The Power of Journaling: A Path to Personal and Professional Growth

Imagine finding yourself in the bustling city of Boston, surrounded by like-minded professionals and eager to absorb the wealth of knowledge and experience at NASPA 2023. The conference is a recharging experience, opening doors to new possibilities, connections, and insights. But as the excitement fades and the dust settles, how do you ensure that these invaluable lessons and encounters do not get lost in the whirlwind of life? How do you fully internalize and make meaning of these experiences? The answer lies in the art of self-reflection, and one of the most powerful tools for self-reflection is journaling.

Let’s explore the world of journaling as an intentional strategy for personal and professional development. We will delve into the challenges and benefits of starting the practice of journaling, examine different formats like audio and video journaling, discuss the use of journal templates to guide our thoughts, and understand the importance of consistency in self-reflection.

The Power of Journaling: Why Self-Reflection Matters

As graduate students and entry-level professionals, we are constantly learning and growing, both personally and professionally. However, with each passing year and the ever-growing accumulation of knowledge and experiences, making meaning of this new information can be a daunting task. This is where self-reflection comes into play.

Self-reflection is a crucial aspect of personal and professional development. It allows us to take a step back, evaluate our experiences, and learn from them. By engaging in self-reflection, we can grow into better colleagues, friends, partners, professionals, and human beings. And one of the most popular strategies for self-reflection is journaling.

Journaling: An Intentional Strategy for Advancing Learning and Development

Journaling is a purposeful and structured approach to advancing our learning and development. It serves as a mirror, reflecting our heart and mind and providing us with a safe space to explore our thoughts, emotions, and experiences. However, starting a journaling practice can be challenging. It requires diligence, commitment, and, depending on how much we want or need to process, it can be time-consuming. But the benefits of journaling far outweigh the challenges.

My own journey with journaling started in high school, however I did not have the discipline or frame of mind to keep it up. It started as a English class assignment. I still have the marble notebook with all of my entries. The next time I started journaling was well into my professional career. Looking back, I wish I had been more consistent with it. Over time, I learned to organize my journal entries by dates, occasionally focusing on specific memories or impactful interactions. As I continued to journal, I discovered different formats to make the process more engaging, accessible, and sustainable.

Exploring Different Formats: Audio and Video Journaling

While traditional written journaling can be effective, it may not be the best fit for everyone. It requires a lot of time. Some people find it easier to speak their thoughts, while others prefer a visual approach. Audio and video journaling offer exciting alternatives for those looking to engage in self-reflection using non-traditional formats.

Audio Journaling

Audio journaling is an excellent option for those who find it easier to express themselves verbally. By recording our thoughts and experiences, we can capture our emotions and state of mind at the time of the entry. Listening to these entries later allows us to tap into our past feelings, providing valuable insights for growth and development.

Video Journaling

Taking it a step further, video journaling allows us to visually record our thoughts and experiences. This format offers an additional layer of self-expression, as we can use body language, facial expressions, and other visual cues to convey our emotions and ideas. With numerous apps available, complete with features like keyword search, video journaling can be a fun and engaging way to practice self-reflection.

Creating Structure: Developing a Journal Template

To make the journaling process more structured and purposeful, consider developing a template to guide your thoughts. I created one that helps to guide my thoughts and mitigate mindless rambling. A journal template can include various sections, such as personal and professional growth, meaningful experiences, and challenges faced. Additionally, incorporating space to capture good deeds is essential. It feels tacky to advertise good deeds, (atleast it does to me) but it is so important to keep track of the good we are injecting back into our respective spaces and communities. We often forget about the small acts of kindness we perform daily, and acknowledging these positive contributions helps us celebrate our impact on the world. These quiet reminders can act as recharging affirmations that show we are capable of good even though we may fall short of being perfect. That’s ok. 

My own journal template has evolved over time, adapting to my needs and priorities. It has become an invaluable tool in facilitating self-reflection and ensuring that I am intentional in my journaling practice.

The Lifelong Journey of Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is a lifelong journey, and journaling is just one way to facilitate this process. As we progress in our personal and professional lives, we will inevitably have more to reflect on and draw from during our journaling sessions. However, the key to reaping the benefits of self-reflection is consistency. Making time for this essential practice, regardless of the format or structure, is crucial in ensuring our growth and development.

I encourage each of you to consider journaling as a powerful tool for self-reflection. By taking the time to unpack and make meaning of our experiences, we can become better colleagues, friends, partners, professionals, and human beings. As Hubbs et al. (2005, p. 61) stated, “The reflective journal holds the potential for serving as a mirror to reflect the student’s heart and mind. The journal assignment can be a structured and purposeful tool allowing access to the students’ internal ‘making of meaning.’”

So, whether you prefer pen and paper, audio recordings, or video entries, take the first step towards a transformative journey of self-reflection. Embrace the power of journaling, and let the self-discovery begin. Remember, the benefits of journaling are worth the effort, and the insights gained will shape your personal and professional growth for years to come.

NASPA 2023
Conferences can be powerful reminders of why we entered our profession. For many of us, attending conferences like NASPA is a way to recharge and connect with colleagues. This year, in particular, attending NASPA was even more refreshing as many of us have not had the opportunity to attend conferences for several years. Reconnecting with old friends and meeting new colleagues can help us remember the passion we have for our work and why we chose to work in student affairs.

These past few years have been challenging, with a combination of factors like the great resignation, attrition, political tensions, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The senseless murders of Black citizens at the hands of law enforcement that spurred the Black Lives Matter movement have also weighed heavily on our hearts and minds. As leaders, we often have to set aside our own feelings and needs to attend to the needs of our students and staff, but attending conferences can remind us that we are not alone in our experiences and that we are all doing the best we can.

Boston was a vibe. I dig that city!

Reflective question: What steps can you take to prioritize your own self-care while still attending to the needs of your students and staff?


Hubbs, D. L., & Brand, C. F. (2005). The paper mirror: Understanding reflective journaling. Journal of Experiential Education, 28(1), 60-71.]

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