‘I hate journaling,’ said one client to me recently. ‘It’s just never made sense to me to keep any kind of diary. Ew. How…adolescent.’ For weeks I just kept quiet about it. I knew journaling had been very helpful and important to me over the years. But I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why. So every time I told a client that they should keep a journal, I’d watch their eyes glaze over, ‘Ohhhh, yes, hmmmm, journal,’ they would repeat oddly like a stepford wife, ‘Yes, I should.’ And I knew they wouldn’t. And yet I could not tell them all of the amazing reasons why they should. I didn’t even attempt to suggest it to my male clients.
Yes, on the surface journaling does seem a little adolescent, conjuring images of a hot pink faux leather book, fur fringe and gold filigree, complete with a little locket and key. Within its pages might be my first name along with the last name of some school boy I had a crush on, signed over and over again, Mrs. Kelly Summers, Mrs. Kelly Summers, Mrs. Kelly Summers… Or perhaps a lot of j’s and i’s dotted with little circles.
But journaling is, without a doubt, one of the deepest, most profound, most powerful practices you can do — both personally and professionally.
I recently stumbled upon one of my journals from 2010. I spent some time re-reading it. It was at that moment I could understand the amazing power of keeping a journal. Before then, this practice was just too close for me to see. But this gave me a perspective, and now I’m going to share it with you.
Journaling works the soul. Over the arc of time, it has the potential to accompany you in a way that, while subtle or hard to see in the moment, somehow tethers you to essential and fundamental questions, commitments, and yearnings. It is this tethering to things deeply existential that is the secret to why it is so powerful. The best way I can say it, is that in journaling you are intentionally putting something ‘into form’ that springs from something more ethereal, mystical and wisdom-informed. And it happens without even realizing it. Your only job is to sit down, be open, write.
It’s not about how much you write, or what you write. It’s about sitting down each day, setting your intention to be open, and just being present to what wants to flow through your pen. It’s more about the ‘tethering’ than the actual content, or amount of content.
Here’s why it will help you, as an individual and as a leader (and we are all leaders in all kinds of ways):
1. Journaling forces you to stop, pause, and listen. This in itself is a necessary spiritual practice.
2. Journaling makes you accountable to yourself. People don’t know how to tell the truth anymore. Not because they are dishonest, but because society pressures them to be different that what they are. The first step to freedom, is to begin telling yourself the truth. And guess what? You don’t have to tell anyone else. Just yourself. Sometimes people resist being honest with themselves because they then think they are obliged to tell others, or to do something they are not ready to do. This is a trick of the mind. No…just tell yourself the truth. Do you really like that friend? Is your work really inspiring you? Are you really that into him?
3. Keeping a journal restores the sacred to your life. You can’t be an inspired leader without some sense of sacred calling, or service. You just can’t.
4. Journaling provokes outside of the box thinking. When you find yourself writing the same old thing, you are challenged to color outside of your own lines.
5. Journaling supports solitude. We need solitude like we need oxygen. And the more you serve, the more solitude you need.
6. Journaling evokes introspection.
7. Keeping a journal gives you a sense of sovereignty. It’s your private life. It’s your private world. And only you have dominion over it. This is especially important in the age of electronic 24/7 tyrannical access.
8. Journaling bestows dignity. You are the hero of your life. Only you can be the person you were meant to be. Only you can meet the challenges you were meant to meet, and give the gifts you were meant to give.
9. Journaling gives you perspective. There’s a higher ‘you’ waiting in its pages, just waiting to be with you.
10. Journaling gives you direction and clarity. When I read my 2010 journal last week, I gained a very essential piece of wisdom that is now assisting me with a challenge now.
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you. Dang! I’ve even convinced myself! And the fun thing is, there are all kinds of ways to journal. You can write, make collages, draw, paint, glue images, make lists, write letters, or all of the above. I keep two journals. One I write in, the other I collage in. In fact, just to get your creative juices flowing, check out this link here to feast your eyes on all the amazing things you can do with journals.
And now do this: go buy yourself a really beautiful journal – one that just invites you to open it’s pages. While you are at it, get yourself a nice pen. Actually, let’s go whole-hog here — imagine you were asked to be some kind of sacred scribe. Now, with all of that sense of honoring, devotion and veneration, take yourself to a beautiful stationery store. Browse the store with indulgence. Find the journal and pen and buy it.