Socrates, the famous
Greek philosopher, once said, “The unreflective life is not worth
living.” Whether or not you agree with Socrates’ statement in its
entirety, it is certainly true to say that the capacity for
self-reflection indeed adds dimensions to our living that, as far as we
know, are not present in other mammals.
This practice will introduce you to a variety of intentional reflection
exercises, some of which I hope will help you nurture this aspect of
your daily life. The practice begins with a new approach to keeping a
reflective diary, but also suggests other forms of journaling that go
beyond mere written reflections.
Of all the practices dealing with SelfSmart, journal writing deals most
directly with developing an acute self-consciousness. It involves a deep
and disciplined approach to a process that you may have tried at other
times in your life, namely, keeping a diary. In his book, At a Journal
Workshop (1975), Ira Progoff of Dialogue House, has explored journal
writing as a method of personal growth and transformation. The practice
that follows is a simplified adaptation of Progoff’s work.
practice requires a formal journal. Probably the best format is a
loose-leaf notebook; you can add pages as needed. Set up the journal
with five dividers labeled “Daily Log,” “Weekly Log,” “Turning Points,”
“Future Discourses,” and “Other Logs.” After each divider, include at
least five blank pages for entries.
If you do
not already do so, you will need to start a daily and weekly reflection
on your life. I have provided suggestions for journal entries, but feel
free to improvise. You are also invited to keep a journal about other
dimensions of your life—turning points from the past and various aspects
of your future.
At the end of each
day spend a few minutes debriefing yourself on the day.
1. Write down three
things that happened that you want to remember, three things you’ve been
thinking about, and three difficult events from the day.
2. Give the day a title.
Saturday or Sunday, reflect on the past week.
1. Turn your journal sideways and make a chart which has seven columns.
Label each column with the days of the week.
2. Under each day record the most important items from your
Daily Logs for the week in the appropriate columns.
3. Divide the weekly chart into two parts. For each part, make up a
title that in some way communicates what this week was like for you.
4. Finally, create a title for the whole week at the top of the chart.
Look back over any segment of your life that you want to
understand in terms of its impact on where you are today.
1. Brainstorm a list of key events from this period that have in some
way shaped who you are today (for example, a book you read that changed
your thinking, the death of a friend, a memorable trip).
2. Arrange the events in chronological order, then write several
sentences expressing how each event has shaped you and who you
understand yourself to be.
your possible future.
1. Brainstorm a list of
events you anticipate will be part of your future.
2. For each item, imagine that the event itself is doing the writing in
your journal. What would it record in your journal for today? Following
are some possible future events to get you started:
|• the coming year
• the next decade
• the birth of your great-grandchildren
• a trip to a place you want to visit
• an experience you want to have
• the year 2005 and beyond
• an encounter with a future acquaintance
• an outing
with a future pet
• an exercise session
• your retirement years
• an event of a club or organization
• a future decision
• a family reunion 25 years from now
Don’t try to do this
activity in one sitting. Get started, then let it happen and grow
naturally as your journaling becomes more interesting to you. Create
your own list of possible events. Choose aspects of your future to
dialogue with that would benefit you.