Five Life-Changing Journaling Prompts for Personal Growth and Self Improvement
Let me first start by saying that journaling is not the same as keeping a diary.
If the Plastics crew from Mean Girls went through my journal, it would disappoint them to find my written goal of living in Paris when I’m 35. Unfortunately, there would be no salacious details on the latest drama in my friend groups or at work.
Thinking about my previous journaling over the years, I thought I’d share my five favorite prompts and why I particularly enjoy them. These questions have helped me improve in various areas of my life and have kept me living my best life. If you find these prompts helpful, I encourage you to download my 30 Journal prompts designed to activate & motivate your best self.
Let’s dive in!
Number 1: What’s on my mind?
Looking back on my recent journaling, I realize many of my entries start with this question. At first glance, simply asking ‘what’s on my mind’ may seem like a trivial question to ask. Yet, I find countless instances when asking this allows me to realize what’s really grabbing my attention on any given day. After enough time, the hope is to have enough self-awareness to routinely check in with your thoughts.
Number 2: How am I feeling right now?
Like my thoughts, I sometimes find myself with a few conflicted feelings. Especially late in the day, I find that I can’t fully articulate what I’m feeling about an event or interaction until I’ve sat down to journal. It’s been a gradual process but journaling about my feelings has helped me be more attuned with them.
Number 3: What would I do if I had X months to live?
This is a thought exercise I found via Youtuber struthless that I found helpful. In the video, he uses different time horizons for the question (think: 3 months, 6 months, 5 years) to create a sense of urgency about one’s life. By doing so, we’re able to block at the noise and the what if’s that can usually cloud our thoughts for the future. In his own words, “if this is answered properly, you’ll start to get an idea of the direction your truest self wants to go.” This is the exercise that led to the realization of how much living in Paris is a priority for me.
Number 4: What do you want to start/stop/continue?
Yet another exercise that I found on youtube, comes from muchelleb (who credits another source I couldn’t track down). Although muchelleb’s approach is more mind mapping than journaling, I’ve personally found it helpful to list a few activities/experiences I want to bring into, keep, or remove from my life. Even if I don’t follow up on everything I write, asking these questions allows me to watch for certain recurring themes. I make it a point to build this list during my monthly personal reviews.
Number 5: Am I living my best life right now? What would that look like?
What would a post from yours truly be without the mention of living your best life? But seriously, sitting down and scoping out whether my realized life aligns with my ideal life is a great exercise. I won’t journal about this often but I will come back every 3–6 months. In doing so, I can make sure that I’m not only living to my values but that I also have a plan to get back on track when I’m not.
Some tips to get started:
I hope you get as much out of these five questions as I have while journaling. I’m linking to these and other prompts so you can get started, today. But for those who might consider themselves as ‘journaling noobs,’ I have three suggestions, below:
One, start small. When I first tried journaling, I thought if I didn’t write three pages of my every thought, I wouldn’t see any tangible results. That was not the case. Yet, the pressure I put on myself at the start made it hard to stick with the habit. So even if it’s one gratitude reflection every morning, starting small can be great in building the habit of journaling.
Two, tie journaling with a meditation practice. I’ don’t mean to overwhelm you, but meditating before your journaling exercise can do wonders for the self-awareness and clarity you will gain. You can also consider meditating the day prior. This is exactly what writer Ben Hardy does — he makes “a request” about the things he wants to do for the next day. The next morning, he wakes up and journals his thoughts, supercharged by letting his subconscious process throughout the night.
Three, don’t be afraid to experiment/adjust. Personally, it’s been a constant adventure of using different prompts and formats to hone in on a journaling practice that works for me. There may be months where you’re leaning into personal growth & productivity vs. others where you’re focused on the relationships in your life. The only right ‘answer’ with these habits is what works for you.
So now that you have some tools at your disposal to start living your best life, go out there and do it!
Also, if you liked these prompts and want more, I encourage you to download my digital journal with 30 prompts to help you live your best life.
Live, Laugh, and Learn.
P.S. Want more tips/advice on how to live your best life? You can listen to my podcast, “So I Was Thinking,” or join my fortnightly “Random Thoughts” newsletter (max 10 mins out of your day). Don’t forget to share this article if you found it helpful.