My coaching clients are all aware of the power that I believe journaling has, indeed I provide all my coaching clients with their own coaching journal.  For me, there are two fundamental reasons why I like using journals:

  • Firstly, journaling allows one to write down all their thoughts in a way that helps to reflect on the issues, and capture their concerns, highlights and of course goals.
  • Secondly, it frees up space in the brain knowing that whatever is on the mind is now down on paper.It needs to be done in handwriting (not on PC) as the tactile movement of connecting pen with hand with paper is in itself cathartic.

The following article from Ryan Holiday (author of The Obstacle is the Way) resonates for me, and I hope it provides some sage advice to consider for you.

The reasons that Anne Frank wrote in her diary are complicated. She was in part inspired by a call from the Dutch government in exile for survivors of the German occupation to keep contemporaneous diaries about their experiences. She was also lonely, and scared, and bored. A complex mix of emotions made more so by the fact that she was also cooped up in a small set of rooms with 6 other people. Tensions were high, frustrations mounted, and she needed someone–anyone–to talk to. 

Her journal was a great source of comfort and support for Anne Frank, particularly when she chafed under the control of her mother or the condescension of other adults in the attic. As her father, Otto Frank, observed, Anne didn’t write everyday but she always wrote when something was stressful, difficult, or upsetting. She wrote in that journal as a form of therapy, a way to work through her problems and overwhelming emotions so as not to unload them on the family and compatriots with whom she shared such cramped, suffocating, unenviable conditions. 

One of Anne’s best and most insightful lines comes after one of those frustrating arguments or difficult days. “Paper,” she said, “has more patience than people.” This little burst of simple, timeless wisdom is the same reason the Stoics journaled. Marcus Aurelius was writing about things that upset him–the way people annoyed him, the temptation to lose his temper, how tired he was of this or that. Seneca too wrote his long letters not just for the benefit of the recipient, but because he himself was afraid of death, faced the realities of getting old, was perturbed by the hustle and bustle of Roman life. He wrote for himself, for the therapy of the patient paper, as much as he was writing for the intended audience. 

So should you. Don’t dump your half-processed resentments or disappointments on other people. Work through them. Don’t leave your day unreviewed, its baggage spilling into tomorrow morning. Take a minute before bed and reflect–reflect in writing, where you can really look at it. Don’t walk around with these fears and doubts bouncing around in your mind. Get them out of your head and onto the page. 

Paper has more patience, more privacy, more understanding than people. Use it. Enjoy journaling for the peace and tranquillity it can provide!