Your Very Special Place
Would you like to have an empty room that is there just for you; a room you can go to at any time; a room where no-one else can go? It is a very safe space, a space where no-one will judge you. This is what a journal provides.
In it you can reflect, explore, experiment, churn ideas around and come to discover things about yourself and others. It’s a place where you can make sense of your experience.
And this is what we all need now: we and the young people we work with.
One person described her journal as her ‘best friend’: always there for her, available, ready to ‘listen’ and help her come to understand her situation better and to make sense of the difficulties she might be encountering.
Simple, but extraordinarily powerful, journalling enables you to more than triple your learning. We all learn from experience and journalling amplifies this. First, like everyone else, you have an experience. Secondly, you write in your journal and reflect on and learn from that experience. Thirdly, when you re-read your journal, you find another layer as you discover insights and themes you would have missed without that space to reflect and write.
Use your journal to increase your enjoyment of life. Each morning jot down in it what you appreciate, what went well the day before, noticing minute delights, uncovering the quiet, often unseen, successes and moments of happiness. Thinking is one thing – “inking” it is another; it augments its impact on our awareness.
Use your journal to build habits of self-respect and respect for others as you note down what you value in yourself and in others each day. For example, at the end of the day value three things you feel proud of in yourself. You can develop respect for others by spending a few quiet moments with your journal to jot down five thank-yous for others who have contributed positively to your day. The journal will wait patiently until you remember who these countless people are who are helping to support you in life, and whose support becomes more substantial as you notice it and write it down.
Use your journal to come to understand and know yourself better. As you write down your experiences, you are able to begin to put some space between you and your experience. From this position you can see with greater clarity and compassion. Journalling enables you to look from a certain distance at your experience and so to broaden your perspective rather than get bogged down in it.
Use your journal to resolve misunderstandings and conflicts. As a detached observer recording your reactions, you can disentangle the complex threads of feelings and thoughts and reach a more balanced and calm view of things. In this way, you can avoid being dragged along by your reactions.
Use your journal to help explore and clarify your vision and set your intention, sort your priorities, organise your day, your month, your year from a space where you and your priorities are central. Doing this at the start of the day protects you from being tugged off balance by all the many demands that crowd in as the day unfolds.
A journal is totally private and confidential so we can feel free to be open, unlimited, wild, creative and completely authentic in a way we cannot always be outside a journal. With this authenticity comes greater insight and greater understanding.
If we commit to making time to write in our journals, we provide ourselves the breathing space in which to structure our day. We deepen our ability to respond rather than to react; to stand back, to take stock, to learn and to create our life mindfully day by day.
Modern culture tends to emphasise all that is external: the world of things, doing and events. It often neglects the impact of our external experience on the inner world of our thoughts and feelings. Likewise, it neglects the power that is exerted by our inner world on how we respond externally, that is, in our actions. If we stay on the surface, we fail to see the undercurrents that are in fact determining what happens. We can compare it to swimming. Most of us don’t get past swimming on the surface of the sea; some get to snorkel and begin to see there is a vast world below the surface, and some learn to scuba and to dive deep and discover a whole world unseen by most. A journal is your diving equipment. It allows you, in safety, to dive beneath the superficial and discover the thoughts, feelings, perceptions, habits and creativity that are the source of how we both experience and create our lives.
Journalling gives us a safe space in which to experiment and discover how we grow and develop.
Use a book as your journal and a pen or pencil to write in it. It is dedicated to the one task: your personal development. Unlike the electronic device, which is busy with many different jobs to do – perhaps pinging as a message comes in, or the temptation to “just check” what’s happening on social media – your book journal is dedicated to you and your self-discovery with no distractions. It is a special space not shared with the many other tasks that may besiege, entice and distract you. As you write in your journal it is your unique handwriting that appears, not a standardised type face. In these ways it is unlike the many other communications and documents you generate each day.
Journalling is one of V&V’s eight tools of reflection. In our book there are eleven practical activities to develop journalling with your students; you can have a taste of two of them by going to our website at this link. You might like to link journalling to a study of The Diary of Anne Frank, Zlata’s Diary or The Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
I haven’t written for a few days, because I wanted first of all to think about my diary. It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I – nor for that matter anyone else – will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Still, what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.Anne Frank
Journalling is a powerful tool that we can use for ourselves and share with the children we teach. Try it for yourself.