Journaling Techniques

How to Use Journaling to Achieve Your Goals

Journaling can be a powerful ally in the pursuit of your goals. By regularly recording your thoughts, feelings, and progress, you can gain insight into your motivations, track your progress, and stay accountable. Whatever your goals may be—whether you’re trying to improve your health or improve your fitness, complete a creative project, or simply live a more fulfilling life, journaling can help you stay on track and make meaningful progress toward your goals.

In this post, we’ll explore the many benefits of journaling goals and provide tips and strategies for getting started. We’ll also share journal prompts for goal-setting, identifying your goals, checking in on your progress, and celebrating your achievements.

What Science Says About Journaling Goals

Research has shown that journaling can be a powerful tool for achieving goals. Let’s unpack what science has to say about journaling goals:

Writing goals down is a key to success.

Research has also shown that writing down goals and creating a plan to achieve them can increase your likelihood of success by 42%. A 2007 study by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, on the impact of commitment, accountability, and written goals on goal achievement, found that those who wrote their goals down accomplished significantly more than those who did not write their goals than those who simply formulated goals in their minds.

Research has also shown that writing down goals and creating a plan to achieve them can increase your likelihood of success by 42%.

Goals should be specific, measurable, and challenging.

Studies also show that setting specific, measurable, and challenging goals can lead to improved performance and achievement. A study conducted by Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham, two leading researchers in goal-setting theory, found that specific and challenging goals led to a higher level of task performance than easy or general goals. This is known as the “Goal-Setting Theory” which postulates that specific and difficult goals, along with feedback and participation, lead to higher levels of performance.

It’s not goal attainment, but the process of striving after goals—that is growth—that brings happiness.

Gretchen Rubin

Why Journal About Your Goals?

There are several reasons why journaling about your goals can be beneficial:

  • Clearly define and articulate your goals. Writing your goals down can help you clarify what you want to achieve and make them more specific and measurable.
  • Track your progress towards your goals. By regularly recording your thoughts and actions, you can see how far you’ve come and identify areas where you may need to make changes.
  • Stay accountable to your goals. When you write down your goals, you are more likely to follow through on them and less likely to give up.
  • Identify and overcome obstacles. By reflecting on your thoughts and emotions, you can gain insight into the reasons why you may be struggling to achieve your goals and develop strategies to overcome these challenges.
  • Stay inspired and motivated. By looking back on your progress and accomplishments, you can remind yourself of what you have achieved and stay motivated to continue working towards your goals.
journaling goals example on the Day One journal app

How To Journal About Goals

When you’re ready to start journaling goals, here is a 3-step process:

Start with a “Goal-Setting” Journaling Session to Define your goals

As an initial kick-off session, devote a dedicated journaling session to identifying, visualizing, and writing down your goals in your journal. Turn off notifications on your phone and minimize distractions. Block off 20 – 30 minutes to the exercise of journaling your goals.

1. Picture and vividly describe your goals in as much detail as possible.

One study found that you are 1.2 – 1.4 times more likely to accomplish your goals if your goals are vividly described in written form, including pictures, photos, and drawings.

2. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, actionable, and challenging.

Figure out the specifics of your goal (you may want to use the SMART Goals method).

3. Create a “why” statement for your goal.

A “why” statement (also known as a “motivational statement” or “purpose statement”) is a statement that clearly articulates the reason or purpose behind a goal or habit you wish to build. A “why” statement explains why something is important to you and helps to provide a sense of direction and focus.

4. Break your goals down into smaller, actionable steps.

What small, actionable steps can you take toward your goal on a daily or weekly basis? Write about how you plan to work towards achieving each step.

5. Include any challenges or obstacles that you may face in meeting your goal.

Remember that challenges and obstacles will always be present (that’s why goals are so hard to achieve). Brainstorm ways to overcome them.

6. Identify a reward for achieving your goal.

Rewards provide a sense of accomplishment and can give you something to look forward to as you work towards your goal.

7. Decide how often you will track progress toward your goal in your journal.

Finally, decide when you’ll check in on progress toward your goal. This could be daily, a few times a week, or once a week (the more often, the better.)

Pro Tip: Dedicate a separate journal to your goal. With the Day One journal app, you can create a separate journal for each aspect of your life, including a goal journal.

Set recurring reminders to have “Goal Check-In” journaling sessions

After you’ve completed your initial goal-setting journaling session, make a plan to check in frequently about your progress toward your goal. Make sure the frequency of your check-ins happen often enough so you feel accountable and motivated.

During this recurring check-in, journal your answers to these questions:

  1. How am I feeling about my progress towards my goal?
  2. What steps have I taken toward my goal in the past day/week/month?
  3. What small wins did I achieve this week?
  4. What obstacles have I encountered and how did I overcome them?
  5. Are there any small changes I can make to improve my progress? What are they?
  6. What other actions can I take to move closer to achieving my goal?
  7. How can I celebrate and acknowledge my progress toward my goal?
  8. What have I learned about myself and my goal during this goal check-in?

Pro Tip: Set up reminders to journal about your goals at custom intervals using Reminders in the Day One journal app. You can even create a custom journal template for your goal check-ins using the questions above.

Repeat your goal check-in journaling sessions for as long as it takes to complete your goal. Just make sure to use these check-ins as a way to meaningfully measure your progress and stay connected with your goal. Also, be open for adjustments, goals should be flexible and adaptable to changes and new information.

Celebrate the completion of your goal with a “Goal Completion” journaling session

If you’re a goal-oriented person, celebrating the completion of a goal may take some extra effort. Make sure to plan how you’ll celebrate the completion of your goal. Plan a journaling session to reflect on achieving your goals.

  1. How has it felt to achieve my goal?
  2. What did I learn about myself during the process of reaching my goal?
  3. What was the most challenging part of achieving my goal?
  4. What did I do to overcome obstacles and stay motivated?
  5. How has achieving this goal affected other areas of my life?
  6. Who played a role in helping you achieve your goal? How did they support you? How can I thank them?
  7. What am I most proud of in regards to achieving this goal?
  8. How has this experience changed me?
  9. How will I celebrate this achievement?
  10. What is my next goal? How will I apply what I learned from achieving this goal to the next one?

20 Journal Prompts For Setting Goals

If you want to explore goal-setting in more detail in your journal, use these journal prompts for setting goals.

  1. What are my current priorities in life? What are the most important things to me?
  2. What areas of my life would I like to improve?
  3. What desired end-points do I want to achieve for these areas of my life?
  4. What specific goals would I like to achieve?
  5. When I visualize my goal, what details do I imagine?
  6. Why is this goal important to me?
  7. How will achieving these goals benefit me?
  8. When would I like to achieve this goal? What specific date?
  9. How are my goals aligned with my values and priorities?
  10. How can I break my goals down into smaller, manageable steps?
  11. What small steps can I take to make progress toward my goal each day, week, and month?
  12. How will I measure progress toward my goal?
  13. How can I hold myself accountable for achieving these goals?
  14. What are some potential challenges or obstacles that I may face in achieving my goals?
  15. How can I overcome these challenges or obstacles?
  16. What are some things I can do to stay motivated and focused on my goals?
  17. What support do I need from others to achieve my goals?
  18. What resources or tools do I need to achieve my goals?
  19. How can I celebrate my progress and achievements?
  20. How will I know when I’ve achieved my goals?

Wrapping Up: Journaling Goals for Success

Journaling about your goals allows you to write down your goals, which is a proven key to success. By incorporating journaling into the goal-setting process, you can gain deeper insight into your motivations, reflect on your progress, and make adjustments as needed to stay on track and achieve your goals. Here’s to dreaming big and to accomplishing all your goals—happy journaling!

Start Journaling Goals in the Day One Journal App

The Day One journaling app makes it easy to keep a journal and build a journaling habit. With daily reminders, daily writing prompts, and journaling streaks, you can stay motivated to form a journaling habit that lasts.

About the Author

Kristen Wright is the author of three books on journaling, including The Transformation Year, a year-long series of daily journal prompts. With a passion for writing and self-reflection, Kristen uses her experience with journaling to help others discover the benefits of documenting their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. In her role at Day One, she helps to promote the power of journaling so people from all walks of life can experience the transformative power of journaling.

Journal from here, there, everywhere.

Download the Day One journal app for free on iPhone, Android, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch.

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