A journal can be a powerful tool for achieving your goals. You can even think of journaling as a self-coaching session. In this post you’ll discover the ten benefits of keeping a journal, as well as the eight steps to follow in order to start keeping your own journal as a goal-achievement tool.
Benefits of Keeping a Journal
Here are ten benefits of keeping a journal:
1. Keeping a journal forces you to commit your goals to writing. When you write down your goals you turn vague desires into well-articulated targets you can clearly see and aim for. You’re taking the first step toward turning the desires in your head into something concrete that exists in the material world.
When you write down your goals you’re laying the first brick, or planting the seed.
2. By setting aside fifteen to twenty minutes a day, every day, at a predetermined time to write about your goals you’re guaranteeing that you’re going to spend at least that amount of time each day thinking about your goals and how you’re going to achieve them. In other words, it’s time that you’re going to spend “tending your garden”.
3. A journal allows you to record your progress. If you’ve encountered setbacks while trying to achieve an important goal you may be feeling discouraged. When you feel like you’re losing your motivation to keep moving forward it’s a good idea to take out your journal and look back at the progress you’ve already made toward the achievement of your goal.
In addition, even if you’ve made several failed attempts at achieving a goal, looking back at what hasn’t worked can be helpful in coming up with new approaches which could work.
4. A journal is evidence of past success. Before you start working on a new goal it’s a good idea to sit back with some of your old journals and read about your past successes. This will help motivate you to get to work on the new goal with a feeling of certainty that—just as you’ve been able to achieve other goals in the past—you’ll be able to achieve it.
5. Having a set time during which you’re going to write about your goals each day keeps you accountable. Nobody wants to sit down and write: “I did absolutely nothing to move closer to the achievement of my goals today. Instead, I wasted time watching TV and playing video games, pursuing other people’s goals, or doing busy work.”
Knowing that at the end of the day you’re going to have to sit down and write about what you did that day to move you closer toward the achievement of your goals is a great motivator to get you to do what you’re supposed to be doing. You can even pretend that your journal is an accountability report which you have to hand in to a supervisor.
6. Writing about your goals helps you to uncover hidden fears that may be holding you back, as well as limiting beliefs. A lot of the time we can’t see how we’re holding ourselves back. Writing can help you to get in touch with a deeper part of yourself and bring stuff to the surface that you didn’t even realize was there.
When you’re writing about your goals you may “hear” yourself saying things such as the following:
- People with my background can’t achieve a goal like this.
- I just don’t have what it takes.
- If I lose weight, then my friends—who are also struggling with their weight—won’t want to hang out with me anymore.
Once you’ve brought your hidden fears and limiting beliefs to the surface, you’ll be able to deal with them. A journal can help you gain self-awareness and bring your blind spots within your visual range.
7. A lot of the time we know what we want, but we don’t know how we’re going to get it. Your journal can serve as a brainstorming tool for coming up with steps you can take in order to achieve your goals.
The brain loves a challenge. Give yours the following challenge: “In the next twenty minutes come up with a list of 100 things I could do in order to achieve this goal”.
Even if nothing you come up with makes any sense, your brain will continue working on the task while you sleep or do other things. Then, the next time that you sit down to write in your journal it’s likely that you’ll be able to come up with an idea on how to proceed that’s both realistic and actionable.
8. Writing about your goals helps you to identify possible obstacles that you may encounter, and create an action plan on how you’ll deal with those obstacles when they arise. Then, when an obstacle does appear across your path, you won’t be caught off guard. Instead, you’ll know how to deal with it.
9. A journal detailing how you solved a problem that others may be having—or how you achieved a goal that others may want to achieve—can be turned into an eBook which you can give away or sell. Creating a product you can make money from can be another source of motivation to keep you moving toward the achievement of your goals.
10. A journal can help you to keep the ball rolling. The last thing you should do before closing your journal for the day is to give yourself an assignment. That is, identify what you’re going to do the following day in order to move your goal along.
How to Keep a Journal
Here are the eight steps that you need to follow in order to keep a journal with the express purpose of helping you to achieve your goals:
- Decide what you’re going to use—you can use a notebook, an online journal, or anything else that you feel comfortable with.
- Keep one journal for every major goal.
- Decide on a time that you’re going to set aside each day to write in your journal.
- Commit to writing every day.
- Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation; you’re not writing a literary masterpiece.
- Don’t censor yourself –your journal is just for you. Allow yourself to write whatever you feel.
- Don’t get up from your writing session until you’ve given yourself an assignment for the next day and you’ve scheduled it in your appointment book.
- After each writing session give yourself a mental pat on the back for the progress that you’ve made so far toward the achievement of your goal. Also, feel gratitude for the people who have helped you, and the resources you’ve had access to.
Keeping a journal can be a powerful tool for achieving your goals. Live your best life by setting goals, and then keeping a journal which will help you to achieve those goals.
This article was written by Marelisa Fabrega, a lawyer, entrepreneur, and writer for the blog, Daring to Live Fully.
The ability to start and complete your most important task determines your productivity more than any other skill. Maximum performance is possible only when you concentrate single-mindedly on the task—the most important task, and you stay at it until it is 100 percent complete.
Do the Most Important Task
You cannot do everything, but you can do one thing, the most important thing, and you can do it now. By setting goals and priorities, and then by selecting your most important task, you can dramatically increase your level of productivity and output.
Single handling is perhaps the most powerful of all time management techniques. It can increase your output by as much as 500 percent. It can reduce the amount of time you spend on a task by fully 80 percent—by the very act of launching into the task and disciplining yourself to stay with it until it is complete.
Refuse to Stop till Done
Picking up a task, putting it down and coming back to it several times, dramatically increases the amount of time necessary to complete the task. On the other hand, picking up the task and refusing to put it down until it is done enables you to accomplish vastly more in a shorter period of time than you thought possible. By disciplining yourself to concentrate single-mindedly on the most important thing you could possibly be doing, and then by completing that task, you increase the quantity, quality, and value of your output substantially.
Feel like a Winner
You can have all the talent and skill in the world. But if you cannot discipline yourself single-mindedly to complete your most important task, you will always have to work for someone else. You will always have to be supervised by someone who can make sure that you do what you should do, when you should do it. The good news is that every time you complete a major task, you experience a surge of energy, enthusiasm, and self-esteem. You feel terrific about yourself. You feel happy and elated. You feel like a winner.
By assigning yourself a large task and then by disciplining yourself to concentrate single-mindedly until the task is complete, you eventually develop the all-important habit of task completion. You program your subconscious mind in such a way that you look forward to major tasks because you know how good you are going to feel when you have completed them.
Resolve today to develop the lifelong habit of task completion. You do this by selecting your most important task, getting yourself organized, and then working on it wholeheartedly until it is complete. Do this over and over until this habit of single handling is firmly entrenched.
This article was written by Bob Starkey, who is both an assistant basketball coach under Gary Blair at Texas A&M and a writer.
“First forget inspiration.
Habit is more dependable.
Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.
Habit is persistence in practice.”
— Octavia Butler
Nothing will change your future trajectory like habits.
We all have goals, big or small, things we want to achieve within a certain time frame. Some people want to make a million dollars by the time they turn 30. Some people want to lose 20 pounds before summer. Some people want to write a book in the next six months. When we begin to chase an intangible or vague concept (success, wealth, health, happiness), making a tangible goal is often the first step.
Habits are processes operating in the background that power our lives. Good habits help us reach our goals. Bad ones hinder us. Either way, habits powerfully influence our automatic behavior.
The difference between habits and goals is not semantic. Each requires different forms of action. For example:
- We want to learn a new language. We could decide we want to be fluent in six months (goal), or we could commit to 30 minutes of practice each day (habit).
- We want to read more books. We could set the goal to read 50 books by the end of the year, or we could decide to always carry a book with us (habit).
- We want to spend more time with our families. We could plan to spend seven hours a week with them (goal), or we could choose to eat dinner with them each night (habit).
The Problems With Goals
When we want to change an aspect of our lives, setting a goal is often the logical first step. Despite being touted by many a self-help guru, this approach has some problematic facets.
Goals have an endpoint. This is why many people revert to their previous state after achieving a certain goal. People run marathons, then stop exercising altogether afterward. Or they make a certain amount of money, then fall into debt soon after. Others reach a goal weight, only to spoil their progress by overeating to celebrate.
Goals rely on factors which we do not always have control over. It’s an unavoidable fact that reaching a goal is not always possible, regardless of effort. An injury might derail a fitness goal. An unexpected expense might sabotage a financial goal. A family tragedy might impede a creative-output goal. When we set a goal, we are attempting to transform what is usually a heuristic process into an algorithmic one.
Goals rely on willpower and self-discipline. As Charles Duhigg wrote in The Power of Habit:
Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.
Keeping a goal in mind and using it to direct our actions requires constant willpower. During times when other parts of our lives deplete our supply of willpower, it can be easy to forget our goals. For example, the goal of saving money requires self-discipline each time we make a purchase. Meanwhile, the habit of putting $50 in a savings account every week requires little effort. Habits, not goals, make otherwise difficult things easy.
Goals can make us complacent or reckless. Studies have shown that people’s brains can confuse goal setting with achievement. This effect is more pronounced when people inform others of their goals. Furthermore, unrealistic goals can lead to dangerous or unethical behavior.
The Benefits of Habits
“Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).”
— Stephen Covey
Once formed, habits operate automatically. Habits take otherwise difficult tasks—like saving money—and make them easy.
The purpose of a well-crafted set of habits is to ensure that we reach our goals with incremental steps. The benefits of a systematic approach to achievement include the following:
Habits can mean we overshoot our goals. Let’s say a person’s goal is to write a novel. They decide to write 200 words a day, so it should take 250 days. Writing 200 words takes little effort, and even on the busiest, most stressful days, the person gets it done. However, on some days, that small step leads to their writing 1000 or more words. As a result, they finish the book in much less time. Yet setting “write a book in four months” as a goal would have been intimidating.
Habits are easy to complete. As Duhigg wrote,
Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.”
Once we develop a habit, our brains actually change to make the behavior easier to complete. After about 30 days of practice, enacting a habit becomes easier than not doing so.
Habits are for life. Our lives are structured around habits, many of them barely noticeable. According to Duhigg’s research, habits make up 40% of our waking hours. These often minuscule actions add up to make us who we are. William James (a man who knew the problems caused by bad habits) summarized their importance as such:
All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits — practical, emotional, and intellectual — systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.
Once a habit becomes ingrained, it can last for life (unless broken for some reason).
Habits can compound. Stephen Covey paraphrased Gandhi when he explained:
Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.
In other words, building a single habit can have a wider impact on our lives. Duhigg calls these keystone habits. These are behaviors that cause people to change related areas of their lives. For example, people who start exercising daily may end up eating better and drinking less. Likewise, those who quit a bad habit may end up replacing it with a positive alternative. (Naval and I talked about habit replacement a lot on this podcast episode.)
Habits can be as small as necessary. A common piece of advice for those seeking to build a habit is to start small. Stanford psychologist BJ Fogg recommends “tiny habits,” such as flossing one tooth. Once these become ingrained, the degree of complexity can be increased. If you want to read more, you can start with 25 pages a day. After this becomes part of your routine, you can increase the page count to reach your goal.
Why a Systematic Approach Works
“First we make our habits, then our habits make us.”
— Charles C. Nobel
By switching our focus from achieving specific goals to creating positive long-term habits, we can make continuous improvement a way of life. This is evident from the documented habits of many successful people.
Warren Buffett reads all day to build the knowledge necessary for his investments.
Stephen King writes 1000 words a day, 365 days a year (a habit he describes as “a sort of creative sleep”). Athlete Eliud Kipchoge makes notes after each training session to establish areas which can be improved. These habits, repeated hundreds of times over years, are not incidental. With consistency, the benefits of these non-negotiable actions compound and lead to extraordinary achievements.
While goals rely on extrinsic motivation, habits are automatic. They literally rewire our brains.
When seeking to attain something in our lives, we would do well to invest our time in forming positive habits, rather than concentrating on a specific goal.
This article was written by Shane Parrish, who runs Farnam Street, an organization devoted to helping you develop an understanding of how the world really works, make better decisions, and live a better life.
It’s a dream that most people have – to be financially secure, to reach their goals and to never endure stress when it comes to money. Why is it then, that so many people have this desire but struggle to reach their financial goals and end up right back where they started at the beginning of the next year? Sadly, there are many simple mistakes that people make, but if you’re smart and pay attention, you can avoid them and make real progress.
Are your financial mistakes sending your money down the drain?
Here’s a list of the five biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to setting financial goals, along with simple and effective methods to overcome them.
Running on a wish and a prayer
Setting goals alone is not enough. You can’t expect to achieve anything if you don’t have a plan to make it happen. Did you know that by writing down an action plan to achieve your goals, you’re ten times more likely to succeed? If you’re serious about making a change this year, then don’t just sit back and hope, write down a clear plan of how you’ll get to where you want to be.
Doing the same thing and expecting different results
If you didn’t quite make your goals last year, why? Take a hard look at what brought you unstuck, and make a conscious effort to change these behaviours. Everyone falls into habits that can be counterproductive to your goals, but if you don’t actively replace these with new, beneficial habits, you’ll just fall back into the same old rut time and time again. Changing your habits isn’t easy and will take time and effort, but not changing them can cost you much more.
Creating unrealistic goals
Seems almost too obvious, right? But how do you know if a financial goal is realistic or not? The key is to understand your current situation. How much money is coming in, how much is going out and see what surplus you have available so you can set appropriate goals around savings and investments.
Thinking too day-to-day
Understanding the minutiae of your finances is important, but you can also get bogged down in these details and lose sight of the bigger picture. It’s nice to start saving money, but what are you saving for? Retirement may be a long way away, but the earlier you start, the better off you’ll be. Figure out how you want to live your life in the future and start to build your financial goals around that. Take advantage of the tax incentives available to you and even a small amount now can result in big changes come retirement.
This last mistake is one of the easiest to fall into. When you’ve covered all the rest, it’s easy to relax and think you’ve got everything under control. But how can know it’s under control if you’re not keeping track of your action plan? How can you be sure your savings are growing if you’re not assessing your budget and account balances on a regular basis? Monitoring your progress is the last, but by no means least, step in ensuring that you finally make it over the line come the end of the year.
Don’t let your financial goals slip through your fingers. Keep on top of your goals in 2018 so come this time next year, you’ll be ready for new challenges. Avoid the above mistakes and you’ll be that much closer to financial security.
This article was written by Olivia Maragna, a co-founder of Aspire Retire Financial Services and an independent and respected financial expert.
Frederick Nietzsche once said, ‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how’. In my last article I shared the pivotal experience that launched me on the path to health and wellness. Through that one transformative experience, I have since enjoyed a life of health, energy and vitality. Though I frequently indulge and never diet, I have enjoyed a remarkable run of health since my Eureka moment on a Leeds City bus nearly 20 years ago.
To help you choose to find your why, I think it’s important that you become aware of the benefits available from making mostly healthful choices. In my experience those are an absence of illness, increased vitality, less impact of the aging process, a clearer and more focused mind and a feeling of gratitude that pervades most of your life. It’s not a bad list of only some of the benefits available to you.
The starting point
In discovering your ‘why’ – that reason for embarking upon a lifestyle that will take you to optimal health – you first need to know that there will be a cost. There is a price to be paid for success. This is where many people fail. They want the prize but are unwilling to pay the price.
But the gain promised makes that price easier to pay. That promise is a clearly defined goal. As Paul J Meyer, founder of Success Motivation Institute, puts it: ‘If you are not making the progress you would like to make and are capable of making, it is simply because your goals are not clearly defined.’
When you work from a vague, unclear goal there is simply nothing strong enough to buffer you from the inevitable challenges you will meet along the way. So, at the first sign of difficulty, you simply give up. You may tell yourself that you didn’t want it badly enough. The truth is you simply didn’t define it enough.
A clearly defined goal that is written down, aligned with your core values and reviewed regularly with a mentor will help you clear the obstacles you meet and continue on your way.
The future magnet
A clear goal also acts as a powerful magnet, pulling you toward a more desirable future. Instead of being hamstrung by the failings of the past, you are more attuned to the future you are working to create. This pull of the future keeps you focused on what you want, not on what you don’t want. To prove this, simply ask yourself how many times you have wanted something but ended up focusing more on the lack of it. I’ll guess it wasn’t a clearly defined goal.
The greatest gift
By far the greatest reward to be gained from clear goal-setting is best summed up by tone of the true pioneers of personal success, Jim Rohn. He states that ‘the major reason for setting a goal is who you become to achieve it’. This is the true gold. To achieve anything of note in your life, you must become the epitome of your desire. If you wish to be successful, you must develop a success mindset. To realize wealth, peace, love in your life, you must become those things before they manifest in your outward reality. In other words, the journey informs the destination. You cannot develop peace whilst travelling a path of anger and resentment. This gift alone, of becoming what you seek, makes finding your why and setting clear goals worth the effort.
This article was written by Paul O’Brien, a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise since 2007 and a qualified Life, Health & Nutrition Coach.
I spent five years studying the daily habits of hundreds of rich people. In my bestselling books, “Rich Habits” and “Change Your Habits, Change Your Life,” I shared some of the important findings from that study.
During my research, I learned that the self-made rich adopted specific habits that enabled them to achieve their dreams and their goals. This included things such as:
- Experimentation: Trying new things in order to uncover an innate talent or passion.
- Reading: 30 minutes or more every day for self-education.
- Building rich relationships: Forming connections with the right people — other future millionaires.
- Goal-setting: Pursuing goals that are stepping stones to your dreams.
- Taking calculated risks: Not being afraid to take the type of risk that requires you to do your homework before investing your money.
There are many others (over 300!) but I think you get the idea — the rich are habit-driven.
My research also led to another proprietary discovery. Those who were not rich also had habits. However, many of those habits were “do-nothing habits”:
- Not reading to learn is a habit.
- Not exercising every day is a habit.
- Not eating healthy is a habit.
- Not pursuing your dreams is a habit.
- Not creating and pursuing goals is a habit.
- Not returning phone calls immediately is a habit.
- Not waking up early to pursue self-improvement is a habit.
- Not saving money is a habit.
- Not prudently investing your savings is a habit.
- Not being frugal is a habit.
- Not doing more than you are paid is a habit.
- Not avoiding time wasters is a habit.
- Not doing what needs to be done (procrastinating) is a habit.
- Not networking with other success-minded people is a habit.
- Not making happy birthday calls is a habit.
- Not making life event calls is a habit.
- Not taking personal responsibility for your life is a habit.
- Not volunteering for a worthwhile charity is a habit.
- Not being charitable with your money is a habit.
Many people have do-nothing habits. As a result, many people struggle in life. Some struggle financially, some struggle with poor health, and some struggle with their relationships.
Do-nothing habits are like a mirror: They reflect back the life you have chosen for yourself through inaction. Oftentimes, it’s not what you do that determines the circumstances of your life — it’s what you choose not to do.
This article was written by Thomas C. Corley, a speaker and award-winning author of two best-selling books: “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals,” and “Rich Kids: How To Raise Our Kids To Be Happy And Successful In Life.”