What is Journaling?
Before we get into the specifics, we need to understand what we’re talking about when we use the word “journaling” and how it works at a high level. What does the word "journaling" even mean? And if you asked that question to 10 different people, you might get 10 different answers.
One of the most common definitions is a log of personal or private events, like a diary. The stigma that is typically associated with this definition is that this is a place for all of my secrets that I don’t want anyone else to see. But the truth is that if you looked at my journal, you won’t find anything like that. What you will find is a list of the things that I'm grateful for, the significant events that have happened in my life, and my daily scores in areas of my life that I consider important. I don't often write lengthy paragraphs about how someone wronged me or how upset I was at someone. That doesn’t mean there isn’t value in stream-of-conscious writing like this, but the value you gain from recognizing that you’re angry or frustrated is limited. 3 months from now, I won't care how upset I was at someone. That's not valuable to me. But I will want to remember the great chat I had with a friend or the fun game that I played with my kids. I'd much rather keep a log of the things that I know will be important in the future, so I can go back and remember those things.
As the saying goes, those who keep a journal get to live life twice. But why would you want to go back and relive the things that made you upset? The further we get from an upsetting event, the less emotional we tend to be about it. I like to bring perspective to myself as things are happening by asking myself, "How much will this matter in 5 minutes? 5 Hours? 5 Days? 5 Weeks? 5 Months? 5 Years?" By recognizing that what I'm feeling right now is only temporary, I can move past the emotion of the event and focus on the positive. Because the truth is, there's always something positive we can focus on if we develop the ability to see it.
This doesn't mean that you ignore the bad things that happen or the way that they make you feel. It's perfectly fine to feel upset about things, and stream-of-conscious writing can help you sort through the emotions that may be swirling around your head. But eventually, if you want to make the most of your potential, you have to move past those things. Many times when something bad happens, we feel like a victim - someone did something to wrong us, or a situation out of our control caused something undesirable to happen. And that may be true, but real freedom comes when you take responsibility for your own life and start creating the future you want. Victim thinking causes you to sit and stew about your current situation instead of motivating you to do something about it. So to see real growth, you have to embrace the concept of self-determination - that the things that have happened in your life are under your control.
That can be scary at first because you are essentially admitting that what has happened to you is your own fault! But here's the secret: if you are willing to accept the responsibility for your past, you receive the power to change your future! This is vitally important - you can't afford to sit and wait for things to align. You must accept responsibility, take control, and start building the life you want to live.
This is basically what Stanford researcher Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset. A person with a growth mindset believes they have the ability to become who they wish to be. They have an intrinsic desire to learn and grow, so they embrace challenges instead of shying away from them. They push past adversity and easily overcome obstacles because they view The Resistance as just another opportunity to grow.
For the person with a growth mindset, stream-of-conscious journaling may be helpful as they vent in the moment but doesn’t help them accomplish their goals related to personal growth. In her excellent book Mindset, Dweck says, “becoming is better than being.” Stream-of-conscious journaling focuses on the being. But that's not what we're focusing on in this course. We're going to look at journaling as a tool for personal growth. In the next video, we'll walk through a basic breakdown of journaling for self-development.