Coaching supports change, and change requires reflection first, followed by action, followed by reflection on the action taken. People cannot change beliefs or behaviors that they are not aware they have. People cannot maintain the positive changes they make without anchoring them in their way of being. Journaling is an excellent tool to help a coachee discover what they want, explore what's in their way, and document the learnings during the coaching journey.
When I give a coachee journaling as a homework assignment, the reply seems to land neatly in one of three camps:
Camp Clueless: "I don't know what to write. I have nothing to say."
Camp Chicken: "I used to journal, and it was helpful, but the thought of anyone finding my journal and reading my private thoughts stops me cold."
Camp Choir (as in, Lynn, you are preaching to the choir): "Of course I keep a journal. If I don't journal every day, I don't feel right--it's like I haven't brushed my teeth."
Oh, yes, there is a fourth camp. Camp Convince Me: "Why would I waste my time? What's the point?"
One day I will find the article that turned me from an entrenched skeptic to a daily journaler. Here's the main message, backed up by a lot of impressive studies and neuroscientific factoids:
When you write down your thoughts and feelings, fears and beliefs, deferred dreams and dismissed ideas, you create enough distance to experience them from a different vantage point. The very act of putting concrete words to what scares you and keeps you stuck--you know, those fleeting thoughts that cycle through your brain a thousand times a day, unchallenged--that act of naming, describing, and explaining is a powerful change agent. The mental process of finding the right words, and the physical process of writing them will stall those ephemeral gremlins long enough for you to stare them down, size them up, and take them on in a new way. Said differently, when your brain is tasked with teasing out and translating a complex thought into a string of words, your brain's relationship to that thought shifts in a productive, empowering way.
The really good news is that effort spent on proper spelling, grammar, or a clever turn of a phrase when journaling is a complete waste of time, perhaps even detrimental to the process. Also detrimental is a fancy journal and a pricey pen. Get the cheapest notebook you can find, grab a pen that doesn't skip, leak, or otherwise distract you, and start the conversation with yourself. It's the "back to school" time of year, so supplies are plentiful and on sale!
If you want to develop a journaling practice, but need a little guidance, there are fantastic books available; my new favorite is "A Writer's Book of Days" by Judy Reeves.
Enjoy your Labor Day weekend...I'll be journaling about mine!