The first time I set a journal goal it was to overcome debilitating self-doubt. As I got to the end of that journal I saw two things. I had made progress on my goal. But I still experienced debilitating self-doubt at times.
I processed this with my mentor who observed that such an effort is ongoing and that working on it is like tightening the edges. We move closer to who we want to be, but never fully arrive because there are always opportunities for growth. It was slightly disappointing to accept that self-doubt never goes away entirely. It creeps up, perhaps in new and different ways that we learn how to navigate.
This is the blessing and the curse of our humanity. That we are able to learn, grow and improve throughout our lives is a blessing. That we are continually working to internalize the same lessons over and over again is the curse.
Because of this dynamic, journaling is a great tool for rewriting the story, staying the course and monitoring progress.
One of the reasons journaling is a helpful tool is because it illuminates the self-talk that occurs during those challenging moments. Hurtful self-talk like, "I'm just never going to get this" or "This is just proof I'm doomed to fail." Fixates on the negative, when that happens we are exemplifying the curse and rejecting the blessing.
The fact is that mastering these soft skills, the intangible ones, or as Seth Godin likes to call them, Real Skills, is a never-ending story. There are always new edges to explore, new insights to be gleaned and different perspectives to leverage to enhance our mastery.
We could view this never-ending story, like a curse, as though we are Sisyphus, eternally pushing the same rock up the hill. Or we could choose to look at the blessing, to recognize the fact that we have the agency to improve ourselves is powerful. Sisyphus is powerless, we don't have to be.
Journaling is one go-to tool for claiming your power within and embracing the blessing. Other reflective practices, like meditation or running can also be helpful tools for embracing the blessing of our shared humanity.
One of the things I personally like about Journaling is that it offers records of my growth and development that enable me to get a birds-eye view of the changes I've navigated in my life.
Whenever we are in the thick of it, we run the risk of becoming the frog in boiling water, not noticing that what was lukewarm water is now boiling and threatening our very being. The same possibility is true for positive growth. Because cultivating these Real Skills is a lifelong journey of mastery, if we don't pause to take stock of how far we've come, we may continue to tell ourselves a story that we are not making any progress at all.
I recently returned from a solo retreat to a cabin in the mountains, which I used as an opportunity to reflect on my work and life. I reread old journals. I wrote. I slowed down, unplugged, embraced the stillness and found joy in simple acts, like tending to a fire.
The time and space enabled me to observe my own life and acknowledge how much I've grown and changed in the last few years. With that awareness, I've set myself up to sustain and amplify the positive changes that before I could swiftly write off with a moment of negative self-talk.
What I felt within me before, this soft and subtle nudge, I now hear loud and clear. Without the distractions or the interruptions, stifling out such softly spoken insights, I am able to acknowledge and integrate them more fully into my life moving forward.
Growth, possibility and positive change are energizing forces that inspire and give me hope. At times I might feel discouraged by the continuous journey of mastery, but I choose not to feed that negativity. I accept the never-ending story as a blessing; I commit to staying the course and promise to give myself another retreat sooner than later this time.