3 Ways A Personal Journal Can Change Your Life

~ my take on listicle-style content writing with a topic of my own choosing, Part 3. My writing journey began with a personal journal, making haphazard entries reflecting on my life at present, or on philosophies I inhabit, or on aspects of my reality I wished to change or grow into. The practice allowed me to more effectively introspect, but also *write.* This blog itself is truly an extension of my journal; all of the following sentiments are personally conveyed with this in mind.

Who likes to write? Me. You? Maybe not you. That’s okay. We honestly don’t have to write so much anymore. Most jobs don’t require a whole lot of it. Or when we do, it doesn’t have to be that well thought out or good. Or stylish. Or meaningful. That’s all okay.

But I think we should write anyway. For those aims and more. There are numerous reasons why, plenty of known benefits and proven psychological boons. Writing, like any art, can make your privacy more intensely meaningful, even as an amateur. In The Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel describes language as the medium for the “journey of consciousness.”

With writing, the medium of the written word, for folks that claim simply that they “don’t like it” — I think that not wanting to write isn’t necessarily the problem. For most people, the idea of writing isn’t so bad, possibly even exciting. After all, writing (if only in the spaces of your mind’s thoughts) is the first step toward any creative endeavor. And, deep down inside, all human beings love to create things. I see the inspiration needing its spark as there, innate in all of us, from the very beginning.

The urge to write, to create, just like the compulsion for us to think or feel, never goes away, regardless of the degree of current numbness or inaction.

This may just be my own hypothesis, but I believe the problem for many is closer to:
but what to write?

Someone may not know what to write about. What they want to, what they should.

Well, to start with, for any novice writer or creator or thinker, the first subject must be YOU.

You should write about yourself.

You should start a personal journal. What’s that? No easy answer, that depends on you. By personal journal, I mean a place where you spend time to write a little about your experience. About your day, about your life. About something you have been thinking about, or maybe should start to. You can write a page about something you can’t forget. Or something you definitely want to remember. Think movie reviews or traumas, poetry or love letters. Anything but an email. Not a planner. Maybe some doodling. It can be physical or digital. A journal, by you, on you.

Your personal journal is you, but on pages.

How would you best want to expand yourself in this world?

Your answer to that question is how you’d want to use your personal journal.

Whether taking to it daily or monthly, or just whenever your brain’s blood gets up to cast some of your words out — your personal journal becomes a part of you.

From me, the writer, to you, the reader, here are three ways I think starting a personal journal can change your life.

1. Communication

First and foremost, any writing is essentially just thinking, but a bit slower. Maybe a bit clearer (maybe not at first). Writing is like thinking more concretized into reality, thoughts transformed into language.

In my personal experience, writing becomes a better way of organizing your mindspace into a coherent picture. By thinking and writing about yourself, your life and the people, places and things around you, you become more clear about who you are and what your motivations are. You become freer in your thinking about what you desire and what you don’t, thus allowing for potential insights for future decisions.

You know, basic self-help stuff.

This may sound silly, the prospect that such things as your desires and identity aren’t already known to you. Maybe they are. Completely so. Who am I to know about anyone else’s interiority? I can only speak from my own experience. I propose that ultimately, no matter how good you think you are at knowing yourself, writing can make you better.

By communicating with yourself, by more frequently being communicative with your mental state and how you are doing, you gain self-understanding, perhaps even motivation or conviction about something in your life. Maybe a little self-belief. Each return to the well, to the page, will mark you a little stronger and a little faster in your expressive thinking. There is built-in progress inside of a writing habit.

And, to top it all off, you become better not only at introspecting, but at communicating itself. In general, your communication skills will increase as your journal grows.

That includes communication with others.

  • ~ Talk to yourself to talk gooder with others. [Check]

Trust me. That’s the stuff we are journaling for, folks.

2. Journey

A personal journal acts as a timeline. In the same way that a novel is one, for its protagonists and antagonists, your journal becomes an interconnecting narrative. Your journal, no matter what you write about, is going somewhere. Your entries into the pages of a journal, about you and your thoughts, will turn into a passage of your life. It will have its gaps — you know, the life outside of it that you are living. But altogether, going back and reading it, having others read some of its pages, crafts another way for you to be seen and known.

At the end of your journal, no matter to the contents within, we will have an adventure novel with you as its star player.

Think of your journal as the part of you that is telling your future self your own stories. The ones future-you lived through already but maybe can’t recall so well anymore. After all, future-you is always watching you through their memories anyway. Why not let current-you set the record straight, on your own terms, when it’s still fresh?

In my experience, a personal journal of all kinds — across many digitized notes and pages, never in one place — creates for one a kind of linguistic odyssey. An evolving journey through a time and space of your thoughts and ideas on your life’s travels. It accumulates into a physical or digital book that you can crack back into the pages of to reflect and remember. From a young age, journaling through the years, across days mundane and marvelous, makes *you* into one long adventure. Even if only to you, the chronology of your experiences, changes, growths will become visible for all time.

Writing out your journey will make you feel good, even if you’re not happy with everything you write. Of this, I am practically certain.

What better reason is there for you to journal than this?

3. Self-Actualization

By taking the time to write about what is affecting your life, you begin your first steps to changing it. I mark this as an absolute Truth. Capital T.

“Woo-woo. Writing in my personal journal will change my life? I don’t see it.”

Why don’t you see it?


You asked the question.

“No, you just did.”

You asked first.

You see, ^ this is the whole thing. Journaling forces you to answer yourself. To ask and answer yourself. Even if you are lying. Even if the things you are saying on your pages are just fiction or bullshit, or aspirational nonsense that doesn’t mean anything… You are putting yourself down into the world. In writing words on a page, one way or another, you are going into your thoughts, your heart and mind. Maybe even your soul.

This is no small thing. You will ask yourself, whether it’s ‘meaningless nonsense’ or not, why you continue to choose to do it. In writing, you will answer yourself. With your writing, you’ll ask yourself why your life isn’t better, why it isn’t like this, or like that. And in writing, you’ll answer yourself, somehow, with some words.

You will wonder whether or not this act of writing might start becoming more meaningful with every page you cross. And you will answer that ponderance by writing about it, or about anything else that is weighing on — or exciting! — your mind.

By writing — anything and everything — you are automatically asking yourself the right questions. Truly, you are just transcribing the world’s questions to you. In order to go further with the craft, with your life’s march, you must answer these questions.

“An old philosopher has said that if you accurately record all that you experience, before you know it you are a philosopher.”

~ Søren Kierkegaard

Even if you don’t realize it, by writing your journal you are asking and answering important questions with every word.

From my experience, thinking and meditating and especially conversation can all do the same thing, there’s no doubt. For me, by its intentionality, the journal makes this interplay of self-understanding more real. More immediate and present, and under my control. A personal journal of writings for and about me engages this kind of introspection more sincerely. It puts it all together, pulls it back from the unconscious play of your days and weeks and years going by sometimes without notice.

Writing doesn’t just make your thoughts clearer, more slow to settle and able to be understood — writing can stop time.

Journaling gives you enough time to stop and ask yourself questions like:

Why is what you find meaningful so?

Answer this well, sincerely, to yourself, and you have certainly changed your life. I mark that as an absolute Truth. Capital T.

…What comes next, away from the page, matters though.

Get real, journaling is not enough alone to approach something like self-actualization.

That’s what we’re writing about here, of course. In truth, writing your little heart out may only get you to the first step. Or as with a memoir, the writing lurches you over the last one, satisfied smile at last on your sunken features.

Writing is just a step on the road to self-actualization, maybe its constant companion — but definitely not the whole game.

Contrary to what you may think at this point, I am not going to sit here and tell you self-actualization is *not* an endpoint, but is instead of “a state of mind.” That Enlightenment is something that you can grasp right now in your life, right at your seat before the screen, writing your way to the transformation alone, etc. Whether that’s true or not, the notion denies the material conditions of reality. And that is certainly not something we can do. No matter how crystal clear your thinking, or the supernatural level of self-understanding you believe yourself to have achieved, in order for anything close to self-actualization to come into being for you — writing, thinking, creating must beget action.

Else what is the point? Why’d you start in the beginning? What was your seeding intention? {Read the title.}

Changing your life.

My main point with all this is that I think writing — journaling — can help you along to the next best action you make in your life. It can get you to the door, to the threshold of your transformation. But only there. Out in the Real World, away from your pen and page, you must walk through that door.

That is what I am really saying. Journal your way to your next great threshold. That’s why I am writing this to you, whoever you may be.

In sum, I see three ways writing a personal journal helps:

A way to communicate better with myself and others — that’s a tool.

A way to sing your life’s journey into existence — that’s an event, a record.

A way to step you closer to self-actualization — that’s both an endpoint and a state of mind.

“Well, how do we certify this? How do we make sure thought begets action, that my writing leads to movement?”

Consider this.

When you consistently journal, you start to write freely. When you freely write, to yourself, only to your journal’s pages, you are unselfconsciously expressing. That is, without self-consciousness. Without seeing yourself as a piece of a whole. For a short time, when you write, when you are flowing in language and ideas and self-reflection,

You Are Everything.

Not to get too selfish or solipsistic on you, but this has power. What I mean is that when you are writing in this way — expressing words from and to the solitude of your own heart and mind — you do not see yourself as a subject any longer, as someone to be subjected to. You are writing as just … you. Not as a teacher or a lawman or a husband, father of three, or as a twenty-eight-year-old trying to grow and change and figure their fucking life out. Not as “a writer expressing thoughts about their life with artful language and sense of sincere self-awareness,” etc.

No. Just you. {You on the mind} > to > you on the page.

You are just writing. Thinking, but more clearly, and — in my experience — with less thought. You are thinking, but with less anxiety. Free from judgment, from the gaze of any Other. In this flow, you are expressing, unselfconscious of the very act of expressing. For a short spell, existing just as you wish to. Word by word.

By writing in this way, you are already turning thought into action.

There is innate value in this, I think.

Perhaps there is no way to fully express it with the written word here for you to read and fully understand. But this effect, this process, this boon unto self-actualizing from such self-authoring… is Real, I believe. This is my own prime takeaway on the art and power of writing itself.

By writing on your desires and your fears and your present and past, about your future, about a future that may not be, or imagining pasts you wish that were, or creating alternate realms and voids and fantasies beyond the reach of any but your own heartspace, for now — journaling is changing your life.

With every word, in these three ways and many more, a personal journal can improve your life.

So, what are you waiting for?

The only way to figure out if this is truly something you should do or not is to go and write out your thinking on the matter. ~

“It is manifest that behind the so-called curtain which is supposed to conceal the inner world, there is nothing to be seen unless we go behind it ourselves as much in order that we may see, as that there may be something behind there which can be seen.”

~ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit