I’VE WRITTEN previously about how journal writing can help you to clarify where you are and where you want to be in the future. Journaling can also give you a clearer perspective about where you’ve been. In this case, writing can be compared to climbing to the top of a hill. When you’re standing at the top of that hill, you can look back down the trail and see from where you’ve come. You’ll notice the boulders you crawled around and better appreciate their size from this viewpoint. You may notice that you consistently took the difficult path up the trail, though there were easier ways to travel. Reviewing what you’ve previously written helps you to understand the emotional and behavioral patterns in your life and to make conscious decisions for personal growth.
For example, I noticed that I complained a lot in my journals about being tired. I’ve always known that I was a night owl, but hadn’t realized the toll lack of sleep was taking on my overall productivity and sense of well being, until I began reviewing my journal entries. I realized that I needed to decide between my physical and mental health and my obsession with getting things done.
Gaining perspective through writing helped me make a decision to get to bed earlier or give myself permission to sleep in a little later without guilt. Writing also allowed me to explore the underlying reasons for pushing myself so hard — the messages I had internalized while growing up about working hard, being productive, and avoiding laziness. These messages had become the “voices” in my head that drove me. Once I understood the nature and origin of this drive, I was better able to control it. Or at least be aware of it and allow room for change necessary for my emotional and physical well being.
Through writing you can explore how your responses to events in the past affect your life in the present. Reflecting on how you have reacted to past experiences and the subsequent results can help you understand what is and is not working in your life. This understanding brings with it the opportunity to take future actions that are healthy rather than harmful.
W.H. Auden said, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” We learn about ourselves as we write and, because we are naturally expanding and learning as human beings, the act of writing engages us in ways that allow us to make conscious decisions about who we want to be, as well as track our progress.
I encourage you to make a commitment today — not only to journal on a regular basis, but to use your journal as a tool for personal growth.