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Becoming: A Guided Journal to Discovering Your Voice - Review by Amanda

Becoming - book cover Whilst enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon reading the papers a couple of weeks ago, I learnt that former First Lady Michelle Obama had released a 'guided journal' and immediately ordered it. Why? Because I'm a journaler myself (I'm also a First Lady - sort of! - if you count Cult Pens as a country).

Anyway, I discovered journaling about four years ago. I think it's fair to say that it has changed the way I work, and the way I prioritise tasks, both in my work and personal life. I feel I'm far more organised and productive than I used to be and I'd recommend it to anyone. I learnt several techniques using Ryder Carroll's The Bullet Journal Method, but I also enjoy the more creative side of journaling. I have very little artistic aptitude, but fortunately there are many good sources out there which instruct on basics. The recent release of Journal with Purpose by Helen Colebrook, our friend @JournalwithPurpose, has further expanded my repertoire, so my journals tend to be scattered with slightly more recognisable doodles than they used to be.

So - to Mrs Obama's 'guided journal'. Its full title is Becoming: A Guided Journal to Discovering Your Voice, and I have to say that it wasn't what I expected (I should have researched more!) The first thing that's obvious as you flick through is the number of pages that are almost blank. Intriguing. However, the notes from Michelle at the beginning of the book explain the process she is encouraging. In writing her memoir, she regretted not journaling more. I know that when I stumbled on a diary from my youth, it brought me great happiness and a few surprises. It made me realise how much I've changed from when I was younger - and we all change! I too wish I had kept more diaries or journals. Michelle explains that it's not just about recording a series of events, it's about recording what's important. You don’t need to journal every day to do this, just write down what's important. It's an opportunity for self-reflection.

Michelle's guided journal is essentially a series of prompts to encourage self-reflection. I must say I found it intimidating to start. To say that it's direct would be an understatement, but what it does incredibly well is make you think.

It took me a couple of days to pluck up the courage just to get started. The first question: 'What's your story and how have you learned to embrace it?' is just a taster of what is to come. Being faced with a blank page to fill in threw me completely! I paused. I thought. I started writing. I filled a page without stopping. It felt good! The remaining questions are equally challenging, but I'm absolutely loving it. I haven't proceeded in the order of the book, but you don't need to. There are a lot of questions, and I'm looking forward to reading back what I've written in years to come.

As part of the self-reflection, the book also encourages taking action, the sort that will impact your future. Asking 'what you want' is followed by 'write one simple step forward to making that wish come true'. Michelle comments that journaling can be intimidating for lots of reasons. Committing something to paper makes it real, and I think that's probably what made me hesitant to start. But reminding myself that this journal is just for me has helped. I'm not intending to broadcast it on social media or share it in any way. This blog is probably about as far as I'm willing to go! It's already given me some short- and mid-term goals that I probably wouldn't have crystallised if I hadn't been made to think about things the way that this book encourages.

I'm enjoying this book very much, and I know several close friends and family who will too. That's a few more Christmas gifts ticked off - thanks Michelle!

6 December 2019


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