It was during my undergrad years that I was first challenged to keep a journal. At that time, it sounded like a noble idea and I assumed that within a few months I would be able to look back at my progress in this area and reflect on all of the great and wonderful things that God had been doing in my life.
The reality for me was that within a few weeks I had forgotten about the journaling idea completely and it wasn’t until nearly a year later that I came across those few journal entries and was reminded about the commitment I had made to myself and failed to deliver.
Since that time, I have been consistently journaling for about seven years now, and there are at least three helpful tips that I wanted to share with college students, or anyone one else, looking to build this habit into their life.
1. It’s Okay to Fail
When I came back across my failed first attempt at journaling, I was immediately embarrassed by my lack of discipline and focus. Over time, I began to realize that this was okay. At the very least, I had recognized the need for something in my life and was attempting to make an improvement. The truth is, I started journaling a second time and kept up with it for a few months before stopping again.
Over the course of a 3-4 year period, I consistently failed at journaling! Each time I restarted the process I learned something new about myself and was eventually able to make journaling a habit in my life.
2. What You Record Today Will Inspire You Later
One thing I will never forget about those early failed journaling attempts was how inspiring it was to read back over the thoughts and reflections that I had penned down during those short spans of disciplined activity. I read about situations, burdens, joys and other details that had long been forgotten. There were specific answers to prayer in my journals that had escaped my mind and it was like reading about them for the first time. Seeing what I had recorded and being able to put myself back in the stories and scenarios that I was reading made me wish that I had been even more consistent with my journaling. It also inspired me to trust God more, to worry less about the difficulties and frustrations in my current life.
3. Keeping A Journal Enhances Other Spiritual Disciplines
There are many benefits to journaling, but one thing this practice will do is help you become more consistent with other spiritual disciplines, specifically prayer, reading, meditating on Scripture, and personal reflection. Setting aside time in your day to journal will provide a natural opportunity for these other practices and you will find that the more you spend time in prayer and reading God’s word the more you will have to journal about.
My prayer for you, especially college students, is that over the summer you will take the time to slow down and begin to build good habits and routines into your life. If there was anything that I wish I had invested more time doing as a college student, I would definitely say that being more intentional about spiritual disciplines would be on the list. We are often tempted to spend more time pursuing “quick fixes” and chasing down the latest fads and trends, when in reality we would be better served to simply invest time doing the hard work of daily disciplines that, while not as stylish or fun, will carry us much further down the road.