I’ve been journaling regularly for the past ten years or so. Sometimes very consistently. Sometimes not quite as consistent. I’ve journaled at other times in my life as well. But never as regularly as I have in the past ten years. Many times it was a struggle to get myself to write anything down, and I would go for days or months without journal entries. But even though I would go through these long stretches without journaling, I never gave up on the idea of doing it. I believed journaling was a good thing and that I would eventually get back to it. And I always, eventually did get back to it.
When I first started journaling, I was afraid to actually put down my most intimate thoughts on paper (or in a journaling app). I was afraid someone might find my journal and read it without my permission and my most intimate thoughts would be exposed to some stranger. So I would journal but hold back on fully expressing my thoughts. I soon realized that this wasn’t as effective or as useful as just freely letting my thoughts flow. So I put aside my fears and determined that I would secure my journal as best as I can to protect my privacy and go ahead and journal fully and unbridled and receive the benefit that comes from freely expressing myself through writing.
While there are many benefits one can receive through journaling. Here are the four main benefits I get from it:
Keeping a journal enables me to see things in perspective by seeing things over time. As I revisit the journal entries I’ve made over the years, it’s interesting to see how some past events that occurred in my life that seemed so tragic, don’t seem so tragic anymore as I look back on them. I see them from a much broader perspective.
Keeping a journal helps me to become more self aware. It helps me to get to know myself better. It’s very helpful to freely write down what I’m thinking and feeling or what I was thinking and feeling earlier in the day. And to write down what may have been the catalyst to those thoughts and feelings. By writing my thoughts down, I can take more time to examine them and reckon with them and get to understand my thoughts and myself better. I can come back later and review the thoughts I’ve written down and see if I’m still thinking or feeling the same way and ask myself questions to better understand what caused me to think or feel that way. When I look back over my journal entries, I may be able to see patterns in how I have done things over time. Some patterns I may want to continue. Some patterns, I may need to break. Journaling helps me to have continual times of introspection.
I find journaling to be therapeutic and sometimes even cathartic. I find release in writing or typing down how I’m feeling. Some researchers say you receive greater benefit from actually using pen and paper to write down your thoughts rather than typing them on a device. While this may be true, the convenience of being able to use an app on my cell phone or computer for journaling just can’t be dismissed. If I had to do my journaling with pen and paper, I doubt that I would journal as frequently or consistently as I do using an app. For me, using an app is much more practical. And there is so much more I can do with my journal entries later, such as a sophisticated search, that I would never be able to do with handwritten journal entries.
When I journal, I create a historical record of significant events in my life. It’s nice to be able to look back in my journal and see the date I had the first interview for that very important job I wanted. Or see what I did to celebrate my milestone birthdays and how I felt and what I was thinking as I reached those milestones. It’s nice to be able to look back in my journal and see when I first began thinking about changing careers or perhaps when I first started having panic attacks. I find it helpful to look back at my journal and see when significant events occurred in my life.
I’m sure there are other good reasons to journal, but these are the top four for me. If you don’t journal or keep a diary, I encourage you to try it. You can receive great benefit from it. You might have a hard time getting started or a hard time staying consistent. But that’s ok. Just keep at it. If you stop for a while, don’t despair. Just try to pick it up again later. You can do it.
In our busy, fast-paced lives, do we ever take time for introspection? According to Merriam-Webster, introspection is: a reflective looking inward: an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines introspection as: the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes. Do you ever take time to do this?
“When do we take time to turn our attention away from the outward to a reflective look inward?”
We are often looking outward; at other people, our circumstances, the daily news. These are things we need to look at, as we need to be aware of the world around us. But when do we take time to turn our attention away from the outward to a reflective look inward? When do we take time to take a thoughtful, deliberative look at who we truly are; at our strengths and our weaknesses, at our aspirations and goals, at our moral beliefs?
I believe for many people, there is a fear of doing this. Whenever we look in a mirror, we always see our beautiful face, but we are bound to also see a blemish here and there. No one wants to see a blemish on their face, and by the same token, no one wants to see a blemish in their life or in their character. But if blemishes are there, ignoring them won’t make them go away. In order to have a balanced image of ourselves and achieve a balanced life, we have to continually look within ourselves to get to know ourselves better and embrace and appreciate who we are. Acknowledge and appreciate the beauty within ourselves and acknowledge and confront the blemishes. And then…within ourselves, we can make corrections, make changes, make improvements and realize true personal growth.
The life wheel is a tool that many life coaches use to learn more about their clients. Of course, it also helps the client learn more about themselves. Let’s try it.
Take a look at the life wheel image and think about what success or satisfaction would feel like for each area on the wheel. The eight areas on the wheel together should create a view of a balanced life for you. Of course, not everyone’s life is exactly the same, so you can split category segments to add in something that you feel is missing, or re-label an area to make it more meaningful to you. These are examples of changes you might want to make:
Family and Friends: Split “Family and Friends” into separate categories.
Significant Other: The category name could change to “Dating”, “Relationship” or “Life Partner”.
Career: The category name could change to “Motherhood”, “Work”, “Business” or “Volunteering”.
Finances: The category name could change to “Money”, “Financial Security” or “Financial Wellbeing”.
Health: The category name could be split or changed to “Emotional”, “Physical”, “Fitness”, “Spiritual” or “Wellbeing”.
Home Environment: The category could split to include “Work Environment”.
Fun & Leisure: The category name could change to “Recreation”
Personal Growth: The category name could change to “Learning”, “Self-Development” or “Spiritual”
Other categories to add could include “Security”, “Service”, “Leadership”, “Achievement” or “Community”.
Now, following these instructions, rank your current level of satisfaction with each area of your life:
1. Review the 8 Wheel Categories – think briefly what a satisfying life might look like for you in each area.
2. Next, draw a line across each segment that represents your satisfaction score for each area.
Imagine the center of the wheel is 0 and the outer edge is 10
Choose a value between 1 (very dissatisfied) and 10 (fully satisfied)
Now draw a line and write the score alongside (see example above)
IMPORTANT: Use the FIRST number (score) that pops into your head, not the number you think it should be!
If you want to dig deeper, these are great questions to ask yourself after you’ve completed the exercise:
Are there any surprises for you?
How do you feel about your life as you look at your wheel?
How do you currently spend time in these areas? How would you like to spend time in these areas?
What would a score of 10 look like for each area?
Which of these categories would you most like to improve?
How can you make space for these changes in your life?
What help and support might you need from others to make changes and be more satisfied with your life?
What change should you make first? And what change do you want to make first?
If there was one key action you could take that would begin to bring everything into balance, what would it be?