How Keeping a Journal Can Change Your Life


Women are familiar with journalling. When they can hold a pencil, they receive their first Minnie Mouse or Cinderella diary with the cheesy locking clasp. They grow to recording their deepest teenage secrets in their diary. Only to have them discovered by their snooping younger brother.

For most men, this is completely unfamiliar. We have a hard enough time with a grocery list let alone recording a deep thought. There seems to be a stigma associated with journalling for men. It’s seen as a feminine pursuit. It wasn’t always this way. In fact, very influential male figures were chronic journal writers. People like Benjamin Franklin and Winston Churchill recorded thoughts and events throughout their lives.

What is a diary as a rule? A document useful to the person who keeps it. Dull to the contemporary who reads it and invaluable to the student, centuries afterwards, who treasures it. – Walter Scott

In my coaching practice, I use journal writing to enhance my clients’ growth experience. You can see from the Road Trips I set on my Facebook page that I ask people to reflect, make lists and jot down notes. A journal would be a great place for this work to occur. I tend to get some pushback initially from men. The hesitation originates from two distinct places; they don’t understand the value and they “don’t know how” to keep a journal.

Keeping a journal allows you to develop your creativity and gives you a place for reflection, verbalization and visualization. What’s more important are the life propelling habits it helps develop. The core benefits of coaching are that it helps people see their choices, helps them make decisions and sets a level of accountability. A journal provides a place for similar work to occur. Sometimes just writing down a thought, getting it “on paper,” somehow makes it more real. Sharing that with someone else creates a sense of accountability similar to a contract. You feel bound to meet the commitment you made to yourself.

What’s funny is that expressing the value of this type of writing isn’t the hard part. For some reason, guys get hung up on not knowing how to “do it right.” Here’s a secret, there is no right way! There are two basic ways to keep a journal; electronically and on paper. Use whatever method works best for you, or both. What’s important is that you use your journal consistently and honestly.

An electronic journal is done on your computer, tablet or phone. You can use an app specifically designed for keeping a journal, use a word processor, a text file or other system. I’m a prolific Evernote user. I run a large portion of my business using Evernote, take seminar notes and keep to-do lists there so it’s a natural place for me to keep my journal. What I like best is that everything is synced between all of my devices so I can pick up my phone or iPad and create a new note whenever I have a thought.

Some guys prefer the physical element of paper though. It’s more concrete. To be honest, I have paper journals all over the house too. I’m particularly fond of Fieldnotes. Believe it or not, actually writing on paper can still be faster than typing. It also offers a greater degree of expression by allowing you to sketch, paste snippets from magazines or whatever you can think to add.

Even though I provide some direction, the idea of a blank page can still be scary for some clients. I’ve been looking into some journals with light formatting to help the process. I just discovered one designed by Moleskine that I think holds some promise. Part of their “passions” line, the new Wellness Journal has some predefined sections to help you keep your journal. It has sections for recording diet and exercise related items which you’d expect in a wellness journal but it goes further. It has places for you to do goal planning and to record your breakthroughs and victories. It also has an inspirations section that is designed for sketches or pasting things that simply push you forward. It ends with a number of blanks sections that you can customize by using the included labels. These are great for coaching instructions or road trip discoveries.

Keeping a journal provides you the reflective surface needed to promote lasting change. There isn’t any “right way” to journal as long as it is done regularly and with an incredible level of honesty. To get you started, pick up your (new) journal and answer the following question:

What’s the one change I could make right now that would have the most significant and positive impact on my life?

Look back at your answer. I think your journal just started the process of changing your life!

Photo credit: David Robert Wright / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Leave a comment


  1. Brilliant post! Well written entertaining article around a powerful practice. Loved the idea of using journaling to create a journey for your clients… think I am going to steal it!

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