Please welcome Abigail into the LifeJournal family, the week-old daughter of Katie and Lee Jones. Lee is our LifeJournal senior programmer and is the mainstay of our programming and technical support team and Katie is the project manager for all things technical. We’re wishing you all the joys and wonders of being new parents!
I invite you to start your New Year with a bang and join my six-week online class, The Great Journal Experience: Six Weeks to a Deeply Satisfying Journaling Habit. Every now and then most of us journal writers need an injection of inspiration, a kick in the pants. We get stuck in our patterns of thought and hence our patterns of writing. Want to break out and make your journaling more fun, more effective, more exciting? Join me for an online class, flexible schedule, with personal responses to your postings. You don’t have to have the LifeJournal software, and you don’t have to be a member of the International Association for Journal Writing. You just have to have an interest in broadening and deepening your journal writing experience–wthether a long time journal writing or a relative novice. The class will (re)kindle your passion for journaling offering plenty of journal food for thought through weekly assignments, and feedback from me and other classmates. Flex schedule, six weeks, deepened journal writing–sign up now!
Also, here’s a heads-up for two other extremely valuable classes I know you will enjoyand which start soon:
As promised, this month’s article is about re-reading your journal. And there’s a short piece about writing and attaining your goals.
From all of us at LifeJournal, and from my family to yours, wishing you a peaceful, joyous, and healthy New Year!!
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Re-reading your Journal: Elevating your Journal from Companion to Personal Coach
by Ruth Folit
It amazes me that journal writers often forget that the benefit of journaling not only is to write, but to READ it. There’s so much valuable information in your journal about yourself–and not reading it is like eating dinner and never ever eating dessert! Periodically, rereading your journal is an excellent way to step back and take stock of your life. The beginning of a new year or a couple of weeks before/after your birthday are perfect times to do so.
While writing your entries, you have captured the subjective views of your life, and, with the aid of a wide-angle lens of time and a little detective work, you can gain a big-picture perspective of your life–like reaching the top of a mountain at the end of hike and looking back to see the route you have traveled. Rereading your journal thoughtfully can be an important step in the process of your evolution. When you re-read your journal with an eye towards seeing your life patterns, you are transforming the journal from a receptive listener to an active personal coach.
Before embarking on a journal rereading, think about your attitude. The review process is about gaining greater understanding of yourself, NOT about feeling bad about yourself . Reading past entries can bring up all sorts of feelings–surprise, admiration, embarrassment, boredom, respect, sadness, and scorn. The trick is to approach the re-reading with as much of the following: self-acceptance, openness, compassion, humor, and non-judgment.
One technique to maintain a positive and non-judgmental attitude as you are reading your journal is to imagine that you are listening to a good friend. Good friends can help each other look for the silver lining, the positive spin, life patterns, and lessons learned from an experience. If you are inclined to see the negatives, you may want to begin by writing a journal entry that focuses on the things about which you are very pleased. You can always use that to reference later to combat a feeling of not measuring up.
Another crucial point is to remember that keeping a journal is about process, not product. Don’t judge your writing ability or style, or even basic spelling and grammar skills. Throw away any interior red editing pens.
Also, keep in mind that journal writing serves different purposes for various times in your life–to record facts and events, to vent feelings, to confide secrets, to understand yourself better, to sort out meaning. What was momentous for you a month ago, may not be today. Remember, too, that your understanding of your journal will be based on your feelings of the moment and in successive rereading you might see things differently.
Occasionally rereading a journal will allow you to see more than you may want to know about yourself. If you can’t maintain a constructive perspective, talk to a good friend and/or see a professional counselor. And, for expedited personal growth, you may want to get some perspective from from another person in any case.
You can approach your journal review in several ways. You can read through it, with an open and inquisitive mind and see what your impressions are. This is an intuitive, non-structured process in which impressions and flashes of insight surface as you re-read the year’s entries. You may want to add comments as you read. Make sure it is clear that those are annotations written later and include a date in the commentary text.
If you are looking for a little more structure while you reread your journal, you can keep some questions in mind:
- What are my dominant emotions? How did I handle them?
- What are the areas of conflict, challenge, and growth that I write about often?
- Did I learn something valuable from difficult situations that I was in? Did I move beyond my stuck patterns?
- Are there recurring themes, subject, or issues that I visit and re-visit and re-visit? Is there a pattern to when the subject or issue re-appears? Am I making progress understanding and dealing with these issues?
- Do I repeatedly reference health, physical, stress, or sleeping related problems?
- What is my relationship with my body? Is there a part of my body in particular that keeps causing distress in my life?
- Am I talking care of my body consistently, or ignoring it, or strengthening it?
- What goals have I achieved? What new skills have I mastered?
- How did I overcome obstacles? Am I bumping into similar obstacles?
- What am I feeling as I reread different sections of my journal? Do these feelings give me clues about areas that I am still working on, that I have moved beyond, or that I am ready to change?
- Who or what has strongly influenced me?
- What loose ends or unanswered questions do I have?
- While writing in our journals, we are constantly telling ourselves stories. Do these stories seem accurate or distorted? And if distorted, are they the same kinds of distortions?
- What areas of my life do I you feel deeply satisfied?
- What areas of your life are you disappointed in? Are there ways that you can find the silver lining in the disappointment? Are you ways that you can turn the disappointment into triumphs?
- What do I notice I am doing differently. Am I more relaxed? more at peace? less driven? more driven?
- What triumphs in my life can I build upon to work on new goals?
- Does the journal help me with making meaning of my life? Is there greater depth that I want to write about in the coming year?
Writing Your Goals to Reach Them
There’s a study reportedly by either Yale or Harvard that claims that writing down your goals increases the chances of being successful. It seems that that rumor is just that. No one is able to find that academic paper reporting those statistics.
However, a researcher, Gail Matthews, at the Dominican University of California has done the research about this topic recently and the results are in. Indeed writing your goals, as well as breaking them down into actionable steps and committing to them does indeed greatly increase your chances of successfully attaining those goals. Read the summary of the study here
[It’s] “Superficial to understand the journal as just a receptacle of one’s private, secret thoughts like a confidante that is deaf, dumb and illiterate. … In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could in person. I create myself.”—Susan Sontag
“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”–Virginia Woolf
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