Research Paper By Michael Cadrette
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
It is black, it is leather, and it is still in the wrapper. It is made by Piccadilly. I found it on the bargain shelves near the checkout counter at my local Barnes and Noble bookstore. I was surprised to find it there. It is not a Moleskin, it is not a trendy app, nor is it an eighty dollar customized version. All of these options would have been fine. But I was looking for something simple that required an actual ink pen and that I could stash in the lower inside pocket of my long winter coat. You probably guessed what I am talking about by now. It is my new journal.
For me there is something that happens when I sit down and start writing. My thoughts flow from my mind through my arms, into the pen and onto the paper. Sometimes the thoughts feel like the annoying dripping of the faucet, coming painfully and fitfully slow, almost like the water line is restricted in some way. Other times, it is as if both the hot and cold water has been turned on full blast. I struggle to keep up as the thoughts, emotions, and details of my journey roll off of my hand onto the specially prepared paper. I love the sound of that elastic band as I wrap the cover closed, signifying another sacred moment of my life has been stored for the next generation to read long after I am gone.
This is a thought leadership paper about journaling. I know there are thousands of voices out there already sharing the value of journaling. But not one of them are mine. I wanted to write about a subject I would use in my coaching practice. Over the years of my life I have kept a journal off and on and encouraged others to do the same. But I have never put my personal thoughts about the value of journaling on paper. So, what you see in the following pages will serve as the catalyst for a resource I will use in my coaching practice. It will be adapted so I can produce an office handout, a brochure, and a blog post free for the downloading. So what is journaling?
A journal is (a word usually synonymous with diary) a book in which a person writes down various things. (Whitney, 1991:205)
A daily record, as of occurrences, experiences, or observations. (Dictionary.com)
These definitions seem simple enough, yet when one begins to use a journal, these generic descriptions develop a real focus. A journal can include, emotions, goals, stories you don’t want to forget, progress reports, behavior patterns, or recurring fears. These are only a few of the things a journal can contain.
Journals come in all shapes and sizes, hardbound, softcover, e-versions, included in electronic applications like Evernote, and can be designed to record specific information. For example, counselors use journals to mark incidents of anger, fear, or anxiety. Weight loss programs include various forms of food diaries to track caloric intake, eating patterns and exercise. Others use journals as prayer diaries, recording requests and answers as they occur. The subjects in journals can be as varied as the events and emotions found in the human journey.
For further study there are many places to go for information about the value of journaling. Here is a representative list of sites I have found useful.
- org – This website has several perspectives on the subject of journaling and is a fun place to explore for information on other subjects as well.
- com – Michael is a great source of information about all sorts of things related to productivity and leadership. He is a real fan of the electronic application Evernote, and is a strong advocate for the habit of journaling.
- Pathways of Spiritual Living by Susan Muto – This book is a faith based approach to the disciplines of the spiritual life and has a great section on journaling. It is readily available on Amazon.com.
- com – Byron Katie has some great worksheets where she invites you to write things down as you do what she calls “the Work.” She refers to this process in her book Loving What Is as putting the mind on paper. (Katie, 2002: 11) That phrase is a great way to describe the process of journaling. If you listen to her interviews, which are downloadable itunes (search for Katie Byron), you will hear her use these worksheets as the basis for her conversations with people.
- The Purpose Driven Life Journal by Rick Warren – This is a guided form of journaling, interacting with the book The Purpose Driven Life, which is also written by Rick Warren. When the two are used together they are very helpful in creating clarity about a client’s degree of alignment.
Write down for the coming generation What the Lord has done, So that people not yet born will praise Him. Psalm 102:18 GNT
One of the great reasons to keep a journal is to let the people you love and know share in the joys and sorrows of your life after you are gone. Future generations to come may be inspired, instructed, and encouraged by your life’s example. As a result of the journals of the men listed below, and the thousands of others in times past that they represent, they are more than just historical figures in a college lecture. For, it is because of their journals that we all have the opportunity to learn from them and be inspired by them.
Hugh Latimer 1487-1555 – Latimer was a protestant leader in England with a remarkable life story. When being burned at the stake because of his faith his last words were …..“we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England as I trust shall never be put out.”(Stuart, 1986:338)
David Livingston – 1813 – 1873 – Dr. Livingston was a medical doctor and member of the London Missionary Society. He spent his life exploring Africa, caring for its people, and literally died on his knees in prayer.
John Wesley – 1703- 1791 – About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. John Wesley was a great spiritual leader and the father of modern day Methodism. His journal record gives us a glimpse of how personal spiritual experiences can be. (Wood, 1967: 59)
These three examples flow out of my faith tradition, but there are many other leaders whose journals can be a source of great inspiration. Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Lewis and Clark, and Andrew Carnegie, are only a few of the many examples available to us today. (www.artofmanliness.com)
Who knows, maybe after you are long dead and gone, someone may be moved to write a book about your life. Or even better, before you leave this earth, you can write your life story based on the journal entries you have made over the years. Be an inspiration and keep a journal!
An Obstacle or Two
There are always reasons to avoid the habit of journaling. When these potential roadblocks come up, they provide coaches an opportunity to help their client explore their motivation, create a plan that suits their uniqueness, and address any limiting beliefs that may be unnecessarily hindering their success.
- Can’t sit still long enough
- My grammar and punctuation suffer
- My app is won’t open
- I don’t have time
- I am not consistent
- I am too old to start
- This is just for teenage girls
A Personal Note Of Encouragement
Before I reference some of the suggestions from websites that I found interesting, let me begin with some personal reasons why keeping a journal has been a valuable endeavor. These positive outcomes can be useful when a client grows discouraged and can be offered as resources.
- Stress reliever – Over the years I have noticed it takes me about 20 minutes of writing to get to a place of peace. It is time well spent.
- Notice trends – After one particularly hurtful event in my life, I noticed after a few days that I was ruminating over something that someone “did to me.” Seeing it actually written down repeatedly helped me recognize that I had not dealt with the issue completely, and I was experiencing a lot of negative energy as a result.
- Record key life events – I was deployed as a hospital chaplain with the US Army at one time in my life. It was an intense experience. Had I not kept a detailed journal like I did, by this time in my life, all I would probably remember is that it was really intense. Instead, I can relive the events of that challenging time in my life. Events like those clear, quiet nights under the stars where I marveled at the clarity of the skies, for example. Other entries described learning how to navigate while driving from place to place in a featureless desert. I recorded how my navigation skills increased, wrote down the gut wrenching moments when I missed my wife terribly, and the fear I experienced one night when I realized in all of the chaos, I had been left behind. As a result of my journal, these meaningful moments will stay with me for the rest of my life and I can share them with my relatives and friends.
- My wife can “see” what I am thinking – When I am particularly upset about something, I can write it down and we can read it together. That has been a real help during times of grief and loss.
- I have a bad memory – I have never regretted taking a moment to record key details regarding a situation. But I have certainly regretted the decision not to take that moment to write things down.
Here are a few more that I gleaned from various sources.
- Clears your mind – Instead of being weighted down by load of unresolved issues all through the day. Journaling allows you to write them down and put them down. You then have the option to leave them there and walk away or come back to them when you are in a better frame of mind to think about them.
- Helps with creativity – Since there are no rules other than the ones a client may choose, you can record your thoughts anyway you want. You can use words, sketches, graphs, photos, poems or whatever you want to do.
- Accountability – When your goals are written down, you are less likely to forget them or ignore them.
- Ask important questions – Writing down important questions can help in processing constructive criticism or in remembering questions you may have for someone else, but keep forgetting to ask.
- Encourages gratitude – When we track the interactions we have during the day we will be more likely to remember those who have helped us throughout the day and make the effort to say thank you.
- Aids in problem solving – A journal is a great place to list the pros and cons of a situation in a way that helps you see them clearly, and evaluate them in the proper context.
- Helps with alignment – When you take the time to write down the events of your day it is an honest reflection of how you are actually spending your time. When you review these entries it is easier to see if your time is being spent in a way that supports your values.
The following ideas may be of help as the client develops the structures needed to support them in achieving the goal of regular journal entries. Some of these suggestions were taken from a post at www.lifehack.org.
- Choose a time – When do you plan on making your journal entries? How much time do you plan on spending on each entry? How many times a week will you make journal entries?
- Decide on an app – If there is an interest in the electronic approach there are several good apps out there to choose from.
- Purchase a new notebook – A new beginning, a new notebook.
- Sign up for a blog – This presupposes the client has some interest in the web based approach or is willing to learn. Many new bloggers have found the start up process adds a lot of fun to their experience. Just remember that a lot of people could be reading what you write.
- Just do it – Does the client really want to do this or is it just one more “should” in their life? When does the client think they will start? How confident are they feeling about reaching this starting point goal?
A Summary of the Benefits
Here are some of the possible outcomes for journaling that relate to coaching.
- Increase in emotional intelligence – A journal helps create awareness.
- Helpful structures that serve the goal of journaling – Helps the client answers the “how to” questions they may have.
- Goal setting – I want to start journaling so I can look at my goals.
- Creating action steps – What is your start date? When you say journal what do you see, or have in mind for you?
- Accountability – What were the goals you wrote down? Did you reach them?
- Acknowledgement – What is one highlight you would like to share as a result of beginning to journal? What has been your biggest challenge in following through?
A journal can be one of the greatest tools to use in a coaching relationship.
Start one today!
Byron, Katie. Loving What Is. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002
Foster, Richard. Celebrating the Disciplines A Journal Workbook to accompany Celebration of Discipline. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1992
Muto, Susan. Pathways of Spiritual Living. Pittsburgh: Epiphany Association Press, 2008
Stuart, Clara. Latimer, Apostle to the English. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986.
Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven Life Prayer Journal. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003
Whitney, Donald. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1991
Wood, Skevington. John Wesley The Burning Heart. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967