journaling is THE power tool that will allow you to change your life for the better.
Let's give it a shot.
So what is journaling?
Self development without journaling is like trying to cut your own hair without a mirror. It is messy. It is incomplete. It is painful. And you are very unlikely to end up better than you started.
Just like keeping a diary, Journaling is the process of reviewing your past events, and writing down the important & special things that stood out to you.
However with Journaling, the questions are different.
Instead of the Diary question - "what interesting things happened today?" Journaling questions focus your mind on specific areas of your life that you want to improve.
Here are a few examples...
- I have found that creativity is one of my core values. How creative was I today? How could I have been more creative? What can I do tomorrow to practice my creativity in new ways?
- I felt really angry today. Why did I feel angry? Exactly what was the anger telling me, that was useful? How did I use my anger to motivate me? Did I react to it in any unhelpful ways?
- I feel lonely today. Why do I feel lonely? What is it that I want exactly, and why exactly do I want that? Will that really make me happy? What can I do to create new relationships, so I will feel less lonely? What is one thing I can I do right now?
- I've decided I'd like to be more fit. What did I do today for physical activity? What can I do tomorrow for physical activity? What is one thing I can do right now to challenge myself physically? How was my food intake today? What can I prepare for food tomorrow, to make managing my meals easier and healthier?
Imagine you have the World's most powerful computer sitting on your desk, right now. But, most of the time, you just use it to play games and watch movies.
Realistically, this is how most of us use our brains.
Just behind your eyes, you have an incredible problem-solving supercomputer. And sometimes, it gets used to solve meaningful problems. But only sometimes. Most of the time, the lion's share of our problem-solving attention is focused on avoiding discomfort, and discovering things to amuse & entertain us.
Your mind is designed to do so much more for you.
Why is journaling so essential to growth?
Each day, when you try something new, you are changing & growing the World outside of you. You are building connections with people, developing your skills, pursuing your dreams... challenging yourself to build a better life.
Reflection and Journaling are where you take the results of that effort and turn it into knowledge.
Journaling is where you change and grow your Mind.
If you are not journaling, you are not learning, and you are not growing.
Whereas a diary tends to focus your attention on events and experiences outside of yourself, Journaling focuses your attention inwardly.
- On your thoughts and perceptions of the events in your day, good or bad.
- On how you reacted to a particular situation.
- On how your behaviour could have been more useful to achieving your goals.
- On small changes you can make to your decisions and your behaviour, that might improve your life tomorrow.
The difference sounds subtle, but it's incredibly significant.
ALL of your self-awareness, self-knowledge, self-acceptance, self-control, self-respect, and self-confidence come from asking questions about your self.
What's the easiest way to start?
Focus on developing the habit first, just a couple minutes a day. Later, as you get to personally see the benefits, you'll be able to decide the details of your own journaling practice.
- Right now, right this VERY instant, set an alarm or reminder on your phone, for your journaling time. Bedtime is usually best, because you can spare 5 minutes then, and your day is complete. Go do that right now. Seriously.
- Choose ONE question. Just one thing that you want to focus on. I recommend starting with something general, like "What good did I do today, for my life, and for the world?" Later, you will add questions, and develop more specific questions as you become clearer and more specific on your personal goals.
- When journaling, you can write, or you can audio or video record. It doesn't matter- whatever is easiest and most comfortable. Answer that question. You can set a 5 minute time limit if you like.
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Journaling also appears to apply the Feynman Technique, named after Richard Feynman. In the Feynman technique, the process of explaining a piece of knowledge to someone who does not yet understand it - helps you to gain a far deeper understanding of the topic yourself.
This exact process occurs in Journaling- in three ways-
- Converting your thoughts into written language
- Explaining it to yourself, so that in the future, you can remember what you were talking about
- In my own journaling I tend to go deeper, as though I was explaining it to a friend. My mindset is, the person hearing this knows nothing about what I'm experiencing right now, and I share it from that perspective.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.
- Carl Jung
Learning without reflection is like trying to fill a bath tub without the plug in.
By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second is by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.
We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.
- John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer