How to Journal for Personal Development


If I were to recommend you a tool that has the biggest potential to change your life, discover who you are, find your calling, overcome challenges and overall become a wholesome person, it would be journalling.

If you’re serious about becoming a wealthy, powerful, sophisticated, healthy, influential, cultured, and unique individual, keep a journal.

~Jim Rohn

When I got into personal development in my mid-20s, journalling was one of the first tools I’ve learned and it had a transformational impact on my life. Journaling is easy, quick, and you get an exponential return on your efforts.

So stay with me and I’ll tell you how to journal like a pro.

Journalling is sometimes mistaken for keeping a diary, but it’s not the same.

Journalling is much more focused and purposeful.

But before we dive into how to journal, let me share with you a few benefits of journaling.

1. Journalling creates a distance…

…a distance between you and the situation you’re dealing with. This helps you think about it more clearly and see it from a fresh perspective. It also helps you create an emotional distance because we can be so emotionally tangled in the situation that we struggle to see things objectively.

2. Journalling is extremely therapeutic

Do you know the feeling when you share your guts out to a friend? It’s like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

While opening up to a friend coach or a therapist is extremely useful, you don’t always have one by your side or there are some topics you don’t feel comfortable sharing with them. But you can share anything with your journal without the worry of how it will react.

Journaling helps reduce stress, anxiety, resolve internal conflicts, and develop clarity.

3. Journaling keeps your mind focused

Sometimes we want to think things through, but most people find it difficult to think about something for even a short time without being distracted. Thoughts can be very scattered and perishable. You think about something, your phone goes off, and the train of thoughts is broken.

This is where writing is so powerful. The process of writing keeps your mind focused and helps maintain continuity of your thoughts.

And sometimes we need to see our thoughts written down for them to have a full impact on us or to see how silly they are.

Now, let’s talk about how to journal so you get all the benefits from it.

There are four journalling methods depending on what you want to get out of it. I personally like to combine method 1, 2, & 3 in a daily entry. I suggest method 4 as an exploratory and therapeutic tool.

1. Gratitude Journaling

Start your journal with a few lines of gratitude. We always have something to be grateful for, but we often fall into taking things for granted. The more grateful you are, the happier you’ll feel. Not only that, starting with gratitude will help you set the tone for the rest of your journaling.

Ask yourself:

What am I grateful for in my life (in the past, now, or in the future) and why?

To answer why you are grateful for something is extremely important because it will help you see the true value of it.

Example: I’m grateful for my health because it allows me to do mountain climbing which I love and play with my dog.

It’s quite different than saying. “I’m grateful for my health” full stop.

Don’t underestimate to be grateful for the little things in life.
If you are struggling to come up with something, look around and think about what you’re taking for granted.

2. Reflection Journaling

Some people say you should only be looking forward in life and never look back. In fact, the past can be a treasure full of learning opportunities. We just need to look for them.

I recommend daily or at least weekly reflection.
At the end of the day (or week), sit down with your journal, take a moment and ask yourself all or some of these questions:

What went really well and why? How did I contribute to it?
What didn’t go well well and why? How did I contribute to it?
What lessons can I learn from it?
How can/will I apply these lessons in the future?
What can I be proud of and why?
Have I been the person I’m striving to be? Yes/No, why?

3. Planning

Journalling about your plans is a bit like setting goals.
Write about what you’re going to do tomorrow or next week. Write about is as much details as you can. Strategies, dream, envision, have fun with it.
When you’re planning something in a lot of detail, you’re almost rehearsing it.

So then when it comes to doing it, you’re much more prepared and confident.

Moreover, when you write your goals down, you much more likely to actually stick to them than if they were just floating around your head.

The questions you can ask yourself are:

What am I going to do?
How am I going to do it?
What tools or resources do I need?
Who can I ask for help/advice?
What would be the first steps?

Everyone likes to plan slightly differently so explore various ways of setting your goals. See what works the best for you.

4. Deep questions/Self-discovery Journaling

One of the main reasons why people feel lost in life, confused or powerless, is because they don’t truly know themselves. When people come to me with the goal to find their life purpose of direction, the main focus of our work is self-discovery.

Because when you know yourself, what drives you, what you love and despise, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what passions and fears you have, the impact of what you’ve been through and how you see the world, everything becomes much easier.

This is where journaling is so powerful.

It allows you to ask yourself and answer some of the most thought-provoking, deep or even difficult questions.

Journalling provides the space, patience and confidentiality necessary for some of the shyest answers to come to the surface.

The exercise is simple:

Write your question for yourself on the top of the page, take a deep breath, and then just let your mind go. Write anything that comes to mind without restrictions. Nothing is too simple or too heavy. The insight you’re looking for may pop up in the middle of the next page.

If you need help with the questions you should ask yourself, think about what questions you’d ask someone if you really want to get to know someone or understand something.

Here are some deeper questions:
What made you who you are today and why/how?
What were the most memorable events of your life and why?
What were the happiest moments of your life and why?
What would your perfect life look like?
Why are you afraid of xyz?
Why do keep thinking about xyz?
Why can’t you let go?

Always be kind to yourself and search for lessons and insights.

A few final tips for journaling:

  • Journal as often as you can.
  • Don’t worry about grammar and spelling. Just get your thoughts and feelings out on the paper. If you can understand it, it’s all good.
  • Be as open as you can. Holding back is holding back the answers you’re looking for. This is the very moment you can be 100% authentic without worrying what others may think of you.
  • Preferably write by hand. Research showed that this stimulates your mind much more than typing. But if you’re worried about privacy, feel free to use password protected software or buy a volt for your journal. 😉

I hope you’ve found it useful.
Give journaling a go, it will be life changing if you stick to it.

If you need the support of a life coach to help you with making a great first impression or with any other areas of your personal development, you’re always welcome to contact me and let’s find out if we’d be the right match.

BOOK YOUR FREE Discovery session

In this initial Discovery Session, we’ll discuss what your goals are, changes you want to make, what’s standing in the way, and how I could help you with it. It’s time for us to determine if we’re the right match. If so, we can discuss the next steps. There’s no hard-sell.



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