The primary goal of journaling, is self-development. Positive change. Growth. Self-development, or personal growth, comes from closing the gap between where we are now, and where we aspire to be.. In order to close the gap, we need to see the gap, and embrace the gap. We discern the gap – through reflection. Reflection in the sense of looking back at ourselves, from a place which is different from the place we were.
The key – is to separate the writing, and the in-the-moment thinking, from the later reflection back at what we wrote.
Because, we want to be able to ‘see’ how our own mind works – we need to be able to look at our thinking – by looking back at how we thought and reflected on what happened that day. And when we (critically) go over our journal entries – we will remember what we were journalling about – and we will see how we reflected at the time – and we will learn something about how we think and make decisions. Which is what we aim to become self-aware of.
So there are two critical aspects to journalling;
- Reflect – ideally at the end of each wek – on what and how and why, you journalled the way you did. See your patterns. See ‘how’ your mind works, it’s biases and habits. The difference between when you’re exhibiting good judgement, and when it’s not so good 🙂
Write openly, honestly, and without judgement.
Aspects of Journaling
Expressing Our Emotions and Sensations
We need to be seen, heard and validated, for what we are experiencing in the moment. This is best done by using the emotion wheel, and the sensation wheel. And expressing what we see and feel when we look inside ourselves, cleanly and simply. No story of the why, who, when, where. Just the observation and description of the emotion or sensation.
I am feeling abandoned. I am feeling angry. I am feeling small. I feel tightness in my neck. I feel butterflies in my gut. I feel wobbly. I feel sick. I feel rage. I feel depressed.
If you want, you can also attribute that sensation or emotion to a part, or sub-personality, especally when it is things like shame, guilt, regret, humiliation, embarrasment, self-consciousness.
Then acknowledge that feeling or sensation, or part. And tell yourself you are ok at the same time. Thank the part if there is one.
Observe them, accept them, write them all down. Appreciate that you are ok, whilst feeling and observing them.
Write About What Has Happened, and What You Think
This is where you can write about what happened, again, observationally.
And then importantly – highlight what you noticed, what you didn’t, what you felt, what you didn’t, and what you concluded about the situation – what did it mean to you? The mind is a meaning-making machine. What meaning did your mind give to the event/situation/person/action.
What underlying belief does your ‘perception and conclusion’ confirm or deny?
Can you see any patterns?
The hardest part here, is complete honesty with yourself. If your results are poor, your judgement is likely poor. Our results are simply consequences of our actions. What understanding might you be missing? What did you not see, and might be blind to?
Write and Speak Your Primary Affirmation
Write your primary positive affirmation, and read it out loud to yourself 6 times, slowly and with emotion and conviction.
Write About Your Future Self
Highlight any obvious progress you have made towards your future self. Define your future self in terms of values, and how those values are expressed through behaviours.
What are three things, people, situations you feel gratitude for?
Reflections on Yesterday’s, or the Last Week’s Journal Entries
This is where you read yesterday’s entry (or your last one) and then write about what you notice.. can you ‘see’ yourself? where you are, how you think, how you make sense of situations, how you see yourself, what you aspire to, focus on, give attention to?
What are your conclusions – for change going forward?
What specifically will you do differently?
Write out scenarios that incorporate and enable you to express your reflective learning and growth.
Congratulate yourself on doing good work.
Finish off by asking yourself if there’s anything you intuitively feel ought to be written out. Trust your intuition.