Why Self-Reflection is So Important [PLUS JOURNAL PROMPTS]

Why Self-Reflection is So Important [PLUS JOURNAL PROMPTS]


How keeping old journals helps me see progress & improve self-study (or self-awareness

How to practice self-reflection

28 Writing Prompts to Help You Self-Reflect in Your Journal

Why Journaling for Self-Reflection is a Great Self-Care Practice — A case study from my life

Some Cautions About How Journaling Can Be Booby-Trapped

Why Focusing on progress is important

The Most Constructive Way to Look Back at the Past

Self-Reflection Journaling.jpg

In this blog post, you’ll see how journaling can be helpful to your personal development journey + 28 writing prompts to help you get started!

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How keeping old journals helps me see progress & improve self-study (or self-awareness

I’ve been going through old journals lately. I’m doing this partly to clear clutter and also to mine them for NaNoWriMo ideas. I just got to my journal from last fall — which is a doozy. I was struggling with my mental health during the pandemic with high anxiety; near-constant illness causing me to be quarantined and unable to work/be paid, causing repeated financial hits; that caused more anxiety; friends were sick with COVID and one died; and there was more, but that’s enough.

From going through these old journals, I realize that the more I feel the need to “write it down” or “journal it,” probably the more anxious I am. My journaling may help to quell anxiety in the moment. But now that I’ve gone through a couple of these old journals, I want to step it up a bit. I want to make my journaling a more positive and constructive experience.

Note: I hate “positivity,” as in fake positivity or toxic positivity. I hate faking such a thing for the sake of social approval. Social media has trained us to do this. I also detest forms of toxic positivity like spiritual bypassing or “law of attraction.” So when I use the term “positivity” here at Destiny Architecture, what I mean is usefulness, constructiveness, and hope. I mean staying in love rather than fear. I’m more of a “show me” than a “tell me” person, so I’m more after the idea of, “Tell me you’re a positive person without telling me you’re a positive person.”

How to Practice Self-Reflection Through Journaling

Looking back over old journals shows me where I was a year ago, for example. If you want the same, all you have to do is journal consistently. My old journals let me see what I was into at that time, what my goals were, what I wished for, what I prayed for, what I was learning spiritually, what I was earning (or not earning), and what plans I was making. They also allow me to look back at my old self as if I am looking down on her from the future, so it’s like looking at yourself from a larger view. I can see my patterns more clearly that way. This is how I learn. Today, I can look at that previous version of me and go, “Oh wow, I did that?!” Or, “Oh look at what I thought I’d be done with by now that I still want to do…wonder why that is?” The key is to look at the “undone” goals without attachment or judgment.

I’m coming up with a new journaling plan to make this a more constructive activity. I love how the Self Journal does this for you! But I also want to take it to a new level for myself. I’ve tried some bullet journaling in the past, Good Notes, Rocketbook, and Notion. Whichever route you choose for journaling, I still feel there’s nothing quite like good old fashioned pen and paper.

28 prompts you can use in your own journaling practice that will help you chart your progress over time:

1. What was good/bad this week/month?

2. What are your current goals and plans?

3. What would you like to do in the next week or month?

4. What’s your plan for the next 3 months (or whatever time frame you choose).

5. Who do you find inspiring? Encouraging? Whom do you admire right now?

6. What content are you consuming?

7. How is your career going? What have you accomplished in your work?

8. What are your habits?

9. Which new skills have you learned?

10. What are you reading?

11. What is your fitness level and how are you getting movement and exercise?

12. What are you learning in yoga on and off the mat?

13. How is your meditation practice going?

14. What are you cooking, baking, and/or eating?

15. What is your stress level? How are you dealing with stress?

16. What are you learning in therapy sessions?

17. What are you learning in online life coaching sessions? (My coaching software tracks this when you work with me!)

18. Which habits are getting better? Worse?

19. How did I backslide this past week? How did I improve?

20. How did I practice self-care?

21. How did I nourish myself mentally, physically, emotionally?

22. What do I want out of life today?

23. What am I studying or trying to learn?

24. What do I think my purpose is?

25. What am I really good at?

26. What in my journal has the power to change my life the most and offer me the most benefit? What will impact my life the most?

27. What causes me overwhelm, stress, or anxiety? What relieves it?

28. What hobbies am I into? What are my current passions?

Why Journaling for Self-Reflection is a Great Self-Care Practice — A case study from my life

It’s really cool to see things I wanted a year ago that I now have. For example, a year ago, I wanted badly to be able to work from home. I made a list of things I needed to have in order to make it a reality. They were:

1. A better resume

2. A new MacBook

3. I needed to jazz up my “Writer Heather” site, which I had been using since 2012 as a catch-all portfolio. It’s now this site.

4. Health insurance of my own (not employer-provided)

I’m happy to tell you I now have ALL of that!

One year ago, in my exhaustion and stress, the above four things seemed impossible. It took me nearly a year to get a MacBook, for example. I started my WFH career with nothing more than my iPad and a borrowed laptop from a friend. I’ve made countless resumes in the past year. I don’t even want to get started on my demoralizing healthcare journey here, but just know I finally have what I wanted initially. It was a rough road, but I didn’t settle!

Some Cautions About How Journaling Can Be Booby-Trapped

What’s bad about journaling for self-reflection? It can bring up some of the “muck” from the past. I can literally open up a journal and see how much I was struggling a year ago. I thought I was having “mental health” issues, and I was, but I know now some of that had to do with two chronic health issues that a doctor had missed. It’s hard not to have a tough time emotionally and go through bad moods when your body is sick, overworked, and exhausted. I hate bringing this stuff back up by looking at the old journal! But it’s still a good reminder of how much I’ve overcome.

Why Focusing on Progress is Important

If you’re prone to negativity bias or “awfulizing” aka “catastrophixing,” then writing in a journal during rough periods in your life could do more harm than good. It did for me. Journaling when I was struggling just made me spin my wheels more, and I realized it, so I chose to walk away from journaling for a while. I concentrated instead on taking action, self-care, yoga, Reiki, and meditation.

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Be aware that looking back at an old journal can be triggering. It’s best to be able to practice detachment. I tend to try and flip through them quickly for this purpose until I happen upon a page that contains some golden nugget that is useful to me now. But no one wants to live in the past!

It’s alright to look back at the past — just don’t stare at it! -Source Unknown

The Most Constructive Way to Look Back at the Past

One one hand, I can see that there is consistency with the person who I was one year ago. I still want the same things; that much hasn’t changed. On the other hand, there is much more to accomplish because I still want the same things! There were things I want that I haven’t been able to do because of the pandemic. I spent much of 2020 and 2021 just surviving — especially this year, after I nearly died from the stupid virus. It’s a good reminder to have realistic expectations of ourselves as we endure this global disaster.

This time last year, I think we were all counting the days until the election here in the U.S. It had been arguably the worst year ever for most of us — the 2020 pandemic. I think through the process of it all in 2020, I concluded that I needed to stop settling in life. I think we all did, or we wouldn’t be seeing the current “Great Resignation,” which I happily took part in. The good news is my life looks completely different than it was a year ago. I’m a much happier person.

By early 2021, I saw my journal entries become more driven and confident. I knew I deserved better in my life and I was going to find it. Ultimately, I experienced a very hard time. But I also saw a renaissance that involved re-prioritzing my life. I returned to my faith more deeply. I made a pivot in career direction. I fixed long-standing health problems that had been holding me back. I no longer suffer from mental health issues like anxiety or misdiagnosed depression.

Maybe I’m just getting older (haha) but I am beginning to understand more deeply the idea of permanence. That I am still here. Whether life happens and I declare it “good,” “bad,” or labeled in any other way — I am still here. I almost wasn’t… But I’m still here. I know myself a little better.

Writing our lives down in journals is one thing. But to go back and look at not just what we wrote, but what we went through… That’s another thing altogether.

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Leave a comment below if you’d like the receive the above 28 writing prompts as a PDF, Notion Template, or Good Notes template! (Tell me which, or let me know of another format you’re interested in).