I believe in the idea that reflective journaling can literally heal a person. Especially when it comes to building leaders: Reflective writing is a powerful tool that allows a person to best learn how to lead his or her life. The challenge is that, in my experience, people tend to NOT want to write. Not sure why; perhaps people regress to a place of fear? Maybe they remember a teacher’s red pen that was synonymous with failure? Not sure why people don’t love to write, but I am certain that reflective writing opens doors to a far healthier life.

Case in point: I’ve worked with a man with an alcohol use disorder for a couple of years now. Though I am his “counselor,” I very rarely talk with him about his alcohol use. When we first started working together, he would be hammered probably every day. We’d meet once a week and the first thing I had him do, which is the first thing I do with ANYONE I work with, is get a notebook. At first, I simply asked him to write about his goals in life. That exercise led to him thinking about his own strengths, and ultimately, I had him list the most important roles he fills in his life.

Over time, once he knew, from his reflective work, what his most valued roles were, he would do more and more within those particular roles. If one of his valued roles was, “uncle,” he’d spend more time with his niece and nephew and then write about what they did and how he felt about it. He figured out that alcohol didn’t have anything to do with those roles he valued.

He still drinks, although quite a bit less. He’s gone weeks without a drink and if he does fall off the wagon, he tries to understand his drinking such that he can try to avoid the circumstances that led him to drink. Reflective writing proved to be a skill that he has taken on for his own health. I know it works…