Increasing Self-Awareness through Journaling

New week new challenge, and since this January month is totally dedicated to self-awareness, that means that’s what we’re going to work on! In particular, this week will be about shaping a small journaling habit to pursue this goal!

So last week we tried to get more in tune with what our strengths and weaknesses, in order to increase our self-awareness and try to get a better read on what direction we should take in life. Now that was a great start and incredibly insightful, and if you haven’t done that challenge, make sure to do so (check it out here). Now the order of the two doesn’t really matter to any great extent, so you can start with this one if you feel more excited about it!

If we just quickly remind ourselves of what the very definition of self-awareness meant; “conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings”.  Now in order to translate that to any practical application, this means one has to be opened and alert to taking in and scanning thoughts and emotions that are occurring within us; in what context and for what reasons? Having this emotional radar constantly on means a heightened awareness to what’s going on in relation to how you are experiencing the situation at hand.

This is usually not the case, not only are so many of us not picking up on the small things that gives ourselves away, but what’s worse is that many of us are even actively supressing all kinds of emotions and related thoughts. Why? Because it’s an easy solution – turning it all of means certainty. We know what we get. But if we want to live life, if we wont to enjoy life and have great experiences every day (not saying everyday stuff can be just that – the small things are often the greatest things) , we have to tune in to our emotions – all of our emotions! Because we can’t selectively choose what kinds of emotions we want to turn off, it’s an all or nothing scenario according to the shame researcher Brene Brown.

This means we need to become aware, be present, taking notice of not only ourselves but the world around us. People, friends, enemies, animals, the environment. Everything. That’s not negotiable, that’s just the deal we have to make with ourselves if we want to live life to its fullest. So becoming self-aware means first becoming aware of what’s going on around us. It’s not until then when we can learn how to deal with all of our motions, to relate to them, to recognize patterns and to draw conclusions from past experiences. It opens up a whole new level of self-awareness – a whole new level of living.

What might be intimidating – could be – is that doing all this will result in an objective look at yourself;

“Part of awareness is accepting who we really are, not just in our mind, but in our behaviour in this world. To accept and say ‘you know what, that was me, I did do that, I am responsible for myself, for my actions, for my emotions, my attitudes, how I treat other people, and you know what I need to evaluate that. I need to ask, is that the person I want to be? Am I happy with that? Am I proud of that? Is there something I can shift in my character, or my behaviour or my believes that will make me a better person? “ – Brendon Burchard (2).

It’s not until we first accept our current state that we can start to fill out that delta that lies between today – who we are – and tomorrow – wo we want to be.

When we start to take notice at this level, we will also become alert to what it is that distract us through the days. When are we being high jacked from our conscious mind in to a reactive state, a state of being walked in a park like a dog. Us being the dog led by Facebook holding hands with Instagram and their kids YouTube and the Fridge. When we become aware, we’ll pick up on how and when we get thrown out of our ability to focus at one task at hand, disturbed from advancing and taking steps in the direction we want to go in life. Self-awareness makes us able to alert our self from falling into those traps, truly feeling the cost of it. Because the cost is great – it’s stealing your life away.

Yes, we can become better at this just by processing all this in our minds. But, if we take this one step further and write down our thoughts – do some journaling – the process will be so much easier. As a bonus,  there are loads of studies on mental benefits like decreasing stress, stimulating creativity, building self-esteem and so forth (Henry, 2014). But it doesn’t take much reasoning – and first-hand experience from a 10 year journaler – to realize that when we actively scan our brains, pick up on what we are feeling in different situations, and then go about writing the gist of that down, it will become more real and it will bring new perspectives. The very act of writing something out and reading it, It’s therapeutic, it’s like talking to someone else about what’s going on. Sometimes the very action of just getting it out of our heads makes us able to let go of whatever it was that made us feel a certain way. We can reason with ourselves, take on different perspectives or just establish that “yes, that was a truly an amazing experience and it really made me feel great.”. Seeing patterns, realizing that perhaps a certain regular activity makes us feel great and should perhaps therefore be an even greater part of your life. Suddenly new opportunities or ideas can appear that makes all the difference. But even more so, sometimes these thing doesn’t happen until we go back and read through what we wrote, and now when we are in another state of mind can get deep insights and clarity, making us understand a situation and ourselves better.

More so, not only does it seem to be a key activity for being self-aware, many of the masters throughout history kept a journal, Leonardo Da Vinci, Einstein, Benjamin franklin. Modelling the ones that did figure things out is key to make our personal development journey as effective as possible. Picking up a few role-models and past mentors along the road. That’s why this week’s challenge will be about creating a journaling habit for five days and then in the end of the week read through what’s been written to do some reflection and decide whether to continue this habit or not.


How are we going to do this?

So let’s get down to the practicality of journaling. Personally I do tons of journaling, and as I’ve said have been doing so for the last eight or nine years when I first started to use OneNote as my planning system. That’s where I keep all the things I extract from my head, notes, project planning, goals, work journaling, food journaling, social journaling, there’s no stop to it. But that’s not going to be the task at hand for us this week. We are going to set the bar low and start small – which could absolutely be enough. Now just let me clarify, I’m putting out a proposal here for how to do this, you may tweak it so it suits you. What’s important is to actually get started with some kind of journaling!

First off, even if I just went through a bunch of reasons for why you should start journaling, make sure to personalise your reasons for doing this. Getting clear with YOUR PURPOSE – having a clear why – is key. Secondly, it comes to designing the habit. When we want to implement something new in our life we want to do use the habit loop’s template for creating a long lasting habit, using the three pillars called the Que, the Routine and the Reward. Using this format, we can actually make the action automatous, stored in a part of our brain that will make you able to do the habit even if you lose your memory centre in the brain (Duhigg, 2012).

My philosophy when starting a habit is to set the bar very low to get going, and then if the you’re in the mood for it, go beyond and overachieve. Surprise yourself. Starting out and incrementally raising what you see as the very minimum for what you should do. That’s how I work with all my habits, and it has proven to work very well for me as well as for others. Trick yourself into doing way more than you expected, because getting started is always the biggest barrier!

The Que:

When are we going to write? Forcing something into your life that isn’t designed for your life, isn’t a long term solution. So look at your day and see when it best fits you. Now personally, I just love having parts of this routine early in the morning. So my suggestion for you is to see if there are any suitable times during this time where it could fit you. Perhaps when you sit down to eat breakfast, when your commuting to work, when you’re doing your warm up at the gym – I bet you can figure it out!  But try to anchor it to a certain Que, whether it is a time, place or action doesn’t matter as long as a clear association can be made.

The Routine:

Where are we going to write? So there are some studies suggesting that using a pen and paper activates certain parts of the brain and will stimulate your creativity. But choose whatever medium you prefer best, but also, have easy access to. If your moving around a lot without the possibility of carrying around a lot of stuff, then your phone will properly be your best tool for you. There’s no point of having a fancy book with expensive paper if it’s not with you when you need to write! Here are some medium alternatives:

  • A regular notebook, with or without lines
  • Journaling Books with questions and guidance outlined like “the five minute journal”
  • Writing in OneNote, Evernote or just a plain word document
  • Writing an email to yourself
  • A note in your phone
  • App’s in your phone like “Penzu”
  • A napkin or whatever you can get hold on when you feel the urge to take some notes!

What are we going to write? Now in order for us to become self-Aware that means breaking down events, happenings and actions that made us feel in a particular way and clarifying way that was the case. But to make this clear and actionable, we are going to answer a few questions as a minimum requirement base line. And then, if you feel like overachieving, throughout the day journal when it feels relevant and when something happens that stands out to you. Observe yourself!

The questions you are going to answer:

  • What are you grateful for right now?
  • What are you enthusiastic about today?
  • What are your concerns about this day and how would the ideal version of yourself handle it?

Throughout the day write down what you were thinking when something happened, how you felt, in what context and if you can; try to answer why this was the case.  And at the end of the day answer the following questions:

  • What were your top three moments that happened and how they made you feel?
  • Was there anything you should have done differently if you were to relive this day?

The Reward:

You have to emotionally anchor the routine and create a positive association. Closely connecting the two so they are one and the same “journaling makes me feel great”; so create a reward that fits you! personally I just feel very clear and empty (in a good sense) when I’ve done my journaling, which is great reward for me. But that’s not always the case when starting out, it may take some time to reap the rewards of the actual habit. So a recommendation is to ask yourself after you’ve been journaling; how did it make you feel?  Other types of rewards could be, just praising yourself for doing a good job “great journaling Alex”; or it could be something quantitative like allowing yourself to have breakfast afterwards.

So The objectives are:

  • Journal every day for at least a couple of minutes, as a suggestion answering the outlined questions. When you write, think in terms of what you are feeling and why you believe that is the case; situation, context, etc.
  • In the end of the week, read through the journal and reflect upon what you’ve written. You can do this during our Live Weekly Evaluation session (Sweden, Stockholm, 18.00).

So that’s it, that’s this week’s challenge! It may seem like a small task (or maybe it doesn’t?) but I urge you do to it, it’s fun and you really get to know yourself better. And since I’ve been doing most of my journaling on the computer or in the phone, I’m going to go all old school this week to make it feel a bit fresh!

If you’d like, commit to me in the comments, as it will increase the likelihood of you following through.   And make sure to look out for any related videos I’ll be posting in the week and the Live Weekly Evaluation session on Friday (Sweden, Stockholm, 18.00)! To be sure not to miss any, press this link below and you’ll subscribe to my channel and will be notified when a new video is out!

My name is Alexander Nilsson, Thank you for reading, bye guys.

Subscribe to my channel:



Henry, A. (2014)Why you should keep a journal (and how to start yours). Available at: (Accessed: 15 January 2017).

Duhigg, C. (2012)The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. New York: Random House Publishing Group.



About the author: alenils

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.