Dear Diary, I feel a bit nervous telling everyone about writing in you. What if they laugh at me? What if they think I’m being precious? Worst of all, what if they ignore me?!
Well, at least I got it out there. I tried my best. That’s all that matters.
Journalling is a time-honoured tradition. So many people that shaped the world jotted down their thoughts for the day, every day (or close enough to it.): Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Alexis de Toqueville, George S. Patton, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, George Lucas, Alfred Deakin, Teddy Roosevelt. That’s some great company, there. Research even tells us that outstanding leadership requires insight, and writing a journal can help achieve that.
That’s not to say journalling will spur you to instant success, of course. But it does give you pause to reflect, analyse, and process where you are and where you’d like to go.
Writing your own future
When I started my journal last year, my business was in a bit of a state. Cash flow was coming in drips instead of streams; I heard the word ‘no’ more often than was comfortable. I was considering whether to pack it all in and re-enter the big bad corporate world.
But something happened along the way. I started cheering on the protagonist. He was an underdog, but he had spirit. He wanted to not only survive, but also thrive. That protagonist was me.
That is, I found faith in myself, just by chronicling my daily moods, thoughts, and feelings on a page. If I wanted this character – that is, me – to succeed, I’d have to supply the narrative. If I wanted Tom to have a happy ending, I’d have to make it happen.
It was a sudden realisation that I’m the master of my own destiny, in a manner of speaking. The future is unknown, but we can have a good hand in shaping it thanks in part to journalling.
Positive psychology and journalling
The field of positive psychology was first popularised in 1998 by the American Psychological Association. Positive psychology as an ‘attitude’ has been around in some form since the 1950s. Positive psychology’s aim is to promote mental well-being and human flourishing. This contrasts with ‘traditional’ psychology used to remedy mental illnesses or disorders.
Psychologists use a technique called ‘journalling therapy’ to help patients overcome an array of mental illnesses ranging from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress, among many others.
In a study by the Open Journal of Nursing it even helped people with chronic pain. It helped remind patients that changes may have been tough, small, and daily, but they were getting better.
Journalling all relates to mindfulness, itself a technique of positive psychology. It is a healing and calming way to release tensions by opening up to a non-judgmental page every day. It becomes your confidant, your sounding board, your tool for re-evaluating what you’re doing and why.
By reading back what you’ve written on the page, you can open up avenues to dispel negative self-talk, prioritise problems, and of course, track your growth not only as a soloist, but also as a person.
How to journal – the short version
You buy an exercise book, and start writing in it every day. It doesn’t get more complicated than that. Well, maybe a little.
Creating a good daily practice
The best practice, in my view, is to have your book in one location and allocate a time to writing in it each day. For example, I start writing in it as my computer boots up and my login screen waits for me. You could write before you eat lunch, after you log off for the day – whatever you choose, it helps to be consistent.
Some people are stuck on method. “What do I even say?”, they wonder. One technique is the ‘Morning Pages’ technique, made famous by artist Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. All this requires is a pen and your willingness to write without stopping (even for spelling and grammar errors – as painful as that is for me to write) for five to 10 minutes. They are about “anything and everything that crosses your mind,” as she says.
Other suggestions are:
- Unread letters: ‘letters’ to friends, family members, even clients, explaining your feelings as if you were addressing them. You could even write a letter to your future self.
- Sentence prompts: write out a list of open-ended sentences to help you get writing. These could include ‘What I’m most excited about today is…” or “I want to achieve this in my business…”, and so on.
- Lists: you could write out top 10 or even top 100 lists of “reasons I love being a soloist” or “pet peeves about client work” or even “best places I’ve worked in”, with some short notes on each.
- Drawings and photos: Adding drawings and photos can be helpful to spur your journalling. You can make interpretations and reflect on images to help find deeper meaning in the image and yourself.
So get a good quality notebook (if you bought it for less than $20 you are short-changing yourself) and get to writing your best story today!
Have you used journalling and found it helpful?