photo © 2010 Joel Montes de Oca | more info (via: Wylio)
One of the common practices a lot of personal development teachers promote is keeping a journal. On and off, I have been keeping a journal for about 9 years now. You might be wondering what good can you get out of writing a journal. I’ll come to that. First, let me elaborate upon what I write in it. I usually sit down in the evening and go over the day’s events. I analyze what are the things that need addressing. What is bothering me. Maybe something was not getting done as I expected it to. I analyze what exactly is the issue and how can I better address it. I also look at things that gave me a good feeling. I analyze what good practices led to that state of good flow. Usually I don’t write about the events or the people involved, I just write the lesson I want to take away from the event. I also visualize and write down what are my desired results from such events. I clearly write down the goals I want to accomplish, then I set my journal down and imagine accomplishing those goals.
Benefits of journal writing.
I’ll address the benefits with an imaginary example. I’ll call our main character, Rahul. Rahul was made fun of by a colleague in office today. He felt a lot of anger and could barely resist getting into a verbal fight with his colleague. He was in a defensive situation and was desperately trying to counter the attack on his pride. But he could not accomplish much.
1. You get a different perspective. When you analyze the events, after you are through them, but while they are still fresh in your mind, you can look at it like an outside, impartial observer. You can see a person, you, reacting to events or creating certain experiences. This gives a very different perspective on the events than, when you were actually in the middle of them. There is no urgency to act or react. You can just sit and analyze things at your own pace with a cool head.
Rahul is calmer now in the evening and has sat down to write. He starts going over the day’s events.
‘The morning went well. I completed my important tasks by noon. The afternoon was not that good. X came to me and asked me an uncomfortable question in front of everyone. This keeps happening and I want to put an end to this. What was exactly bothering me at that time? Why did I feel uncomfortable with his question?’
2. It helps clarify your concerns. You then try to analyze and pinpoint what is hurting you and why. This is what Rahul is thinking
‘I don’t like being mocked at and he keeps picking at me. Why is this so?…’
3 You get to understand you true feelings. Once the concerns are clear, you can get to identifying what is it in you that is causing this problem.
Rahul – ‘Is there something deeper? Do I fear him?… I hate to admit it but I think I am afraid of him. I am afraid all the time that he will make fun of me and everyone will laugh. Hmmm… I am feeling somewhat better now that I have acknowledged my fear.’
4. It helps look for solutions to problems. Once you know the causes within you, you can think about the possible solutions.
Rahul – ‘Now that I feel at ease with this fear, what can I do to help better the situation? How can I make him stop? Should I respond like him? That will involve a lot of negative effort and I don’t want to spend time doing that. He has been doing it for ages and is better at it. So what else.. what else… He doesn’t seem to be doing much at work. I will ask my manager to put him in my project. My project is critical and the manger will most probably agree. I know it will not be easy for X, with all the technical requirements for my project, and he will depend on me for his work. That should keep him quiet.’
5. It helps keep you focused on your priorities. You come to acknowledge that the problem may require a lot of effort to solve right away. In such cases, you are forced to revisit your priorities and decide on what to do. It may not be what you want, or what your ego wants, but you will know for sure that it is in your long term interests.
Rahul – ‘My manager may say no. What will I do then? I have two choices – Either I can spend time on fighting him. But wouldn’t that be a time wasting, ego fight? He will probably enjoy that. Or I can keep focus on moving ahead. I will just have to smile through it and focus on my work. I’ll take the second choice. My aim ultimately, is to do better at what I am doing, I will keep focusing on that. This may be uncomfortable for sometime but I know that this discomfort will not last for ever.
It is now that Rahul will start writing in the journal. This is what he can write –
I acknowledge and face my fear of being mocked, with courage. I decide to observe it objectively whenever it arises and will not let my ego fight it. I know my larger purpose and decide to keep my focus on it, despite the distractions my ego wants me to indulge in. Any uncomfortable experience will not deter me from my path, but will add fuel to the fire of my resolve.
I will meet my manager tomorrow in his office and tell him that I need more resources for my work. I will suggest X’s name among others.
There can be a number of other, low effort or medium effort solutions, depending upon the situation. Also, the priorities of different individuals are different. So the final statement may be different. The point to take away here is not my interpretation of this situation but how the process of journal writing can help clarify things.
In this sample, the writer has an uncomfortable experience that he observed later when he is alone. He is able to rationalize and, in the comfort of solitude, accept his fears. With these observations came clarity. The writer can pin point the exact factors within him that are causing the discomfort and what he needs to do about them. He has thought of a long term and a short term solution. The biggest thing is that he has gained more knowledge of himself. Something that I regard very high for going ahead in life.
Also notice that the writer doesn’t write the whole event. The focus here is on what he can take away from it. The lessons he learnt, the actions he can take. When he gets up in the morning, he can read them again and he will instantly feel positive and energized. He will also be reminded of the next immediate action he has to take. This also gives a sense of ease and control.
I think a big idea behind journal writing is to look for the causes and solutions for our troubles within ourselves. In the heat of the moment, and in the presence of others, we have a tendency to attribute the cause of any trouble to someone else. Writing a journal with a cool, analytical mind later can help us recognize the factors within us that bring us back to this experience again and again. If we can identify these internal factors and diligently work towards fixing them, there is no problem to which we won’t find a solution. All problems in our lives, without exception, are caused by some very fundamental factors within us that we are unwilling or unable to accept in the normal course of things. Journal writing helps us clearly identify these internal factors, frame out a positive message we want to put to the Universe about them, and create action steps for their removal.
Writing down has another, immense power. It is very closely coupled with the Law of Attraction. If you write down how you want to be and what you want to achieve, you send out a very strong signal to the Universe. This is a more organized and far stronger signal than merely thinking about things. This practice brings your wishes into some actual, physical form, and that is very powerful.