The Distinction Between Journaling, Reflecting and Pontificating
Many people use a journal to “reflect.” But when I reflect, it’s not the semi-literal interpretation of looking at myself as I am now.
There’s a clear distinction between pontificating and reflecting, for me. When I write in this blog, I pontificate. Often, the writing is just my process for thinking. I have a very small idea of what I believe when I start a piece, and a much more complete version by the time I’m done.
Therefore, reflection is setting up systems to review previous pontifications. I use a journal app called Day One to do this, but I’ve used other ones over the years (The Little Memory, OhLife, etc). Every day, I make a log of my big thoughts or things I’ve done that day no matter how mundane, and I look back on the prior year’s entries from today’s date (I have 7 years worth of data at this point).
I’m seeing myself as I once was, so that I can understand where my path has taken me. It also allows me to understand a better way to move forward.
For instance, maybe I find that, in a piece of writing a year ago, I’m upset about how much I eat, and that nothing has changed in a year. But I also notice that I’ve switched jobs in that time, so it’s more about clinging to habits than it is environmental. This gives me a clue as to how to break the pattern… that is, stop waiting for a different environment to magically fix your habitual issues – start now.
Or it’s like how I used to think I’d be happier when I had more money and owned a house. Looking back on previous entries, it’s clear to me that I am not happier or sadder now that I have more money and own a house; the frustrations come and go as they always have. I do find I cling to them less, and that’s useful information as well. Maybe it’s aging, or maybe it’s the practice of journaling… it’s hard to say, but it gives me more clues than I would have otherwise.
A simple way to think of it:
Journaling – in the moment
Pontificating – gaining a better understanding of the moment to inform future choices
Reflecting – gaining perspective through the distance between now and some time ago
These three elements, when used in concert, keep me sane.