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Setting and reaching goals

Inner Work, Managing Emotions, Setting and reaching goals

Journaling: Using Prompts to Get Started


“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

-Carl Jung

So, you’ve got your journal, you’ve got your favorite pen.  And then you find yourself staring at a blank page.   Or maybe you’ve been recording the factual events of your life, but are thinking that you’d like to use your journal to “get inside” your mind, dig a little deeper, do some self-exploration….but don’t know where to start.

One simple technique for helping you get clarification on your internal reality and educate yourself about the ideas lurking in your unconscious is to use a journal prompt.  These prompts help “kick-start” some personal inventory-taking, and can act as springboards to doing deeper inner work.  Prompts act as departure points for forward movement, a “pushing off” of that emotional boat in which you may be wanting to set sail to explore new places but are afraid to leave that familiar shore.  Simply putting words to whatever it is that is keeping you from casting off is forward movement, a first step.  So, pick up that pen, choose one (or more) prompts that “speak” to you, and get started.  With each prompt you choose to write about, you might also want to journal “why this particular prompt appealed to me right now.”

Some sample journal prompts:

When I hear/see_________, I feel ________, and I need _________.

If I knew I absolutely could not fail, I would _______.

Right now in my life I would like more__________, and less__________.

The relationship I would like to improve is________.

If I wrote my life story, the title would be_________because__________.

An old friend I’ve lost touch with is________.  Why/how did we lose touch?  Would I want to reconnect?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

If I had________in my life, I would be happy.

Something I always wanted to say to (someone no longer in my life) is____________.

Write a letter (sent or unsent) to a former mentor thanking her/him for what she/he contributed to your life.

Something I’ve always been meaning to try is________. What keeps me from trying it is_____.

I feel most freely myself when__________.

I can be freely “me” when I’m with__________.  I can’t be freely “me” when I’m with_______because he/she/they_____________.

What scares me the most at this time of my life is_________.

The thing I really need to stop doing is___________.

What haven’t I forgiven myself for?  What keeps me from doing so now?

I’m writing right now because I feel the urge to do something I know I need to stop doing.  I’m feeling__________.

What am I avoiding?

I regret that I__________.

What chapter of my life is ending or beginning?

My body is teaching me_________.

In which of these areas do I feel out of balance at this time in my life:  relationships/love/family/personal growth/physical health/finances/security/fun/creativity/relaxation/career/community/social life/home/environment/spiritual life/other____________________

What tempted me today that I said no to? yes to? How do I feel about having said no (or yes) to that temptation?  By saying no (or yes) to that, what was I saying yes (or no) to?

Today I am grateful for__________.

(Write your own obituary.)  When I read what I’ve written, I feel__________.

If heaven does exist, my idea of heaven would be________.  What does this say about me?

When I remember first falling in love with my current partner, this is what I remember_______.

A part of myself that I feel I’ve lost, but would like to recapture at this time in my life  is___________.  The first step in recapturing that part of myself is____________.

(For more information about journaling using prompts, please refer to Kathleen Adams’ “Journey to the Self” workbook.)

Managing Emotions, Setting and reaching goals



“The journal is your playground, think tank, padded cell.”  -Ryan Bartlemay

Why keep a journal?

-Promotes self-understanding.  Ensures that the final version of your life story is the one you’d want to tell yourself.

-Clarity.  A journal is a chance for your past self to lend counsel to your present self.  The journal acts as a compass to help you identify any blocks to getting your goals met and discard old ways of being and doing that don’t work for you anymore.

-Stress relief.  In the words of process-journaling expert Kathleen Adams, author of “Journal to the Self,” the journal is “the 79 cent therapist,” a space to express thoughts and feelings free of justification or blame, and unimpeded by the judgments of others or society.  Journaling helps put the brake on endlessly repeating troubling thoughts, and gets us off our “mental treadmill” and on to some constructive resolution.

-It’s a tool for motivation and self-discipline, for achieving success in such areas as weight management, exercise programs, life goals, getting organized, making successful life transitions, improving relationships, working smarter, and improving physical health.  If you have felt frustrated in achieving any of these, or other such goals, journaling can help you get and stay on track.

-Journaling helps improve mindfulness, and a sense of “being here now.”  If you’ve ever felt that “life goes by too fast,” journaling can help you slow down the moments so they can be fully enjoyed and savored.

-Improved physical health.  When we inhibit thoughts and feelings about what’s stressing us, it takes tremendous energy to hold it in, and this serves as a cumulative stressor on the body.  Journaling has been shown to result in strengthening the body’s immune system, reducing blood pressure, improving lung function, and improving mood.

-It’s a tool for healing relationships.  The journal provides a safe forum to vent strong feelings that may not be appropriate for direct expression, which then leaves you calm and sensible for an actual conversation in which you’ll speak more assertively and listen attentively.

-Creativity.  Your journal is a generous canvas for expression of creativity you might have thought to be nonexistent or buried.  Write a poem, draw or paint, make a collage, write a song….express yourself!

This week I will be posting more tools and tips for journaling, so grab your favorite pen and some paper…and stay tuned.