How to coach yourself
5 tips on using journaling for your personal growth and self-inquiry
You, like me, probably remember writing in a diary when you were a teenager. I'm sure you, like me, are cringing a little thinking about your burning topics of the day written about back then. Probably because of that cringe factor, I took a hiatus from journaling for a good many years and now, as I approach my 40's, I've come back to it and it's an important part of my self-development practice.
A good friend gifted me a lovely notebook for journaling a few years ago, and for ages it sat blank, unopened, too fresh and lovely to write in.
When I came to a period in my life of impending change and needed to ask myself some important questions, I eventually picked up the notebook and started to write. I wasn't working with a coach at the time and I needed an outlet to process my thoughts and help me get some clarity. I've been journaling ever since.
The power of your written word
Journaling is a simple way to externalise what you're thinking and feeling, this helps you manage stress, process your emotions and work through your thinking.
Much like working with a coach, insights often come later (sometimes even months or years later), so for those of you that haven't done this before, you may be thinking that journaling is a bit of an arbitrary task that doesn't provide quick enough 'results'. However, the simple process of writing down and externalising what's going on in your mind acts, in itself, as a catalyst for change, healing and transformation. Reflecting on what you've written at a later date can also be a great way to see how you processed something and track your progress. Which I think we don't do often enough in life or work.
I make a lot of notes on my iPhone - constantly tapping in ideas, quotes, lists - but writing has a different impact on the mind and body. There is a direct energy meridian from the hand to the heart so there's a depth and a power that comes from expressing your thoughts and feelings through physically putting pen to paper.
I'll often give journal prompts to clients to work with between coaching sessions. It's a way of moving through the process yourself and continuing the work we've done in the one-to-one session.
Really, when you've got something to work through, it's a way of coaching yourself.
5 tips to start your journaling practice:
Buy a simple notebook (I love a nice Moleskine®) and keep that especially for your growth and self-discovery. Keep your work/business notebook and To Do list separate.
Use journal prompts. Depending on what's going on for you and what you want to explore, use some questions to get you started. Here's some examples I like: What's most important to you in your life right now? What makes you most stressed? What brings you joy? What are your top 5 values? How do your values show up in how you live, work or lead? (Google 'journal prompts' and you'll find a tonne more like these).
Let it flow. Don't over-think it. Just put pen to paper and write. It doesn't have to be poetic, a piece of award winning literature or even make much sense. It's for you and you only. When you start writing something, anything, words will just start coming (the hand to heart meridian gets to work!).
Don't make it a 'diary'. Unless that works for you, putting any kind of forced requirements on yourself restricts the flow and starts to make it another thing you 'have to do'. Just write whenever you feel like it. I write when I need to.
Keep to read back in the future or burn it. Reflecting back on what you wrote in the past is a good way to see how you've moved through something. If you don't want to read it back you can also rip the pages out and burn them. A great way to let that sh*t go!
Whether you start a regular journaling practice or put pen to paper when you need to 'coach' yourself through a life, relationship or career transition, enjoy the exploration.