Develop your inner states-person – a guide to journaling

bigstockphoto_Organizer_Pen_Books_2328499Keeping a personal journal is common among statesmen and stateswomen – it’s a valuable tool for personal growth. Personal development is a process of understanding ourselves. Some people embark on it early in life; many much later; and most never at all.

The trigger(s) to begin it are usually dissatisfactions or distress. A small component of personal development is about physical factors but far more important are the emotional and spiritual ones.

It is a journey that begins in a state of comparative innocence and ignorance, involves milestones of self-awareness, arriving at a point of ‘self-actualization’ where we act consciously, on our own initiative, in ways that have next to no negative impacts on the world around us and largely have beneficial ones.

Most ‘experts’ suggest that keeping a journal is a vital tool on this journey. These notes are part of a set used on a short course, ‘Your journey, your journal’, that I run.

1 A tool for personal development – emotional and spiritual

High emotional growth means someone is extremely aware of their emotional responses to people and events. That can seem like a seriously daunting ambition. So start in a less demanding way – for the moment, this is a chance for you to get more out of your life. It’s an opportunity to pave the way for a more successful, more satisfied, more relaxed lifestyle. It’s no different from fastidiously visiting the gym – this is exercise for the soul.

2 It ain’t what you do, it’s how you felt when you did it

The Sy Oliver song said, “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.” People who keep a journal (Journalists?) say “… It’s how you felt when you did it.” Remember that this process is about personal evolution emotionally and spiritually – not about improving knowledge or skills.

3 Find the right medium, time and place

The journaling journey is a personal one. It makes little sense to other people, so writing the journal as a public blog is probably not so common and might be a little too risky. Using a computer works for some people. Evernote is a useful tool as it allows you to do so from just about any device and your notes will be synchronized. Most people still find a notebook (A5 or smaller) and a decent pen are much more enjoyable to use.

4 Scribbling a few lines every day is better than screeds every once in a while

If you find it hard to get a balance, use a page a day diary or a perpetual diary. The habit of self-reflection takes a while to form and regularity is more important than occasional quality.

5 Try two colours

One for a quick factual summary of the day or event you’re concerned with, then the body about your feelings and emotional responses in another.

6 Feelings ARE hard to describe – start with the big ones, then use subtleties

Envy, guilt, anger, lust, despair, love, joy… Most people have a very limited repertoire of words to describe their feelings – it’s even worth keeping a page (perhaps the back page of your journal) and building up a list.

7 Try to focus on one thing – it’s the depth that’s more important than completeness

It’s tempting to create a minute by minute record of your life, but you’ll soon grow tired of doing so and fall behind. What’s more the amount of reflection and hence learning is very limited. Instead, pick one event, person, or process and interpret your feelings around them.

8 From time to time, do a stock-take. Which emotions do I experience more than I’d like and which too little?

Walk yourself mentally through a day. What emotions were you experiencing at different stages? Which are you happy with? Which would you rather experience fewer of? What are the things that prompt them or trigger you to feel them?

9 Read a book, and then use your journal to reflect on what it means to you.

Whether they’re fact or fiction, books impact us in many different ways. We’re not looking for a detailed book review, nor a synopsis of the plot, but either an exploration of how the material relates to you or of the emotions it brings up for you.

10 Think about relationships, both today and in the past – who were the people, what they have left you with, what you have left them with?

Are you pleased with the way you leave people? Reflect on the individual, then look for patterns, and generalize. Reflect on the day so far and one person that you’ve met – it may be someone you’ve never met before, or someone you know well.  Beware: If you do start reflecting on life-relationships (ie your husband, wife, partner etc) you might want to keep your journal under lock and key!


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