Using A Journal For Personal Development
By Asoka Selvarajah, Ph.D
A great man once said that a life worth living is a life worth recording. With this truth in mind, let us examine the time-honoured method of keeping a Journal as a powerful tool for self-improvement.
Firstly, understand that a Journal is NOT a diary. Although the line is definitely blurred, a diary largely deals with externals. A Journal is about your inner being. It is actively used as a tool for self-improvement, as opposed to passively recording events.
The benefits of keeping a Journal are that through doing so, you monitor your own internal processes. It can be used to integrate psychological parts within yourself that have long remained in conflict. A Journal can help you see the changing cycles within your life – processes that only become evident when rigorous self-examination is used. It helps you to remember your dreams, and begin to understand and gain insight from them. Most importantly, the keeping of a Journal puts you ever closer in touch with the Higher Self – the highest part of you responsible for creativity, wisdom and for orchestrating the events of your life.
In short, keeping a Journal turns your life from a seemingly random succession of events into a well-defined school. You begin to see the lessons in your life and put them into practice.
What is the best procedure? There are many, and it is really a very in-depth subject. In this short discussion, we shall examine a few ideas to get you on the road of at least starting a Journal and thereby experiencing immediate benefits.
The first step is to physically get yourself a suitable Journal. This should ideally be an A4 book with either lined or unlined paper. Don’t get a diary as you will not be doing a “day to a page” or anything like that. However, the book you buy should ideally have section dividers of some sort. Alternatively, you can buy a file folder, corresponding pad of paper, and a set of dividers. Use the dividers to create different sections in your Journal.
The first section you should keep is the Daily Log. Here, you make brief entries during the day, preferably immediately after the event. In this section, you record any internal events that you deem of importance. Emotions, reactions, thoughts, realizations, interactions with people or situations, and the internal effects they had upon you. If there was an external trigger, you record just enough of it to make sense of the entry. The key here is brevity.
Even though your outer life may be relatively uneventful from one day to the next, you will soon find that your inner life is alive and rich and full of happenings. As you do this over time, more insights will begin to occur. For instance, you will start to perceive the triggers that cause your behaviour. You will become increasingly aware of how you handle yourself and how you could do better. You will become less “automatic” and more conscious of your choices in each and every situation.
Another section you should keep is a dream journal. Here you record ANY impressions, fragments or complete dreams that you recall. If you do not normally remember dreams, this procedure will help stimulate recall. Keep the Journal by your bed and record anything that you remember. Better still, tell yourself before you sleep that you WILL remember your dreams. If you still don’t remember anything, consider setting an alarm clock at some point in the night, and write down whatever you recall as soon as you awaken. If the answer is nothing, reset the alarm clock!
Dreams are one place where your intuitive, creative self – which can only speak in images – seeks to establish communication with you. Thus by making this effort, you begin to come into conscious communion with parts of yourself that transcend your normal conscious intelligence.
The next section is where you ask questions that you need answers to. These can relate to any area of your life whatsoever – relationships, spirituality, work, creativity, and so on. Actually, you are asking your Higher Self for the answers.
Write your entry here in the form of a question. Date it and leave it. Then pay attention to your dreams, the events of the day, and your own internal insights and thought processes. The various parts of the Journal fit beautifully together to give you the answers you seek. Expect an answer and it will come. If nothing happens, simply repeat the process the next day with the same question! Be insistent. The answer will eventually appear.
The final section of the Journal that we will talk about is the Life Cycles section. You review your life and try to describe it in terms of the big cycles that you have experienced. It may have been a relationship cycle, an employment/career cycle, a cycle of religious affiliation. It differs for each person. Ponder your life and recognise the major cycles. For example, it may be your ten-year marriage, your six year career with XYZ Corp., your troubled teenage years, etc. Within each major cycle, write the main events that made it up as a series of brief entries. If you do this properly, you should also be able to identify minor cycles within the major. Do this also for the current cycle that you are living in right now.
Of course, many different cycles overlap each other in our lives. The point is simply to begin to get a perspective on the major movements within our lives that have brought us to where we are today.
Being able to see the large cycles and sub-cycles helps you to achieve a much expanded consciousness and context for your life. You see how the events of life seem orchestrated – as indeed they are – to lead you to learn many lessons and gain profound realizations. You begin to realize where you failed to learn the lesson, and therefore had to experience it all over again in another time and place until it finally sank in. In short, you gain perspective. In doing so, you become more empowered to lay out a grander vision for your future.
There is one final and important point. Your Journal is PRIVATE. Therefore, say what you wish openly and do not censor yourself. This is the one place where you can speak freely so give yourself that blessing. At the same time, keep the Journal in a safe place where it will not be available to prying eyes!
This has been a whirlwind introduction to the benefits of the Journal, although a lot has been covered. Doubtless, other possible sections lend themselves to your imagination, as indeed should be the case. The Journal is YOUR personal tool for self-growth and should thus arise out of your needs and aspirations. If you want to study the subject in greater depth, there are plenty of resources available on the subject. However, the important thing is just to get started and experience the benefits NOW. You have enough ideas here to create a deeply enriching life tool for yourself. May it bring you many tender insights and blessings.