IN addition to many other reasons for journaling, your journal can function as a kind of personal coach — essentially, someone who helps you identify and achieve goals. Modeled after sports coaching, a personal coach holds you accountable, pushes you a little harder than you might push yourself, and cheers you on. You can think of a personal coach as someone who facilitates the identification of desires, skills, and abilities you have, and the development of major and minor goals to help you achieve more in your life. In some cases, helping you to find your passion and/or new directions.
Certainly, there are things a person can do for you that a journal cannot — bringing in outside resources or pushing you harder than you would work on your own, for instance. But a journal can be used to help you identify core issues, things you really want to have or be in your life, and the steps you’ll need to take to reach those goals. And if you decide you want to work with a professional personal coach at some point, your journal writing work will have laid a strong foundation.
This process is future-oriented. So, rather than writing or reflecting about events in your past, you’ll be writing — for the most part — about the future. How does it work? For the sake of this article, let’s take a simple approach to setting and achieving a single goal.
- Define your goal. A goal is a general statement about what you want to achieve. For example, I want to be more active in my community.
- Figure out what you already know and/or have that relates to your goal. In my example, I need to understand what I know about my community and what kind of resources (skills, time, and money) I have to offer. I figure I can spend about two hours a week or so. I can make a list of skills I have to offer, preferably activities that I enjoy. And I’ll write down what I know, if anything, about different organizations in my community.
- Brainstorm a list of objectives related to the goal. Objectives are steps or strategies to attain goals, but the trick to stating objectives is that they must be specific and measurable. One step to becoming more active in my community is making a list of community organizations. Another might be to identify those organizations that most attract me. A third might be to visit and/or interview people at these organizations to find out more about how they work and what volunteer opportunities are available. And so on. Once you’ve brainstormed a list of possible objectives, put them in order. Sometimes, you may need to do some research before you know what you need to do and/or in what order. That, then, becomes your first objective.
- Next, give yourself completion dates for each objective. In my example, my first objective will be to make a list of ten community organizations, including contact numbers, by one week from today (date). Be as realistic as possible about the dates, while understanding that you can adjust them in the future, if you need to.
- Write your dates on your calendar. If there are sub-steps you need to take for an objective, put these on your calendar as well. For example: 1) On (date), look up county agencies on county website; 2) on (date), go to library and find out how to access list of non-profit organizations in town.
- Finally, use your journal and your calendar to hold yourself accountable. Hold weekly “sessions” with yourself to write about how you’re doing towards your goal. If you notice resistance to completing tasks you’ve set yourself, write about it, and devise some strategies to help. Maybe you’re trying to push yourself to do things you don’t really want to do but feel you “should” do. Explore this. Above all, be understanding, compassionate, nonjudgmental, yet firm with yourself. This is, after all, what a personal coach would do.
You might consider a special journal or notebook to hold your goals and self-coaching sessions. Or you might decide to keep it in the context of your regular journaling (mine are mixed together). Whatever feels most comfortable and works with your organizational style is fine.
What do you think about journaling for self-coaching?