I ask my clients to journal with me every day. Of all the things I ask of them as part of my coaching process, this is one of the biggest hurdles for some reason. Every once in a while, I get push back. “Why is journaling critical to this process?” they ask.
The benefits of journaling are countless. It is well documented that people who journal every day experience better mental health, heightened productivity, lower stress, increased clarity and a greater sense of peace. Indeed, it’s hard for some people to appreciate how valuable these benefits are because they are intangible and difficult to measure. It’s also challenging for some people to journal if they’ve never done it before.
And while personal journaling is an extremely beneficial practice, journaling in tandem with an executive coach multiplies the benefit 10-fold to deliver powerful, high impact coaching.
Here are four reasons why:
1. Journaling Tracks Progress
Many types of coaching revolve around open conversation. Conversation has an important place in coaching, of course, and it is definitely an integral part of my coaching process, too. But centerpiece of my coaching is journaling. And while other coaches might encourage journaling, I take it to another level entirely.
I have a dedicated in-house platform called JournalEngine™, where the journaling takes place and where the content is shared with a client’s coach. Clients are encouraged to journal on a daily basis, and coaches engage with them regularly through the platform by offering comments questions, and other useful feedback.
Because clients express so much of their thoughts, experiences and emotions through journaling, this becomes an excellent means for them to track their progress over time. This is an invaluable way for clients to see how much their thinking has evolved during the duration of their coaching. For results-oriented executives, this is a great resource.
2. Journaling Builds Trust
When a client journals daily with their coach, a relationship between the two develops that is unlike any other. This high-level, high-intensity process is designed to build connection and intimacy between coach and client in order to drive and accelerate results.
Journaling with a coach is an important exercise in building a strong client-coach relationship. The exchange helps the coach develop a deep understanding of their client quickly. Even more importantly, it helps the client develop trust in their coach. Trust is built through frequency of contact, depth of conversation and the reliability and consistency of the coach’s communications with their client.
Why is trust crucial? Because clients who don’t trust their coaches resist change and won’t enjoy the benefits of coaching. After all, who in their right mind would want to embark on a challenging journey with someone they don’t trust?
3. Journaling Gives Insight
The data and information that a coach collects from a client’s journal provides unparalleled insight about that client. This information is critical to coaches in their efforts to help move their clients forward; it allows coaches to connect the dots between life events, identify patterns of behavior and uncover limiting beliefs.
Why is this important? Because thoughts precede action. First we think and then we do. If we accept that our thoughts (even unconscious thoughts) trigger our actions, then we can understand that learning to manage our thoughts is fundamental to altering our behavior in ways that can enhance job performance, spur pursuit of new goals, transform our relationships and even ignite newfound happiness.
More than any other coaching method, journaling enables coaches to get inside your head and understand what makes you tick. And the feedback they can offer through shared journaling allows them to provide just-in-time coaching that yields immediate and powerful results.
4. Journaling Creates Self-Awareness
Of all the reasons listed here, this one is the most important because, with dedicated journaling, magic happens. It illuminates pre-existing beliefs and patterns of thought in a way that makes you much more self-aware. It helps to highlight your values and goals. It also identifies instances when you may be assigning blame to others instead of taking responsibility for your results.
Journaling is similar to meditation in that it forces us to slow our thoughts. We think faster than we can write, so when we are writing, we are literally creating space in our brains between each word. Space creates calm. Space creates clarity. Space also provides the opportunity to think in ways that help us solve problems and move toward a goal or desire.
Journaling is especially effective in response to prompts. For example:
What is it that you really, really want?
After asking this question to hundreds of highly driven clients, I’ve noticed that many people find this question really, really hard to answer! It’s hard because most people either don’t take the time to think about what they really, really want, or they won’t allow themselves to think about it because, in their mind, it’s unattainable. That’s a big mental block for people. They shut down a question about their desires before ever entertaining the idea if they figure they can never have what they want.
The power of writing is that it unlocks you. Expressing your thoughts in written form forces you to get outside of your own head and think about how your words might be interpreted by someone else. The more you are prompted to clarify your thoughts by your coach, the more your thinking transforms. The more you are able to see how your thinking impacts your outcomes, the more deliberate you will become with your thinking.
This has the effect of making you much clearer about who you are, what you want and how you can pursue your goals.