I love this time of the year. It’s planning season for many of my clients, and with planning season comes a renewed sense of hope around what’s possible. It’s also a time when the urgency of achieving a year-end goal is high, which inspires some people to act more intentionally before the year ends. And it’s a season of reflecting. All of these reasons inspired a recent Elite Achievement episode that I recorded.
Exploring what worked for us this past year and where we fell short can lead to recognizing the habits and practices that have served us well and those that we need to evolve to achieve our goals.
One of the practices that continues to serve me well is journaling. A mentor of mine recommended I start to journal during one of our calls a few years ago, and I remember thinking, what do I journal about? This suggestion brought me back to my childhood days when I had attempted to keep a diary unsuccessfully.
As it turns out, I was actually journaling way before that mentor conversation, and I didn’t realize it! But I was in the habit of journaling to capture notes. I would bring notebooks to leadership meetings to jot down inspiring messages and ideas I had for growth. Yes, even in this digital age, I am still a sucker for a beautiful journal and find the process of writing inspiring messages, takeaways, and ideas to be inspirational.
The coach I’ve become today and the beliefs I have have all been shaped by years of writing, reflecting, and thinking. In fact, before recording my podcast, I reviewed some of my old journals, specifically a notebook from 2009 when I first started coaching. It’s insightful to read through those notes, and it’s obvious now that my passion and desire was to be a coach to help others achieve their goals. It’s also surprising that the notes I captured from over a decade ago are still relevant today. They include nuggets of wisdom from conference speakers and leadership meetings, such as “He or she with the most conviction wins.”
I now know that you become what you think about, and that a year can make a big difference. I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s quote, “There is no such thing as a new idea.” It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn, and they make new and curious combinations. But they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through the ages. How often do we want to know the specific roadmap to success? I know I’ve thought about what it would be like to know exactly what to do to grow my business. I could be so successful!
Instead, what I’m learning as an entrepreneur is that there are best practices. But there is not usually a one size fits all roadmap for us to follow to build our businesses and achieve our goals. This realization fuels my commitment to journaling. Journaling is a best practice that helps us determine what’s important, what’s working, and what’s not working. Journaling might just be this roadmap to success that we all desire.
Because I believe journaling is critical to growth as a leader, I want to demystify this practice and offer some of the journal prompts that serve me well as I grow my business.
So, here are my top four reasons to start a journaling practice now. Not in the new year.
I know it’s tempting to say, I’m really busy with the end of the year. I’m going to start journaling when there’s a fresh start – a new year. But beginning to journal now can help you gain clarity to set yourself up for goal achievement in the new year.
Number One – Journaling is a process that teaches you about yourself.
The more I learn about myself as a coach, a business owner, and a goal seeker, the more I can coach and lead others. My clients have learned a lot about themselves through journal prompts like the following:
Number Two – Journaling is a process that helps you recognize patterns.
Pay attention to where you are holding yourself back.
Goal achievement requires focusing on the right things, and if you have a process to capture your thoughts and results along the way, you are creating your own roadmap to success.
Number Three – Journaling helps you make decisions.
As I was thinking about starting a coaching business, I asked what was the worst that could happen? And the best that could happen? Seeing these options outlined on paper helped me remove the emotion associated with making this massive life decision. It also clearly showed me that not going after the best possible outcomes was far worse than the absolute worst-case scenario. The fear was created in my mind.
Number Four – Journaling creates a track record of your growth.
Some of the personal development I worked through in the journal I reviewed from 2009 included becoming more vulnerable. Hosting a podcast certainly proves massive growth in this area.
Another was to take more risks. Leaving my career to start my coaching business, now nearly two years ago, also proves massive growth.
The record that journaling creates can become an incredible reminder of your power and capacity to achieve greatness.
There are many ways to journal, and a quick Google search will offer hundreds of journaling prompts. I encourage you to move away from seeking the perfect journaling prompt and move towards embracing the process. After I received that feedback from a mentor to start journaling, the perfectionist in me wanted to know exactly what to journal, how to journal, how often to journal, and more. It took me a while to truly embrace a consistent process. But my openness to journaling regularly led me to some of my favorite journaling prompts.
Journal Prompt One – Gratitude
Gratitude is my favorite thing to journal about. I wrote my very first gratitude entry on July 14, 2018. I was grateful for working out and for my husband grocery shopping and planning dinner. I didn’t write in my gratitude journal again until August 3rd. I wrote three more times in August, and then nothing until the end of September. I skipped October altogether and then picked up journaling again in November. Sufficient to say, my first attempt at a consistent gratitude practice was spotty, but I’m grateful I didn’t give up.
Too often, we have a desire to start a new practice. And we consider success as engaging in that practice every single day. And when we miss one day, we think it’s over. Even today, journaling gratitude is not a perfect practice for me. But I’m now engaging in it a majority of the days throughout the year.
Earlier this summer, I learned a critical lesson that when I miss too many of my morning gratitude routines, my abundance mindset weakens. I’m more open to self-doubt. I hone in on limiting beliefs, and I ruminate on past situations. The antidote is to write down what I’m grateful for. Because with the practice of gratitude, everything changes, yet nothing changes.
Journal Prompt Two – Rachel Hollis’s 10 Dreams, 1 Goal
In 2019, I listened to a Rachel Hollis podcast and learned about her start-the-day process. Rachel recommended we write out a 10-year vision. We take that 10-year vision and distill it down to 10 dreams. Then, from those 10 dreams, we identify one specific goal that will help us make those dreams come true. We then write down our 10 dreams and one goal daily. My sister and I decided to test this recommendation out. We wrote our visions and shared them. Two years later, I am still writing my 10 dreams and one goal. The dreams and goals I write about today have changed. Some because I’ve achieved the goals, and some because I’ve grown the confidence and courage to dream bigger. But the clarity I gain from this journaling prompt reminds me of what I want to accomplish. It keeps me motivated to work hard, inspired to overcome obstacles, and helps me focus on what’s important to me.
When I’m tempted to play small or give up, I think about one of my current dreams to donate $1 million per year. I do not have the option to play small if I am going to achieve that dream.
Journal Prompt Three – Gabrielle Bernstein’s Four Questions
I recently read Gabrielle Bernstein’s book, Super Attractor, and she shared four questions to help you think about your day:
I decided to add these four questions to my journal practice a little over a month ago. They force me to pause and think about the day versus going through the motions. Some days, I write that I’m a CEO and impactful coach. And on the weekends, I write about being a present mama.
I remember going to the pool one time with my daughter, and I thought I needed to bring my journal and do my monthly review. I was already feeling guilty that it was the second day of a new month and I hadn’t done it. I was telling myself a story about needing to be the perfect goal achievement coach because in my mind if I didn’t do it as soon as the new month began, I had failed. However, going through these journal prompts made me realize that I wanted to be a mama on that particular day. I wanted to enjoy time with my daughter and make memories together, which is exactly what we did!
I’m so grateful for this process because if we don’t intentionally think about how we want to feel, or who we want to be, or what we want to give and receive, we can be incredibly reactive. Taking time to think about your day intentionally gives you an excellent opportunity to be in control of how you want that day to unfold.
Journal Prompt Four – The Month-End Goal Review
Now, speaking of the month-end goal review, this is another one of my favorite journaling topics. I reflect on my goals each month by rewriting them, noting the progress I’m making, and identifying where I’m falling short. I make some notes about what I’m learning along the way, what’s working, and what’s not working. Last year during this process, I calculated all the various ways I could achieve my revenue goal, which was my most meaningful goal last year. As I was calculating all of the different ways, I was thinking in terms of “how can I” versus thinking, “I’m off track,” or “I’m never going to make this goal happen.” We might not always get it right, and there might be other ways to achieve a goal, but through journaling, we can come from an abundance mentality.
Journal Prompt Five – The Friday Ritual
Finally, let’s talk about the Friday ritual (I saved the best for last!). I started the Friday ritual at the beginning of 2020 when I was a new business owner and needed to process all of the emotions I was feeling.
The Friday ritual is three steps:
This might sound familiar if you’re a fan of the Elite Achievement podcast. These three prompts are how I have been ending each episode!
First of all, celebrating wins is a critical component of the goal achievement process. Far too often, we think about what we didn’t do, what didn’t go right, how far we’re off track, and how much work we still have to do. We lose sight of all of the incredible things that we’ve achieved so far!
By Thursday or Friday, you probably forgot about the great things that happened on Monday because our brains have a negativity bias. We’re hard-wired to overemphasize the negative and underemphasize the positive. By reviewing your calendar each week and making a note of the wins – what went well, what you can celebrate – you are reminding yourself of the progress you’re making and growing your confidence. You’re also increasing your courage and building this incredible track record of the steps you are taking to achieve your goals.
Next, take time and write down your lessons. If you’re seeking a big goal, if you’re growing a business, you’re not going to get it right every time. We all make mistakes; we mess up. There are so many opportunities to learn throughout the week. And if we don’t have a process to capture them, we can move so quickly beyond those lessons, which opens us up to repeat the same mistakes or not grow as rapidly as we could be growing.
I love looking at my calendar and writing down the lessons I’ve learned. By writing down my lessons, I’ve become less afraid to fail. Don’t get me wrong, fears still exist. But I’m more open to acting courageously because I’ve started to learn. When I’m acting courageously, it tends to yield a positive result. And I wouldn’t have known this if I wasn’t writing down my lessons each week.
The last step of the Friday ritual is to identify your priorities for next week. This is not another to-do list. It is your opportunity to look at your goal. What is it you’re going after? And what are a couple of things you can prioritize next week to get closer to achieving your goal?
With that goal achievers, I hope you feel inspired to start a new journaling practice or evolve your current practice. Whether you decide to journal about gratitude or write down your 10 dreams and one goal, think about who you want to be and how you want to feel.
It’s my hope that journaling is going to teach you a ton about yourself, your mindset, and your goal-seeking behaviors. To borrow a saying from yoga, “The answers you seek are within you.”
Until next time, keep celebrating your weekly wins, noting your lessons learned, and identifying your priorities for next week so you can consistently pursue progress in the direction of your goals.