Journaling Basics

Journaling as the Art of Self-Reflection

What’s the deal with journaling? It seems like everyone’s talking about it, yet there’s this foggy understanding of what the practice actually entails. Are we talking about scribbling away in a notebook that’s neatly displayed on an elegant desk, lit by a flickering candle? Or is journaling reserved for when we hit the metaphorical wall and are left questioning life? 

In short, both examples—and many others—can be described as journaling. What is rarely discussed or understood is the practice behind journaling. When you understand the practice, a whole other world of use cases opens up, many of which have stood the test of time and can be used by anyone, in any situation. 

The Practice Behind Journaling

So, what is the practice behind journaling? Self-Reflection.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of journaling is: 

“A record of experiences, ideas, or reflections kept regularly
for private use”

Our friends from Merriam-Webster provided a nice surface-level depiction of the practice, but if we dive past the surface (also something journaling helps us do) the practice itself promotes many ways to self-reflect.

The truth is, journaling can be as simple as capturing a moment in time through a photo or arriving at a clear decision made possible by asking intentional questions. 

Journal Prompts for Self-Reflection

“The truth is, journaling can be as simple as capturing a moment in time through a photo or arriving at a clear decision made possible by asking intentional questions.”

When it comes to questions, there’s a difference between casual banter with a friend around a question like, “Where would you like to live?” versus taking the time to reflect on a series of journal prompts. Self-reflection journal prompts dig deeper, such as: 

  • What is most important to me about where I live?
  • Which city supports the life I’m creating?
  • What location feels most aligned to me? 

There’s nothing wrong with banter between friends as it often leads to insights you may not have reached on your own. But, I invite you to take your journaling practice one step further by reflecting on a series of intentional self-reflection journaling prompts. You will reach deeper insights to help make clear, smart and aligned decisions. 

We can save tremendous time, resources and mental capacity when taking a moment to pause and journal to a clear decision.

For example: Think of the most significant moments in your life and reflect on how you arrived at those decisions. 

  • How did I make those decisions? 
  • What went well? 
  • What would I have changed? 

Pro Tip: You can create a personalized journal template of prompts in Day One to reflect on when making big decisions. 

Now that we’ve moved past the flickering candle scene and have expanded the definition of journaling to include self-reflection as the practice of journaling itself, a whole other world of benefits will surface from new ideas to increased mental clarity and the opportunity to design your future life.

Imagine if you set out on a walk while listening to your favorite podcast and were able to apply the learnings of that episode to your life, in real-time, through journaling. Or what if you recorded a quick audio note to capture a new idea while on vacation, or during your commute? 

Pro Tip: Leverage the features in Day One to create journal entries by adding media to entries such as photos, videos, drawings or even audio recordings. Personally, I often use the audio feature and love how the recording is immediately transcribed.

Before we get ahead of ourselves (because the possibilities are exponential), I invite you to first reflect on what you want to get out of a journaling practice and why it’s important to you. Clarifying your “why” will lead to a more consistent and integrated practice. There is no right or wrong answer, only what feels most aligned for you.

  • Where would I like more clarity in my life/work?
  • What do I want to get out of my journaling practice?
  • How do I want to feel after journaling?

In the next article, we’ll discuss how a clear and aligned objective will help design an integrated (not forced) and personalized journaling flow that serves you.

This post is the first of a three-part series designed to help you understand the fundamentals and practice behind journaling; how you can establish, upgrade and personalize your own writing practice, and what we can learn from the world-class thinkers who also employ this technique. From New York Times best-selling authors to Michelin Star chefs and award-winning designers, they all share one thing in common: they journal.

Marc Champagne is the author of Personal Socrate: Better Question, Better Life, a best-selling book exploring the pointed questions that stimulate our mental fitness and teach us how to direct our internal narrative to work for us instead of against us. He is the host of the top 50 ranked podcast Behind The Human, unpacking mental fitness practices and reflective questions shaping the lives of some of the most successful and brilliant thinkers in the world.

Marc Champagne

Start Journaling in Your Day One Journal

The Day One journaling app makes it easy to keep a journal. Daily reminders, daily writing prompts, and journaling streaks are designed to help keep you motivated and consistently journaling.

Journal from here, there, everywhere.

Download the Day One journal app for free on iPhone, Android, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch.

Journal from here there and everywhere mobile devices image.