When I started my first diary – a secret one of course – in my early teens, I had no inkling what a momentous step I’d just taken. I don’t remember how or why I ended up keeping a diary in the first place, because I didn’t know anyone who kept one. It simply wasn’t the kind of thing that was encouraged, or even thought of in the environment I grew up in. But I was the kid who used to write poems and stories, so starting to scribble my own thoughts was a natural extension. That was my first stint at journaling. Notes in school books. I have no idea what happened to them.
I officially started a journal, this time in a proper dedicated notebook and with a conscious intention of keeping one, when I was 17. That particular journal lasted me two years because I only wrote occasionally, usually when I was upset. However, after those two years, at the age of 19, I started keeping a regular, consistent journal and haven’t looked back since.
Over these decades, this hobby evolved into something much more profound. My journal became a place where I can get to know myself, record my life, improve self-awareness, and get insight into just about every aspect of my life. That isn’t to say that I have all the answers, but rather that journaling enables me to discover the answers either quickly, or more effectively, than if I didn’t have my journals.
Writing things down enables me to process it more thoroughly. Written record of patterns of behaviours prevents me from lying to myself about things or people who hold me back, or the changes I need to make. Journaling forces me to take a few moments to put my thoughts – which are usually a jumble, and information overload – into something coherent, thus also clearing my mind. It’s a form of meditation for someone who is incapable of sitting still most of the time.
As I am obsessed with personal development, using my journaling for that was something that naturally evolved, due to my obsession of learning from books, experiences, and just about anything in life. As I started looking for ways to make more and more use of journaling – changing it from a passive absorber of information to an active system – it lead me start Kaizen Journaling. It all began from a simple thought that if this tool can change my life, then it can change other people’s life too.
The wonderful thing about journaling is that there is no end goal. It is a journey. As my life progresses, so does my journaling. Journaling is a record of my life, but also a reflection of it. However, it is also more than the sum of those parts. It is a well in which I soak ideas, and a field from which I harvest them. It is a place of private refuge, and a nurturer of ambition. Journaling is no longer a hobby. It is no longer an item on the “to-do” list. Though I may not do it daily, or at a fixed time, journaling is such an integral part of my life that I don’t have to think about it. If I go too many days without journaling for whatever reason, I am constantly aware of that sense of something missing, and reach for my journal.
Another beautiful thing about it is that it can work for everyone. Not perhaps in the same way – after all, we are unique. But it can work. Journaling is a personal thing, but the tools – a notebook, a pen, and willingness to dedicate time and mind space – are universally applicable. It doesn’t matter what language you write in, what your background is, or what your ambitions are – journaling is a gift that keeps on giving, because it is there, always.
Dolly Garland is the founder of Kaizen Journaling (www.kaizenjournaling.com) where she teaches Kaizen Warriors how to use journaling for personal and professional development. She also runs journaling workshops, courses, and has written journaling books including 365 Days of Journaling. You can find her at @KaizenJournal