I’m delighted to introduce Suzanne Vosbikian from Picture Retirement as my next guest for #JournalinginJuly. Suzanne has been a guest before during the Over 50 & Thriving Series and you can read her thoughts on How Photogrpahy Helps her to Thrive.
I identify photography with Suzanne, so I was pleasantly surprised when she left a comment to say she had actually taught a course in Journaling. Of course, I had to have her write for #JournalinginJuly and share her thoughts on journaling and ways to get started!
You can find Suzanne’s links to her website and social media at the end, so don’t forget to pop over and connect with her.
Write Your Life – a Personal Journey
As a lifelong journal writer, Sue’s July Challenge resonates with me on many levels. Journal writing has many benefits and it is a process that I have used to create order from chaos, examine difficult decisions and chronicle my history for decades.
When I was working, I used a journal for organization, goal setting, and motivation. Planning projects, tracking progress and managing career advancement goals was the purpose of that journal. Fear of prying eyes kept me from writing anything personal on those pages, but the practice of daily writing propelled me toward a life time of journal writing discoveries.
After I gave birth to my daughter, I used a journal to sort through insecurities and frustrations associated with caring for a new baby. Along with the trials of motherhood, I struggled with losing my former identity and becoming a ‘stay at home mom.’ During this period, I discovered the importance of reflective solitude and its restorative powers. This journal was intensely personal and was kept under lock and key.
Eventually, my journal became a place to preserve our family history, and plan for the future.
Disbursed throughout the daily pages (which were often boring and mundane) were countless passages devoted to conflict resolution, self healing, discipline, motivation and creative exploits. When my writing took a turn toward the inner self, it did not take long to realize that I had wandered down an incredible pathway to personal discovery and acceptance. It was during this period that I became comfortable sharing some of my journal entries with my husband. Limited sharing of your journal is a personal decision, but I have found that it is less threatening to a partner who is curious.
After many years of enjoying the benefits of journal writing, I decided to include others in the process. That is when I developed a course that included classroom exercises, daily prompts, and challenges specifically designed to guide participants toward self knowledge. There were exercises for aligning every day actions against core values, understanding preconceptions, time management, examining the past, and weighing pros and cons of a difficult decision. Each assignment was designed to help participants examine themselves from the outside – IN.
I used one of my favorite exercises as an as an ice breaker on the first day of class. I called this exercise a ‘character sketch’.
The assignment was to write about you for five minutes. Most participants limited their writing to a simple introduction, which included a physical description and a few words about work and family. We repeated the exercise on the last day of class (after six weeks and many hours of directed writing) and compared the two descriptions. Those descriptions revealed not only a broader physical description, but an emotional one as well.
This simple exercise provides an excellent example of the difference between casual writing and focused writing. When we sit down to write, our first thoughts are generally scattered and mostly superficial in nature. It takes time to get past the noise and focus your inner voice. Prompts, like the ones Sue is proposing for the month of July are exactly what directed writing is about. You can simply answer the question, or you can examine the thoughts that surface after you answer the question. That is where the journey truly begins.
Statistics show that doing something for thirty days will make it a habit.
Sue’s July challenge will set you on a path of self discovery, but, it’s up to you to make it a habit. The benefits are undeniable and include improved health, reduced stress levels, greater self knowledge, improved processing skills and more confidence. It is a journey worth taking.
If you decide to continue your journal journey at the end of July, I suggest that you begin with a ‘character sketch’; one that is thorough and revealing. Examine skills, talents, values, needs, shortcomings & limitations, things people misunderstand about you, fears, what makes you happy/sad, concerns, fantasies, relationships; both good and bad, insecurities, the types of things you do during alone time, how you feel in social situations, your true self vs. your on-line persona, what lights you up, good decisions you have made, bad decisions you have made, successes and failures, upbringing, values, morals, your hobbies and how you spend leisure time.
All of these things are a part of who you are. But, is it who you want to be?
In 2006 my husband and I sold the family business that we had run for twenty-two years and relocated two hours away to Palm City, Florida. As a native Floridian, I cannot imagine a more perfect place to spend our retirement years. I enjoy an active lifestyle which includes volunteer work, outdoor sports, photography, travel, cooking and social time with friends and family.
I started our lifestyle blog Picture Retirement, for two reasons – (1) chronicle our adventures and (2) inspire and serve as a resource to other retirees. It is rewarding on many levels, but mostly because of the connections I am making with people all over the world.
Just like me, it is a work in progress.
My philosophy for living a contented life is to maintain balance within the day to day, (health, fitness, leisure time, hobbies, family, volunteer work, etc.) always have something to look forward to and begin each day with gratitude.