Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Journaling



My blogging friend, Ashok Karra, and I have recently had a discussion on journaling, and he asked the question, "Do you think it is essential for a life coach to get her clients journaling or blogging? " I thought this was an interesting question, and wanted to write a post about it.

As I'm interested in life coaching, but not one yet, I can only answer from my experience as a personal trainer, and from my personal experience. I have found through personal training that the clients who are most successful at reaching their goals, are the ones that keep a journal. All the research on weight loss shows the same.

The first session with a client is usually spent evaluating, and discussing goals and the importance of journaling. At one gym I worked for, we gave every client a free journal when they signed up. I have them write out their goals in the present tense affirmative, and they have to be specific. For example, "I will be able to run a mile without stopping within the next six weeks." Next they are to write what obstacles are preventing them from reaching their goals, and how they plan to overcome them. I help them with the planning and what they can reasonably expect within their schedules. They are then supposed to keep track of what they do daily/weekly to reach their goals, and if the goals involve weight loss/gain, they are to keep a food log, as well.

Just the act of putting their goals in writing, increases their chances of success. I read once that physiologically, writing takes an abstract idea associated with the right brain, and breaks it down into a logical process associated with the left brain, getting the whole brain involved in focusing on the goal. Seeing their own words in writing commits them, or seals their commitment to achieving the goals, like a contract. And then, there is the realization after they start charting their progress, that they don't always eat as healthy or exercise as much as they thought. For my clients who stick with it, journaling is an eye opening experience. So, I would think that for life coaching, journaling would be just as important, if not more to achieving goals.

I asked Ashok what his thoughts were on journaling or blogging to help him achieve his goals. He is currently working on his dissertation for his graduate studies in political science. Here's his reply:

"For me, blogging started out as a way of getting thoughts down. Thoughts don't just come without strings; they're always attached to other thoughts, not all of them good. When I first started blogging, I was really hurting because a girl I liked wasn't interested in me at all. And I wondered if anything I could do or be could remedy that.

So every time, in those earlier years, that I was reading a poem or watching TV or looking at art I would have thoughts of her, and my inadequacy, and thoughts of the object at hand. Blogging helped me sort through those issues: it didn't take me really long to realize I was writing for an audience, and they had needs. Slowly my more self-absorbed thoughts began to subside. They didn't disappear; it was just that the entries focused more on where my audience and I could meet, i.e. Robert Frost's "The Pasture," and the sentiment underlying the whole discussion was informed by the initial desire to express pain. But at that point, it might have been impossible to tell I was pained in any way :)

In terms of immediate organization/dissertation help, blogging has just made me that much stronger of a writer. It must have doubled/tripled the speed I write and edit. It's made me more careful about what words I pick. It's pushed me to explore issues from a number of angles before and while writing. The dissertation right now reads like the poem commentaries I have, except with more footnotes and a slightly denser style all around.

But the main thing blogging/journaling has done is give me a public capacity. Writing helps privately - I still keep a paper journal (I've had one since 2001). But being online and working to build the audience and writing for them is huge, esp. in an age where academics like myself aren't guaranteed work. I don't need anyone to give me a job; I know what mine is, and I'm at it everyday, whether there's money or not. This is my voice, my thought, and if the world doesn't want it, it's the world's loss."

I really enjoy Ashok's poetry commentaries. You can find an index of many of his commentaries here.

While I've seen that there is a correlation between journaling and success regarding physical and academic goals, I also believe this to be true with emotional healing and growth. Another blogging friend, Mary Taitt, has talked about 'writing her way out of depression', and has written a book called Morning Shadows. "Writing my way out of depression," here's where blogging comes into the picture for me.

Ironically, I never kept a journal when I lost weight or started my exercise routine. In fact, I started blogging before I started journaling, but blogging was just a creative outlet for me to post art and photos to get feed back. I didn't know what a blog was when I started. I just wanted to participate in Illustration Friday. Soon I found others who were using their blogs to write about their personal problems, collect thoughts, or as Ashok stated, "sort through issues." I was inspired to start keeping a written journal of my own. That slowly started to spill over into my blog. Keeping a journal has been an eye opening experience in my battle with depression. Physically writing things down regularly, has helped me to see things more clearly. Like Ashok, when I post some of these things to my blog, it helps me all the more so, because I'm searching for the right words to explain my thoughts to others, forcing me to think things through.

Do life coaches recommend journaling? I know Carla does in her Wings 4 You challenges, and I've seen other blogs by life coaches that encourage it, as well. What do you think? Has journaling/blogging helped you to achieve goals? If you write a post or have written a post on this, please leave me a link to it. Thanks.

5 comments:

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I love this image! Very pretty. I read part of this and will have to come back for the rest because we're leaving now (very soon) for a 7-8 hour drive to NY).

Have a great week.

I enjoyed what you wrote and would like to discuss it further when I have time.

bluerose9062 said...

Hope you're having a wonderful trip!

atomicvelvetsigh said...

i havent written a particular post yet, but my whole blog hold the journey of my life from my darkest years to having life. what mostly helped, is having online friends commenting, encouraging and without their knowing, help me have the confidence i once never had. now i have moved on and the dark years are just a thing of the past.

so i guess i would agree that life coaches should encourage their clients not only to blog, but join online groups of interest.

bluerose9062 said...

Thanks Velvet! I agree with what you say about the commenting and online groups of interest. The Illustration Friday crowd has been especially friendly. I hope to get back to participating again soon. Thanks for sharing your experience. :]

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

WOW! I didn't realize how far behind I'd gotten! Yikes--I guess that's what happens when you travel a lot--we've been gone more than we've been here.

I really did write my way out of depression. I still want to share some of that work with you! :-D

I'm feeling pretty depressed right now--but I think it's the back from vacation blues.

Journaling has helped me in many ways. I take it very seriously--and also lightly, sometimes, LOL! I would like to write a post about it and I hope I will sometime--we just got home a little while ago and aren't unpacked yet. And haven't had dinner. But the question deserves deliberation.

I'm not sure journaling is ESSENTIAL to healing, but it is extremely HELPFUL! There are other activities that also help. Art. Conversation--explaining things, peer counseling, dance, pet therapy, etc. BUT journaling may be the best tool. Or perhaps different people have different needs, that is, journaling works best for some people while art therapy works better for others?

I'm inclined to believe journaling would help anyone because it helped me so much, but I am not an expert and have a very small sample size.