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Journaling for Personal Growth

A powerful, deceptively simple self-help tool.

Pixabay, Public Domain
Source: Pixabay, Public Domain

Journaling can be a powerful self-help tool. This post offers seven tips to help maximize its utility.

Choose a journaling book that will have gravitas for you. For some people, it’s a leather-bound blank book. For others, it’s one with an inspiring cover image or with a bookmarking ribbon and gold-leaf page-edges. For still other people, it doesn't matter. Here's mine.

Choose a hiding place. You’ll write more freely if you know your journal won’t be found. But choose a place that’s easy for you to access. One option is to hide it in a “book safe.” That’s a fat volume with its middle hollowed out. Some of those even come with a combination lock. They come in many designs. Here's one example.

Only journal when you’re moved to. Standard advice is to journal daily but that makes it more likely you’ll quit—It becomes just another obligation. Also, by writing when you’re not moved to, your journal will have too much chaff, making it hard to find the wheat. Instead, write only when you’re moved to.

Write what comes easily. On a given day, you may feel like writing stream-of-consciousness or about one or more incidents or thoughts. Don’t force it. Whatever flows from your pen is probably right.

When in doubt, write about something that might help you grow. Often most useful is to write about a dilemma about work, relationship, alcohol or drugs, procrastination, physical health, mental health, whether to revisit past trauma, your overall life, whatever.

You can complain but propose a solution. Complaining can be a worthwhile first step toward improving your life. But after you’ve vented, see if you can propose something that holds promise for making things even just a bit better. Or decide to accept that negative in your life rather than fight against the likely immutable.

Consider ending your entry with a commitment. Something you want to do, try, or retry.

The takeaway

Sometimes personal growth requires reading, workshops, and/or counseling. But sometimes, instead of or in addition to those, journaling can be an excellent self-improvement tool:

  • It’s empowering because you’re addressing your problems rather than feeling you can’t help yourself enough.
  • It’s particularly likely to yield good ideas because you may know yourself better than anyone else does.
  • It affords you the time to step back for a bit and think about what to do rather than doing it on the fly. That further increases the chances that your ideas for improvement will be helpful.
  • Last and perhaps not least, it’s free.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

This is part of a four-part series. The others are 10 Self-Improvement Musts. 12 Self-Improvement Books, and Feedback.

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