The holidays are over. School and work are back in full swing. And it’s already mid-January.
Thus, it’s time to get our minds clear on all our big ideas for 2020, and what really matters in the days, weeks, and months ahead…
Let’s make a pact to finish January mentally strong!
First, let’s remind ourselves that the best way to achieve anything worthwhile in life is to build small daily rituals that you practice every single day (or at least every day you’re physically able to). A small daily ritual is a practice you regard as special, an activity not to be taken lightly, that you prioritize and set apart from the rest of your routine. It’s something you willingly surrender yourself to, not allowing yourself to reject the parts of it you dislike, but instead pushing forward and committing to the full experience for a short time each day. And of course, the small bits of progress you make each day add up to something big, and ultimately change the trajectory of your life.
A good example might be a five-minute daily writing ritual, where you decide to write every morning after breakfast, shutting off your phone and other distractions, and just writing quietly. You have a clear intention, then you set a timer and give yourself fully to the writing, not allowing yourself to switch to other tasks until the timer goes off. When it goes off, you bow your head in gratitude for a job well done, smile, and go about your day. (This is just an example of how I do it; you don’t have to do it exactly this way.)
With a small daily ritual like this, you have a clear structure and a reliable sequence… and yet, you’ll still find yourself wanting to rebel. You’ll catch your willpower thrashing about sometimes, as you struggle with your habitual tendency to reach for the nearest distraction. This thrashing isn’t a bad thing though, because that’s where the most powerful growth process takes place—in the consistent practice of your small daily ritual, despite your inner rebellion. In the discomfort of staying in it for the long haul, you grow stronger and more self-disciplined with each passing day.
Truly, a small daily ritual can be unimaginably transformative in a relatively short time.
And today, I’m challenging you to jump on the bandwagon with me and begin such a ritual in your life.
In fact, the specific challenge is to implement some of what we’ve just discussed…
A Five-Minute Journaling Ritual for Your Mental Strength
As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, journaling is a priceless tool for inner strength and real-world success.
Oprah keeps a journal. Lady Gaga keeps a journal. Eminem keeps a journal.
Successful people all over the world—those who consistently experience positive growth in their lives—reflect daily and learn from their life experiences. And they often use some kind of journal to accomplish this. For the longest time, I knew the value of journaling—I heard the success stories of others—and yet I never took action. Why? Because I thought I didn’t have time for it. I was “too busy.”
Needless to say, I learned the hard way, but YOU don’t have to.
If you want to get somewhere this year, you need a map, and your journal is that map. It’s a place to capture significant thoughts. It’s a place to sort out where you’ve been and where you intend to go. And it’s one of the most underused, yet incredibly effective personal development tools available to the masses.
So, I’m challenging YOU to wake up tomorrow morning and get started with journaling, consistently, until the end of the month. I’ve listed 20 five-minute journaling prompts below (which are also excerpts from our New York Times bestselling book) that I’ve personally used in the past to nudge myself into growth-oriented self-reflection. These prompts will bring awareness to the beliefs and assumptions you have. And they will help you think through situations, big and small, and make better decisions going forward.
Challenge yourself to read and write on one prompt for five minutes each morning for the next few weeks. See how doing so changes how you think, as you prepare for everything the rest of 2020 has in store for you…
You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago. You’re always growing. Experiences don’t stop. That’s life. And the very experiences that seem so hard when you’re going through them are the ones you’ll look back on with gratitude for how far you’ve come.
What’s the hardest thing you’re trying to achieve or cope with right now? What is something small and necessary about this struggle?
Train your mind to see the beauty hidden in everything. Your positivity—your graceful acceptance of life—is a choice. The happiness in your heart depends on the quality of your mental perspective.
What’s one thing you could be incredibly grateful for right now, if you wanted to be grateful?
As human beings we are constantly outgrowing what we once thought we couldn’t live without, and falling in love with what we didn’t even know we wanted. Life literally keeps leading us on journeys we would never go on if it were up to us. Don’t be afraid. Have faith. Find the lessons. Trust the journey.
What’s something you’ve moved on from that once meant the world to you? And, what’s something you love today that you never even knew you needed in your life?
If you don’t allow yourself to move past what happened, what was said, what was felt, you will look at your present and future through that same dirty lens and nothing will be able to focus your foggy judgment. Realize this. What you do now matters more than what happened yesterday.
What’s one unchangeable reality you’re still holding on to and resisting? What can you do right now to ease your mind into the acceptance of this reality?
Happiness is letting go of what you assume your life is supposed to be like right now, and sincerely appreciating it for everything that it is. So, RELAX. You are enough. You have enough. You do enough. Breathe deep… let go, and just live right now in this moment. Then, let your renewed presence fuel your next step.
Who would you be, and what else would you see about your present life situation, if you removed the thought that’s been worrying you?
When a flower doesn’t bloom properly, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower itself. The same is true for YOU. You can’t heal yourself in the same exact environment where you got sick. Realize this, respect this, and do your best to surround yourself with people and situations that push you to be your best. Less drama, less mess. Just higher vibrations and intentions, inside and out.
How has your daily environment been affecting you recently?
There are hundreds of people in every town on Earth who live their entire lives on the default settings, never realizing they can customize everything. Don’t be one of them. Don’t settle for the default settings in life.
What’s one small example of how you have “customized” your life for the better?
A big part of your life is a result of your choices. If you don’t like some part of your life, it’s time to start making changes and new choices. And it’s OK to be low-key about it. You don’t need to put everything on social media. Silently progress and let your actions speak for themselves.
What have your most recent actions been saying about your priorities? What kind of silent progress would you like to make in your life by the end of the month?
If it entertains you now but will hurt you someday, it’s a distraction. Don’t settle. Don’t exchange what you want most for what’s easiest at the moment. Study your routines and habits. Figure out where your energy goes, and remove distractions. It’s time to focus on what matters.
What’s one distraction that has been getting the best of you lately? Why?
You become a true master of your life when you learn how to master your focus—where your attention goes. Value what you give your energy to. Rise above the pettiness trying to draw you in. Focus on what matters. Where attention goes, energy flows. Where energy flows, things grow.
What truly DOES matter to you most right now?
Get up. Make that call. Go on that date. Apply for that job. Start that side-hustle. Don’t be afraid of rejection, struggle or failing forward. There’s no shame in trying your best. Live, learn and grow through every risk you take towards inner growth and fulfillment.
What’s one small risk you believe is worth taking in the months ahead? What’s the first step?
Nothing big happens overnight. True progress takes time. Don’t give up because you can’t yet see the results of your labor. It can take months of focus and dedication to get outcomes you can actually see. You gotta believe even when the immediate results are invisible to the eye.
What’s something big you’ve accomplished in the past that once seemed impossible?
Life doesn’t want to give you pain, it wants you to grow and evolve. Repeated struggles aren’t punishment, they’re opportunities to demonstrate strength and progress. Anybody can talk about how strong they are, but life requires you to prove it. Prove that you are ready to level-up!
Why are you ready to level-up right now? Ans why are the painful parts of this process totally worth it?
Working hard is important, but rest is too. It’s tempting to fill in every waking minute of the day with tasks. Don’t do this to yourself. Leave space. The space between the things we do is just as important as the things we do. Your overarching goal right now is living a life uncluttered by most of the things people fill their lives with, leaving you with space for what truly matters. A life that isn’t constant busyness, rushing and stress, but instead mindful contemplation, creation and connection with people and projects you truly need in your life.
How can you give yourself a little extra time and space to make the right decisions on a daily basis?
It’s OK to… Say “no.” Speak up. Tell the truth. Ask questions. Believe differently. Change your mind. Prioritize your needs. Learn from your mistakes. Embrace your imperfections. Forgive and seek forgiveness. Begin again, stronger than before.
What’s one thing you would do differently if you knew no one would judge you?
You can’t control how other people feel, or how they receive your energy. Anything you do or say gets filtered through a mindset occupied by whatever they are going through at the moment, which has nothing to do with you. Just keep doing your thing with as much love as possible.
What’s one good, recent example of someone with a negative attitude completely misjudging you? How did you handle it, and what did you learn?
When you guide somebody who is confused, when you hold somebody who is sad, when you hug somebody who has lost their hope, you too will feel yourself healing and growing stronger. So, no matter what has happened, or what happens today, let kindness be your superpower. Being extra kind to people is a peaceful way to live in each moment, and a beautiful legacy to leave behind in the long run.
Who was the last person who was unexpectedly kind to you? What can you easily do to be a little kinder than usual today, and beyond?
As you get older, what you look like on the outside becomes less and less of an issue, and who you are on the inside becomes the primary point of interest. You eventually realize that beauty has almost nothing to do with looks—it’s who you are as a human being, how you make others feel about themselves, and most importantly, how you feel about yourself.
What makes your significant other (or someone else you love) truly beautiful on the inside? What make YOU truly beautiful on the inside?
Just breathe, be, and pay attention to what it’s like to be YOU in this moment. Nothing to fix. Nothing to change right now. Nowhere else to go. Just you, breathing, being, with presence, without judgment. You are welcome here. You belong here. Here, you are enough. Close your eyes. Breathe…
What’s something true about yourself that you need to embrace more openly and lovingly today?
There will come a time when you think it’s all over, everything is finished… you’ve reached the end of the road. That’s the starting line. Be humble. Be teachable. The world is bigger than your view of the world. There’s always room for a new idea, a new step… a new beginning.
What does “a new beginning” mean to you right now?
Choose to Live YOUR Truth
My greatest wish for YOU right now is that you leverage the journal prompts above to live your life not as a bystander…
Not as a prisoner to the false beliefs that sometimes keep you stuck in your seat.
Instead, live in this world, on this day, and every day in 2020 as an active participant. Every morning, ask yourself what is real and important to you, and then find the courage, wisdom and willpower to build your day around your answer.
It’s your choice.
You are choosing right now.
And if you’re choosing…
to be stuck in the past…
to act like a victim…
to feel insecure…
to feel anger…
to feel hate…
to be naive…
to ignore your intuition…
to ignore good advice…
to give up…
…then it’s time to choose differently!
But, let me also remind you that you are not alone. Generations of human beings in your family tree have chosen. Human beings around the world have chosen. We all have chosen at one time or another. And we stand behind you now whispering:
Choose to be present.
Choose to be positive.
Choose to forgive yourself.
Choose to forgive others.
Choose to see your value.
Choose to see the possibilities.
Choose to find meaning.
Choose to prove you’re not a victim.
Choose to let go of your false beliefs and stories.
Choose to find the mental strength needed to take a real, productive step forward today.
(Note: Marc and I build small, life-changing daily rituals with our annual Think Better, Live Better conference attendees, and also with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy course. And we’d be truly honored to work with YOU.)
If you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from you right now too.
- Which journal prompt above resonates with you the most today, and why?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Also, we recently released our NEW podcast, THINK BETTER, LIVE BETTER (yes, it shares the title of our annual live event). You can listen to the first 10 episodes on your favorite podcast player right now (M&A on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts).
Finally, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.
Prompt #18 resonates with me. I teach Restorative yoga and I encourage my students to slow down and “be in the moment.” It sounds easy, but actually it can be difficult especially in today’s life of always doing via social media. I encourage my students to turn off their cell phone one day a week. Enjoy one day a week of no social media. Take a walk outside, enjoy drinking a cup of tea, the feeling of the warm cup in your hands, the aroma of the tea, noticing the sounds around you, using all of your senses. The present moment is the only time life exists. Don’t let life fly by without noticing the simple pleasures.
So true Bethani! We must stop (the noise and distractions) frequently and just smell the roses (see the miracles that exist all around) Pause to just breathe in appreciation, and remain grateful for life itself, and yes, enjoy the simple pleasures of just being. Social media is so easily abused, highly addictive, and is the furthest thing from being “social”. Unfortunately adults have been sucked into it just like our kids, and precious time slips away so fast when under its “spell”. Marc & Angel are positively aiding in the shift of gaining clarity about getting on one’s path to discover their true purpose and uplifting/elevating others to do the same. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are destructive life wasters!
Marc Chernoff says
I love the sentiment you both share here. Cheers, Casey and Bethani! 🙂
Thank you for sending this blog post to my email inbox today. I thoroughly enjoyed every prompt, especially since I have been journaling almost every day since this year began. My inspiration for journaling last year came after I did a course related coaching call with Angel this past June. I resisted at first, but this ritual has given me so much clarity and awareness and has helped me get my power back during an especially challenging season of my life. As a mom to 4 amazing children, this daily ritual helps me stay focused, centered in the mind, and at my best. Looking forward to more progress this year too.
Marc and Angel,
Thank you for this blog this morning giving me a tool at the beginning of the year to live life differently in 2020, to do the most important activities that will change my trajectory.
Prompt #8 about removing distractions spoke to me. This past year I have often used Facebook as a distraction. I am grateful for this awareness.
Without yet doing your journaling prompts, I ALREADY know 4 daily rituals that I need to bring into my life: (1) Going to bed earlier and getting more sleep, (2) Walking an hour EVERY day, (3) Cutting back on starchy carbs and sweets, and (4) Giving myself more down time.
Now it’s about bringing these daily rituals into my life, about doing them each day. These daily rituals begin TODAY.
I look forward to seeing how my life changes when I begin the rest of the month with these journaling prompts.
Marc Chernoff says
Beautiful rituals, Elaine. Thanks for sharing.
Gerald Henne says
M & A, until I attended your 2019 think better conference I honestly never thought about my daily rituals the way I do now–that what I do every single day either makes me or breaks me in the long term. Daily journaling as a ritual is such a good reminder, and pushes me to continue practicing what I’ve learned, in addition to cracking my journal back open for the first time in awhile. Just small, consistent actions that make my days better and my mind more sane. A year ago I never would have said such things. I just wanted everything to be simple and easier, rather than better and right. Thanks for the continued guidance.
Also, just ordered your newest book on amazon. Congrats on making the New York Times list recently too. I didn’t realize that. Looking forward to reading. Cheers!
Hehehe! I think I am one of them. I have lead such a kind of life for sometime. On a default setting! Taking everything as usual and considering everything normal but as we usher in this new year I am going to customize my own life. Well, let’s assume it’s very normal to live on a default setting up to early 20s as I am but thanks for the reminder cause I am going to a make a real change come next year, oh! , I mean as from tomorrow.
Diane Falconer says
I’m confused by this paragraph: “Challenge yourself to read and write on each prompt for just five minutes every morning for the next couple weeks.”
You are surely not suggesting we write on each of the 20 prompts for 5 minutes every morning—20×5=100 minutes per day! Do you really mean ‘choose just 1 of the 20 each day and write for 5 minutes?’ A different one each day? In any random order, or in the sequence given? Repeating a prompt whenever one chooses? I don’t mean to be obtuse—-the paragraph I quoted truly left me puzzled. Thanks for clarifying.
Marc Chernoff says
You’re right, Diane. That was confusing wording on our end. Sorry about that. 😉 And yes, your assessment is correct, so I changed the sentence as follows:
“Challenge yourself to read and write on one prompt for five minutes each morning for the next few weeks.”
Useful tips. Thank you, I will use them in 2020 🙂
Kathleen K Murphy says
Thank you for this. I have not been very consistent writing in my journal this past year, and I appreciate these prompts.
Claudia P Muller says
Thank you Marc and Angel for being so kind and so helpful to me. I really appreciate all the efforts that you invest in me and others. I am going to adopt the idea of journaling and I chose the prompt # 4 about to let yourself move about what happened something like that
I am going to start working on my journal today, I will submit it soon to you. May God bless you and your ministry reachly!
Wisdom Mbewe says
Prompt 1 has motivated me to be doing things while I can because most of my life I’ve been a person who is afraid of doing things; full of maybes and what ifs, but reading that has pushed me to be doing things in time because I’m not growing any younger. Thanks very much Marc and Angel
Do all the things you fear and know the only thing that will happen is you conqueror fear itself. And the caterpillar will emerge into a beautiful butterfly! God bless on journey of overcoming your fears …yes start now so you have no regrets coulda woulda shoulda…Your best is yet to come !
maninder singh says
Great article. Very informative and easy to read it. Thank you!
#17 but all of it was right on target for what I took tone to be alone with God …to think what’s my next step after chemo and radiation . The million of emotions I kept silent to myself . What Legacy will I leave? And looking for something grand. And showed me it’s the simple things of how you make a person feel or the acts of kindness and just paying it forward. I have written you few times your blogs newsletter so on point like God put you here just for me. Thank you once again being the catalyst of my New beginning 2020 . I was frustrated not being able to do the things I was accustomed being very independent . I will journal again and re- read this yo resignate in my spirit . God richly bless you both Mark & Angel.