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Journaling Your Way to Personal Growth

2013 June 20

When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen. ~Author Unknown

Journaling for personal growthWhen we are struggling to find solutions to life’s trials and unexpected detours, it seems to be basic human nature to reach out to those we believe to be more experienced, more knowledgeable, and somehow wiser than ourselves.

What you may not realize is that very often not only do you hold the key to the best answers for whatever challenges you may be facing, but learning to express your thoughts in writing is a powerful way to open your path to more meaningful personal growth.

Journaling for Personal Growth

Writing about what is happening in your life will help to clarify your thoughts so you can better understand what you’re feeling and why. When you write, your mind will naturally slow down as you search for the right words to express your feelings, and in the process you become more aware of your thoughts. When you read and summarize what you’ve written, it provides you with the opportunity to step back and look at things in new ways, maybe even from an entirely different perspective.

The Benefits of Journaling

  • Builds self awareness
  • Reduces stress and helps to work through problems
  • Helps you to stay focused on your priorities and make better choices
  • Brings out your natural creativity and wisdom
  • Helps you identify your values
  • Clarifies thoughts, feelings and behavior
  • Reveals your greater potential
  • Beneficial for healing emotionally, mentally and spiritually
  • Helps you see yourself as an individual
  • Connects you to the bigger picture of your life

If you have been reluctant to try journaling because you (think) you can’t write, or don’t know what to write about, it may help to understand that journaling isn’t about the quality of your writing, it’s about self-expression and awareness. As to the question of what to write, this is where journal prompts come in handy. There are a variety of directions you can go with prompts, but for the purpose of journaling for personal growth we’re going to focus on asking empowering questions.

Your mind will provide answers to whatever you dwell on, so what will you choose to place your focus on?


Questions have a dramatic effect on everything we do in life. By training ourselves to consciously ask empowering questions, we are able to direct our minds to focus on new possibilities and solutions.

Personal Growth Questions to Use as Journal Prompts

  • What would I do differently if I knew nobody would judge me?
  • What inspires me to do my very best?
  • How do I define “success,” and what exactly would that look like in my life?
  • What is my greatest strength and my greatest weakness?
  • What is my greatest fear? How would my life change for the better if I overcame this fear?
  • What one thing can I do today to change my future for the better?
  • What am I most grateful for today?
  • How can I add value to other people’s lives today? Who can I help today?
  • What risk have I taken recently and what did I learn from it?
  • What one thing have I always wanted to do, but haven’t. What has prevented me from doing it? What one thing can I do today to move closer to making it happen?

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. ~Albert Einstein

Probing troublesome situations with empowering questions can help to clarify your options, identify opportunities for growth and find solutions. In fact, sometimes when examining a problem in this way the solution turns out to be so obvious that you’re shocked you didn’t see it sooner.

Journaling Prompts for Problem Solving

  • What am I willing to do to resolve this problem?
  • What are my options?
  • What is the right thing to do?
  • What can I learn from this situation? Is there an opportunity for growth?
  • Is there a way I can get a better result and enjoy the challenge?
  • What is the worst that can happen if I don’t face this problem?
  • What one step can I take today to begin resolving this problem?

The most effective way to solve any problem that arises in your life is to ask great questions, and keep asking them. The benefit of repetition is that the first few times you ask these questions there’s a good chance that lack of confidence or internal limiting beliefs may get in the way, so keep asking those great questions until you receive the answers you need.

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you really want. ~Lao Tzu

Learning to express your thoughts in writing can be a powerful tool for self-discovery and personal growth; in the process strengthening your resilience and sense of empowerment. After all, no one in this life knows better better than you do what is in your heart and what truly matters most to you.

How about you? Do you keep a journal? Have you ever tried journaling to work through a problem? If you journal, do you keep a traditional journal or do you prefer one of the online journal services?

P.S. Keri Smith creates some of the most unusual and thought-provoking journals you’ll ever find – it’s what she does. I selected a few of my favorites to share in the slide show in the sidebar.

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15 Responses
  1. July 28, 2013

    Your first quote spoke to me immediately: When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen. ~Author Unknown. It made me think of my own father and how I allowed him to dictate my life for years. It took a toll on my own happiness. I actually had a psychic tell me to stay away from him. I just started writing in a journal about a year ago. Before that I thought it was silly. It made me think of “Dear Diary….today my crush touched my hand.” I know, it’s silly. I realize know how much using a journal helps, in so many different ways. Thank you!
    Keri Kight recently posted..25 Love Quotes to Grow Your HeartMy Profile

    • July 29, 2013

      Yea, that whole family dynamic thing can really play havoc with our lives. You know, as common place as dysfunctional families are I’m a little surprised there aren’t more studies done on how to effectively deal with at least the more common issues. Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts Keri!
      Marquita Herald recently posted..Appreciation and Gratitude Begins with AwarenessMy Profile

  2. June 27, 2013

    These are some great tips for anyone that keeps a journal. I find it such a cathartic system to write out all my issues and problems and it always does the trick. The things you bring up in this article are things that anyone penning they experiences should be asking themselves. Thanks for sharing Marquita.
    Chris Mayhew recently posted..Why Customised Cards Are Perfect For Any OccasionMy Profile

  3. June 24, 2013

    Not only do I love the list of benefits you mention that journal writing can provide but I especially love the premise of asking powerful and empowering questions. I love the strength and weakness prompt and I appreciate the layering of questions you provide for problem solving that can really help get to the heart of the matter. It really is about creating and activating awareness of who we really are that makes journaling such a powerful tool.

    I have chosen your post, Journaling Your Way to Personal Growth, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 6/24/13 for all things journaling on Twitter; a link will be posted on the social networks, on my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in my weekly Refresh Journal:

    #JournalChat Live is every Thursday, 5 EST/2 PST, for all things journaling on Twitter; our topic this week is Your Journaling: It’s About Time.

    Questions can be a powerful approach in journaling our self discovery; thanks for sharing!

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    Your Refreshment Specialist
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter
    Author of The Birthday Wall: Create a Collage to Celebrate Your Child

    • June 24, 2013

      Oh my, it normally takes a lot to leave me speechless, but you definitely got me on this one Dawn. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, for your kind words, and especially for the great honor of selecting my post as your Pick of the Day. :-)
      Marquita Herald recently posted..Are You Dreaming Big Enough?My Profile

  4. June 23, 2013

    Hi Marty,

    This was an excellent post and the questions you included were brilliant.

    I love the power of effective questioning. They can as you said, enable a person to actually see outside of the box, where opportunities, possibilities and solutions to problems exist.

    Personally, I’ve experimented with journaling and did so a lot more when I first got into self-development. It’s something which would be good to get into again, because it is powerful.

    Thank you.
    Hiten recently posted..How to Be a Quiet PersonMy Profile

  5. June 21, 2013

    Thank you once again Marty for such a wonderful article! The probing questions that you provide to stimulate our thinking are very intriguing ;-) Sometimes I think I am writing a journal in my head while driving on the way home from work. On some days I like to listen to music and on some day I like to just quiet the mind and let it wander wherever (sometimes to topics such as the ones you have listed). In a way, my commute back and forth to work is my “sacred” time where I know I will not be interrupted.

    One other thought on journaling which I have found quite interesting. Sometimes, it is good to sit and think about what you write, compose it nicely, review it and read it again. At other times, it has worked better for me where I just let my stream of consciosness fall out on to the paper. I don’t think about what I am writing. I just let it flow, no matter how silly, dumb, or ridiculous it may sound. By keeping the pen (or fingers) moving, you don’t give your left brain the opportunity to shoot down an idea or thought that may just turn out to be the most important of the day (or more).

    Since entering the blogosphere, I have found a lot of writers that I “follow”. However, your style of writing and insightful thoughts puts your site at the top of the list. Thanks for providing such an inspiring energy boost to my week!
    Dave recently posted..Discover and share your wisdomMy Profile

  6. June 21, 2013

    Sage advice, Marty.

    I love to pour myself out writing. It gets my thoughts organized, gets them out of my head. I can reread what I wrote and edit myself. It helps to visualize the problem and the possible solutions I have available to me. Your prompts are priceless. I shall use them as a focusing tool.

    Many thanks, Marty,

    Rick Lelchuk recently posted..Comment on Leadership: The Power of the Follower by Rick LelchukMy Profile

  7. June 21, 2013

    I love the point you make right out in the first paragraph! We do seek others, mostly because we don’t trust ourselves, and journaling is one of the best ways to remedy that! That you for this thoughtful post!
    Jodi recently posted..How To Write An Affirmation That WorksMy Profile

  8. June 20, 2013

    Really great article Marquita! I am definitely bookmarking and sharing it. You have listed great prompts here, some I have seen before and some I have not, so a big Thank You for that. Do you find that after you journal that upon waking the next day the focus of your journaling is clearer? It seems to work that way for me, so I am curious.

    Mantha recently posted..The Healing Power of NASCARMy Profile

    • June 20, 2013

      So glad you enjoyed the article Mantha! As to your question, I absolutely find I gain greater clarity after I journal no matter when I do it. Since I work at home and happen to be one of those annoying Type A personalities, I often overload myself. When I start to feel my thinking is getting fuzzy, or I’m having trouble focusing on my priorities – I stop and head for my journal. Even a few minutes of quiet, focused thinking makes a huge difference. :-)
      Marquita Herald recently posted..Journaling Your Way to Personal GrowthMy Profile

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