The Power of Journaling
I have always been a writer of sorts. Not in the professional sense of writing as a source of income. But rather in the way that I express myself.
As a young girl and then a young professional woman on Wall Street, I quickly learned about “filtering” my thoughts. This is different from being an effective communicator. It’s a thinking process that occurs simultaneously while speaking. It’s the process of choosing what to say (and what not to say) for a variety of reasons, whether it be for what’s appropriate to the situation, fear of rejection (and any other number of fears), or even packaging thinking to ensure the “right” message is communicated.
This filtering process, while at times can be great wisdom to know what, when, and how to say something, at other times can leave us feeling unexpressed. The unconscious habit of filtering can affect forgetting all of the thoughts and feelings that are being pushed to the side and result in our feeling unheard and unseen – one of the most painful experiences a human being can have.
So I began what now appears to have been a journey with a written expression…
- I first incorporated Chris Argyris’s right column/left column exercise to increase awareness of my filtering. I was able to do it right in business meetings, and it created a structure and purpose for my doodling while note-taking. This is easy, and you don’t need anything special. If you look at your business notepaper, 80% of the paper – right margin – you can write notes on actions and deliverables. In the 20%, the left margin is where this exercise becomes powerful. Here you right the thoughts and feelings that are going unexpressed. Totally unfiltered. Then at the end of the meeting or the day, you review the right column notes and decide how to work with those right column notes.
- After doing the right column/left column for a while, I decided to expand what I was writing about and began a personal journal. Here I would write about my day in sort of a diary format. Reflecting on the highs and lows of the days. As a learning professional, I always love asking the question, “what did you learn” and this became a part of that exercise.
- Then, I found beautiful journals found in bookstores—what a delicious way to capture my innermost thoughts and memories than in beautiful books. So now I literally collect journal books. Whenever I travel or find myself in Barnes and Noble, I stop in the writing section.
- Then about 10 years ago, I began blogging. Inspired by the movie “Julie and Julia,” my blogging adventure was about celebrating a milestone birthday year, and for an entire year, I wrote every day what I was learning in this new chapter of my life.
- Blogging and journaling have stayed with me a deep practice, forms of expression, and new ways of sharing. I incorporate journals and journaling into all my coaching programs, writing and blogging fairly regularly.
- My latest adventure with journaling is LIMITING using words and replacing them with imagery, color, and mark-making. While language is clearly a necessary form for communication, it can also be a great limiter and source of misunderstanding. But images, like music, can take us to deeper awareness. This is because they side-step the filter of the left brain and are powered by the right, non-linear side of the brain.
How are you using journaling in your self-reflection? Let us know in the comments below.