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Personal growth journaling: the power of the pages!

Writing down our thoughts in a journal is therapeutic. Many of us know this, but few of us take advantage of the healing power of journaling.

I encourage my coaching clients to journal daily. Your personal growth journal will become a record of your progress, but it's much more than that. As a daily discipline, it de-clutters the mind and provides space for inspirations to reveal themselves through our subconscious mind.

Don't worry if you're not writing in a beautiful style. You gain by the very act of writing. Besides, your journal is for your eyes only so there's no one to impress but yourself!

I’m a strong believer in longhand writing with pen and paper, rather than keyboarding. The act of moving pen across the page engages your brain differently than when we type. We're free to doodle, expand our letters and words, and create emphasis in ways that just aren't possible on a computer keyboard. Paper becomes the canvas, and your pen or pencil the brush.


To author, teacher, and creativity coach Julia Cameron, a dedicated "morning pages" practice is essential and non-negotiable to personal growth.

"Anyone who faithfully writes morning pages will be led to a connection with a source of wisdom within." - Julia Cameron

In her wonderful book "The Artist's Way", she lays it out clearly: fill three pages, longhand, every day, best in the early hours. The content does not matter. You can write three pages of gibberish or "I have nothing to say today". More likely, you WILL have things to say, even if it's just your shopping list, and writing it all down will focus your thoughts and direct your day.

The time you set aside for your personal growth journal, aka morning pages, will become a time of calm and self-care. Your job is to show up and fill those pages, every day.


The Inner Critic: know thine enemy!

The biggest obstacle to journaling is the idea that we're not good at writing. It manifests as what Julia Cameron calls our Censor: "our own internalized perfectionist." I call it our Inner Critic, and it's a nasty adversary.

The Inner Critic is sarcastic and sabotaging. It judges everything, and is so good at doing so that it intercepts ideas before they even make it on to the page. It stems from a limiting belief of being not smart, not worthy, not deserving enough. As we know, limiting beliefs are not our truth. The Inner Critic is loud and obnoxious, but it's dead wrong about us.

the inner critic

My Inner Critic barks incessantly as I'm journaling. It's doing it right now, even as I write these words! It critiques everything from my ideas to my handwriting or keyboarding skill to the very idea that I have the right to call myself creative.

The second biggest obstacle is that the time spent journaling is time wasted. That's also the Inner Critic talking, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Journaling feeds and strengthens our creative muscles. We use these muscles in our personal growth to create a new life for ourselves. The Inner Critic doesn't see that. Just because it's always there doesn't mean it deserves a seat at the table.

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What if I have nothing to write about?

Then write about nothing! Write about the experience of having nothing to say in this moment. Three pages of "I have nothing to say" sounds crazy, but if that's where you're at today, that's what you do. This pulls the rug out from your Inner Critic, who wants you to retreat into your familiar comfort zone.

The mistake would be to NOT journal as a result of feeling blank. It's very likely that, while writing down nonsense, you'll be hit with a flash of inspiration, and all of a sudden you're recording ideas, not just idle words. The process makes it happen. The act of writing is an act of forging connection.

writer's block

Writing as an aid to remembering

When you're introduced to a new concept or insight, it's very important to write it down. Use whatever is available: it could be your journal, the Memo app on your smartphone, or a paper napkin.

You may believe that if seems memorable, you'll remember it, too. Don't be fooled! We each have many thousands of thoughts every day, many of them very powerful. We're making decisions, judgments, interacting with other people, facing life's challenges.

The chances of us remembering that tidbit of information as we received it within that flood of thoughts is very small. Remembering requires cognitive energy. Recording it preserves it, and releases the burden of having to remember, preserving that energy for other tasks.

writing in your journal

Re-reading your personal growth journal

When we're establishing a journaling practice, it's best not to read previous entries until several weeks have gone by. That keeps our minds trained forward, and helps us make journaling a habit.

In time, re-reading your journal entries can be an excellent way to jog the mind and redirect thoughts that may have wandered off topic. But do resist the temptation to re-read them for at least a month.

Alternatives to journaling: mind maps and vision boards

When writing down interrelated concepts, it's common to use linear writing forms, such as an outline. Effective, but it can be rigid if we're seeking inspiration. Mind mapping busts up that structure to engage both our logical left brain and the creative right brain.

A mind map is a picture we draw on a sheet of paper that connects various concepts in a manner different than we are accustomed to. Mind maps use the entire page to record concepts free from linear hierarchies and relationships. Mind mapping allows us to find connections between loosely related concepts. As with journaling, I find mind mapping best done with on paper, not on a computer.

mind mapping

A vision board is simply a mind map that you make using uplifting pictures instead of words, arranged on a wall or other surface that you see often. Your vision board bathes your subconscious with images of positive things that you desire to bring into your lives. They're a lot of fun, too! Treat it like a living being by adding, removing, and rearranging images as the mood strikes.  

vision board

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