It’s 2024. You are feeling ready to embark on your goals and commit to changing your life. But, where do you start? Creating goals isn’t always the difficult part, it’s the following through that destroys our progress. Manifestation is a HUGE trend right now in the media, and rightfully so. Remember that our goals have to be unique and tailored for us and no one else.
To create and achieve goals, we have to get to know ourselves and find an organized approach to goal-setting. Without a game plan, our goals are just mere ideas we had once that faded away, never to be seen again. We humans can be pretty forgetful. How can I overcome this forgetfulness, this disorganization, this confusion, and create goals I can actually follow through with? The answer is journaling.
Journaling is not just something teenage girls do to vent about their crush, it is actually an amazing habit to form for goal setting and achieving. We need a way to narrow down and remember our goals so that they don’t end up like last year’s New Years Resolutions.
Perhaps you’ve tried journaling but have never found a way to stick with it or to make it enjoyable, so you quit. There are several studies backing up the idea that writing a goal down will make you more successful at achieving it. Some of these studies even include research-backed methods for making goal-setting more effective. There’ll be more on that later.
For now, let’s start with a question. Why is it that every time you decided to start journaling about your goals, you end up forgetting about it and not touching your journal again until it collects dust from sitting around? Probably because you haven’t gone about journaling with a real approach.
You have probably set a goal by simply writing, “lose 20lbs by next month,” on a blank page of your journal, and then closed it thinking, “Hey, I wrote it down, my work here is done.” Unfortunately, like many things in life, it’s not that simple (Believe me, I wish it was).
If you are truly committed to working on yourself and growing and owning the life you want, you have to be committed to putting in a little (metaphorical) elbow grease. Self-improvement is not just a one-and-done endeavor, it’s a complete flip in your lifestyle brought about by habits and decisions. Here are a few steps for journaling that will not only make your goal-setting more effective but also will make your life easier in regards to having to restart your goals over and over again.
1. Get to Know Yourself
Get to know myself? What exactly does this have to do with achieving my goals? Well, how can I expect to keep a goal I’ve set for myself if I don’t know my own limitations, motivations, and distractions. Goals are not one-size-fits-all.
I can’t just write, “lose 20lbs by next month,” and expect myself to be able to do that just because I saw someone else do that. (It’s also wildly unhealthy and not recommended.) You may say that you know yourself because after all, you are stuck with yourself all the time. Do you ever observe yourself though? Do you ever take a self-inventory? Most of us don’t do that very often.
What is a self-inventory? Actually, this is a perfect way to start your journal. If you’re interested in making a super simple self-inventory, simply take notes on yourself. Look at your likes, your dislikes, something that bothers you, pet peeves, things that prevent you from getting out of bed in the morning, what makes you extremely happy, what is in your comfort zone, etc.
You could simply jot this all down on one page, or you can make a series of pages dedicated to getting to know yourself and cover one topic per page. You can also make a chart with columns for different emotions or responses, and then, over a series of days, you can write what made you feel those emotions.
Another way to get to know yourself through journaling is stream of consciousness writing. If you’ve ever read a blog about mental health or have attended a single therapy session, then you’ve probably heard of this one. It is often recommended because of its positive effect on mental health.
It is similar to venting about your problems but even better because you can say anything without fear of judgment. Set a timer for 2 minutes (or however long you’re comfortable with), and just start writing whatever pops into your head. That’s it! By doing this, you’re giving those thought residency somewhere besides your brain and it allows you to think more clearly.
This technique is important for getting to know yourself because it lets you observe you’re real, uninhibited thoughts and thought processes. This is beneficial because once you know what to expect of yourself and how you currently think, you can start to make moves toward changing your life.
2. Setting SMART Goals
This step is probably the most important. After you’ve done a bit of self-exploration, now it’s time to set the actual goals. You probably had specific goals in mind even before your self-assessment, but hopefully you’ve explored what resistance you could face in the quest for achieving these goals. This brings us to the part that many already know. Setting SMART goals.
SMART goals are goals with a specific framework:
- S- Specific
- M- Measurable
- A- Achievable
- R- Realistic
- T- Time Sensitive.
If your goal is super vague, you’ll probably forget about it. If you just write, “exercise,” you don’t specify how often you want to exercise or where you want to exercise, or with whom you want to exercise. This allows your brain to see it as unimportant and gives more room for you to abandon this goal. Write the specifics!
If your goal is to exercise, maybe write down that you plan to exercise twice a week at the Ten Gym down the street. This gives you a frequency and a place and you now have more to go off of when figuring out how to get to the Ten Gym twice a week for your sweat session.
When something is measurable, that means it can be quantified or validated. If your goal is to go to the gym, then maybe the measurable part is the muscle definition you gain. Making a goal of, “going to the Ten Gym down the street twice a week in order to have more muscle definition in my quads,” is extremely specific and has a measurable result.
This is pretty self-explanatory. This just means don’t set a goal that is impossible to achieve. Please don’t make your goal to send unicorns to the moon, I don’t want you to be disappointed.
Going back to your self-inventory. If you observed that you maybe aren’t the most comfortable in the gym and haven’t done any weight training before, a goal of going to the gym 5 days a week exclusively doing weight training is just unrealistic and you’ll either never get to it or get burnt out and quit.
Having a set time at which your goal needs to be achieved keeps it on your mind. If you want to have a lot more noticeable muscle mass on your body in 6 months, that gives you a time frame to work with that is still realistic.
3. Having the Right Journal
This probably doesn’t seem important but if you are predominantly writing in your journal instead of drawing, try getting a journal with lines or bullet points so your writing remains legible and not crooked. One of the main points of journaling is to be able to look back and read your goals often and if it is messy and disorganized, it’s gonna be pretty difficult to read.
Bullet Journals are great for people who like to make illustrations or charts.
Lined journals are perfect for those with an affinity for writing
Blank journals are great as a place to draw or paint to release creativity in a designated place.
4. Manifestation Journaling
This is, again, a major trend in the media lately. Manifestation is all about having a goal, and living as if you already have it. Obviously, if your goal is to be a millionaire, you don’t want to spend millions of dollars if you don’t have it. It means to act as if.
So, you could write, “I’m so grateful for my new two-bedroom apartment in LA.” or “I am glad to have financial freedom.” These things might not be true of your current reality, but they are true in the life you want.
It is said that if you write down your goals in the present tense, it can bring you the tools necessary to bring that goal into your reality. You are basically writing as if you have already achieved your goal. This is not only productive and refreshing but stretches our mind creatively.
5. Create Strategies for Consistency
You cannot achieve a goal if you have no idea of how to achieve it. Do some research and maybe even set mini-goals that break up your main goal into smaller parts. This makes it feel less overwhelming and helps you stay motivated.
Create a strategy. If you want 10,000 Instagram followers in 3 months, what are you going to do to make that happen? This is the part where many people fail. They set a goal without having a plan in place to accomplish it. Without this plan, you’ll probably wind up lost and unsure of how to reach your goal.
Make sure to do some research about how to make your goal possible. If your goal is to become a famous actor, look up how to get started in acting. This is a more specific goal that still gets you closer to your goals. You could also lookup different acting agents near you or different classes offered.
6. Make it Visually Appealing
You don’t have to be Van Gough to make a nice-looking journal entry. Our eyes are naturally drawn to beautiful things or organized things. Our brain works instantaneously with automatic processes and if something is messy or hard to see, our brain has to take longer to seek out the information we need.
If you make your journal entry visually appealing, when you look back on your goals (which you should do often) they’ll be not only readable but fun and interesting to look back on.
You don’t need to visualize Ferraris and yachts, just set whatever you want to happen! Nobody is gonna judge you. It’s also going to help you find focus and get things done even if you don’t feel motivated.
7. Modify the Goals Over Time
Here’s the thing about humans. Our goals change.
We might have the same goal we did 3 years ago, but our circumstances have probably changed and that goal no longer aligns with the SMART framework. If this happens, just modify them or create a new goal that is more suitable for your current reality.
It is best not to weep and beat ourselves up about goals we left open-ended. We are not perfect (unfortunately) and we cannot possibly hope to accomplish every single goal our brain thinks up. We have to master the art of letting go. Let go of the old goal and focus on the new.
Just because a year ago you said you’d be a famous actor within a year and you didn’t, doesn’t mean you need to self-deprecate and wallow in self-pity. Just keep going. Life is not a circle where your past unmet goals come back to haunt you, it is a line where you keep looking forward and building yourself while accepting who you are. That is the balance.
If you go to hard on yourself you might end up losing sleep as you’re too motivated.
Journaling can be great for us in the long run as long as we are consistent and allow ourselves to write and organize the goals and thoughts we hold inside all of the time. Remember, if a goal is too vague, it probably won’t happen and if you don’t know how to make it happen, find out. I hope this gave you a good push to start your journey of self-discovery and goal-setting by way of writing.