I was recently invited to join a sort of Zoom mastermind with other online educators to share our yearly reflections. I’d never done anything like this before so I had no idea what to expect.
Before the call, some participants were kind enough to share their 2023 reviews. Reading through their reflections, one thing struck me: though they differed in content, they all shared a context that hadn’t occurred to me before: a personal reflection…for public consumption.
The act of journaling for me has always been private. Because of this, I write from my own present context, based on a knowing I take for granted. Writing this way can result in taking a lot of shortcuts in your thinking, because of how much of your current understanding you take for granted. In other words, if somebody else read my reflection, they’d struggle to follow the plot.
When writing for someone else, you have to do them the courtesy of making sense. Sense-making is what I aspire to do through journaling. Maybe by journaling for someone else, I could make better sense of my own life. Inspired by what I read, I decided to try.
First, let’s address the elephant in the room: privacy. I deliberated how much of my personal life I should share. I decided to add it all. Why? Because it would be easier. Trying to avoid unpleasant, or embarrassing topics as I wrote seemed too complicated and felt dishonest.
Honesty is critical for sense-making. It would be much easier to put all the pieces on the board, then remove them after I was done writing.
The way I felt comfortable writing this, was by imagining it as a letter to a friend I loved, trusted, and hadn’t seen in over a year. From the very start, it felt very different. I had to ask myself different kinds of questions like: “How can I make this worth their time?”
It’s an important consideration because who wants to slog through a word salad thousands of words thick about anybody’s year? This question was a forcing function that made my writing more clear, coherent, creative, concise, and productive.
There’s a certain courtesy that an author needs to have for their audience. A good author has to keep in mind that they’re guiding readers through an unfamiliar world. They have a responsibility to provide the tools and directions necessary to help their reader navigate it.
To be clear, I’m not advising that you must share your yearly reflections with the world, no. It can remain private, but there is one person who will benefit from this approach more than anyone. It’s someone you haven’t met yet, but who knows you better than anyone else ever will: your future self.
We struggle to remember what we ate two days ago, imagine how hard it will be to come back to a moment in your life hundreds if not thousands of days from now and try to make sense of what we wrote. Chances are, that we couldn’t.
Writing for an audience future proofs your reflection, which matters because this entry could become one of the most valuable artifacts for who you will become.
In a life where we often judge ourselves for how far we are from where we want to be, having clear evidence of how far we’ve come, can be the most powerful form of motivation and inspiration that we can gift ourselves.