Daily journaling is a voyage to inner peace.
Oprah keeps a journal. Taylor Swift keeps a journal. Eminem keeps a journal. Successful people all over the world — those who consistently make positive changes in their lives — reflect daily and learn from their life experiences. And they often use some kind of journal to accomplish this.
If you want to get somewhere in life, you need a map, and your journal is that map. You can write down what you did today, what you tried to accomplish, where you made mistakes, and so much more. It’s a place to reflect. It’s a place to capture important 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 tools available to the masses.
Just this morning, I spent fifteen minutes journaling about some recent events in my life that I’m grateful for, and some that are still troubling me. As I was wrapping up, the idea for the blog post you’re reading now came to me, which was a pleasant surprise since I hadn’t yet decided what I was going to share with you today.
I also unearthed some incredibly healthy insights regarding an important relationship that I had been neglecting, which motivated me to immediately send out a text message to someone I care about who I’ve been meaning to reconnect with. We now have a brunch date scheduled for next Sunday.
So as you can infer, your time spent focusing inward and journaling doesn’t just help you — your mind is powerful and your thoughts create ripples in the world around you. When you bring clarity into your life, you bring the best of yourself into everything you do — you tend to treat yourself and others better, communicate more constructively, do things for the right reasons, and ultimately improve the world you’re living in. This is why journaling for a short time every day can actually make a significant real-world difference in your life.
If you’re interested in getting started with journaling, or if you’d like some fresh ideas for your current journaling practice, I’ve listed 31 journal prompts below — gentle, paraphrased excerpts from our upcoming guided journal, “The Good Morning Journal: Powerful Prompts & Reflections to Start Every Day”, which has a total of 365 prompts and is being published by Penguin Random House:
Marc and I have personally used these exact prompts in the past to nudge ourselves into self-reflection, and we continue to revisit them. They bring awareness to the subconscious beliefs and assumptions you have. And they help you think through situations, big and small, so you can make healthier decisions going forward.
Challenge yourself to read and write on one prompt a day in the month ahead (roughly 31 days — and you can start on any day too). See how doing so gradually changes your life. (And then get yourself a copy of “The Good Morning Journal” so you can continue this life-changing practice gradually in the months ahead. Also, email me at [email protected] if you order today, so I can reply to you with four inspiring and useful pre-order bonus books.)
Forgive yourself for the bad decisions you’ve made, for the times you lacked understanding, for the choices that hurt others and yourself. Forgive yourself, for being young and reckless. These are all vital lessons. And what matters most right now is your willingness to grow from them.
What specifically do you need to forgive yourself for? What have your errors in judgment taught you?
The mind is your battleground. It’s the place where the fiercest conflict resides. It’s where half the things you feared would happen, never actually happened. It’s where your expectations get the best of you, and you fall victim to your own train of thought time and time again.
What’s one thought that has been getting the best of you lately? How has it been influencing your behavior?
What you focus on grows. Stop micromanaging your time. Start better managing your focus. 95% of what stressed you out recently won’t matter a month from now. Shake off the nonsense, bring your attention back to what’s important, and move forward with your life.
What is truly worth focusing on today? What is NOT?
Happiness on the average day 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 the moment.
What do you appreciate most about your life right now? Why?
A tiny part of your life is decided entirely by uncontrollable circumstances, while the vast majority of it is decided by your internal responses to those circumstances. Let this sink in. Regardless of what’s going on around you, peace of mind arrives the moment you come to peace with what’s on your mind.
What is one reality you need to come to peace with? Why?
It’s funny how we outgrow what we once thought we couldn’t live without, and then we fall in love with what we didn’t even know we wanted. Life 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 let go that once meant the world to you? And what’s something you love today that you never even knew you needed in your life?
Most of the time you have a choice. If you don’t like a changeable aspect 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 TikTok and Instagram. Silently progress and let your actions speak for themselves.
Over the past month, what have your actions been silently saying about your priorities? Are there any changes you want to make? If so, elaborate.
We waste our time waiting for the ideal path to appear, but it never does. Because we forget that paths are made by walking, not waiting. And no, you shouldn’t feel more confident before you take the next step. Taking the next step is what builds your confidence.
What’s the next step you’ve been thinking about taking for far too long?
The next step means nothing if you are in love with your comfort zone and simply walking in circles. Don’t live the same day 30,000 times and call it a life! Growth begins today, at the end of your comfort zone. Dream. Attempt. Explore. This moment is the doorway to anything you want.
How have you stretched your comfort zone in the past month (even slightly)? What did you learn from the experience? What’s one new comfort zone challenge you’d like to conquer?
Your capacity to be happy is directly related to the quality of people whom most closely surround you. So be with those who are good for your mental health. Those who bring you inner peace. Those who challenge your bad habits, but also support your ability to change and grow.
Who have you spent the most time with over the past month, and how have these people affected your life?
Too often we say “life is not fair” while we’re snacking on food, sipping a drink, and reading social media posts on our smartphones. Think twice and be thankful. At the end of the day, before you close your eyes, breathe deeply, appreciate where you are, and see the value in what you have.
What is one privilege you have that you often take for granted?
When things aren’t adding up in your life, begin subtracting. Life gets a lot simpler when you clear the clutter that makes it complicated. Fill your life with lots of experiences, not lots of things. Have incredible stories to tell, not incredible clutter in your closets.
What kinds of physical clutter have been complicating your life and diverting you from meaningful life experiences?
Even when it seems personal, rarely do people do things because of you, they do things because of them. You know this is true. You may not be able control all the things people say and do to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Make that decision for yourself today.
What’s something you often take too personally even though, logically, you know better? How has this habit affected your life?
You can’t control how other people receive your energy or communication. Anything you do or say gets filtered through the lens of these people’s opinions and past experiences, which oftentimes has nothing to do with you. Just keep doing your thing with as much love and honesty as possible.
What’s one good, recent example of someone with a bad attitude (or someone genuinely suffering from past trauma) completely misjudging you?
You won’t always be a priority to others, and that’s why you have to be a priority to yourself. Learn to respect yourself, take care of yourself, and become your own support system. Your needs matter. Start meeting them. Don’t wait on others to choose you. Choose yourself, today!
How have you chosen yourself recently? How will you choose yourself today?
Just breathe, be, and pay attention to what it’s like to be YOU. Nothing to fix. Nothing to change. 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?
The wisest, most loving, and well-rounded people you have ever met are likely those who have been shattered at some point in their lives. Yes, life often creates the best humans by breaking them first. Their destruction into pieces allows them to be fine-tuned and reconstructed into a masterpiece.
How has your past heartbreak or losses made you stronger, wiser, and more loving? Be specific.
There’s a big difference between giving up and starting over in the right direction. Know when enough is enough already, and respect yourself for feeling that way. Sometimes we have to say goodbye before we can say hello. Sometimes we have to let go to move forward with our lives.
What’s something from your past that you are thankful you gave up on? Why?
Give yourself the space to hear your own voice — your own soul. Too many of us listen to the noise of the world and get lost in the crowd. Stand strong today! Live by choice, not by chance. Work to grow, not compete. Choose to listen to yourself, not the jumbled opinions of everyone else.
What has your inner voice been trying to tell you lately? What does it mean?
Forget popularity. Just do your thing with passion, humility, and honesty. Do what you do, not for an applause, but because it’s what’s right. Pursue it a little bit each day, no matter what anyone else thinks. That’s how dreams are achieved.
What’s something that’s worth working on today, regardless of what other people think? Why is it important to you?
If it entertains you now but will hurt or bore you someday, it’s a distraction. Don’t settle. Don’t exchange what you want most for what you kind of want at the moment. Study your habits. Figure out where your time goes, and remove distractions. It’s time to focus more on what matters most.
What distractions have been getting the best of you lately? How often? Why?
Don’t fall back into your old patterns of living just because they’re more comfortable and easier to access. Remember, you left certain habits and situations behind for a reason: to improve your life. And right now, you can’t move forward if you keep going back.
What’s one old pattern of behavior that sometimes still sneaks up on you? What’s a better alternative and why?
Your mind and body need to be exercised to gain strength. They need to be challenged consistently. If you haven’t pushed yourself in lots of little ways over time — if you always avoid doing the hard things — you’ll crumble on the inevitable days that are harder than you expected.
How can you provide healthy challenges for both your mind and body on a daily basis? What will you do today to walk the talk?
As you age, you’ll learn to value your time, genuine relationships, meaningful work, and peace of mind, much more. Little else will matter. Thus, the strongest sign of your growth is realizing you’re no longer worried or stressed by the trivial things that once used to drain you.
What’s something that used to drive you crazy, but no longer bothers you? Why?
Everybody you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something. Know this. Respect this. And be extra kind. Take time to really listen. Take time to learn something new. Take time to say thank you. Today.
What can you easily do to be a little kinder than usual today? And who was the last person who was unexpectedly kind to you?
People will rarely think and act exactly the way you want them to. Hope for the best but expect less. Agree to disagree when necessary. And be careful not to dehumanize those you disagree with. In our self-righteousness, we can easily become the very things we dislike in others.
How have your recent expectations of others gotten the best of you? What happened, and what have you learned?
Love what you do, until you can do what you love. Love where you are, until you can be where you love. Love the people you are with, until you can be with the people you love most. This is the way we find happiness, opportunity, and peace.
How will you embody “love” today? What specifically will you do?
The older we grow, the more peaceful we become. Life humbles us gradually as we age. We realize how much nonsense we’ve wasted time on. So, just do your best right now to feel the peace that flows from your decision to rise above the petty drama that doesn’t really matter.
What kind of drama do you sometimes get caught up in? What can you do to rise above it?
It’s not too late. You aren’t behind. You’re exactly where you need to be. Every step is necessary. Don’t judge or berate yourself for how long your journey is taking. We all need our own time to travel our own distance. Give yourself credit right now. And be thankful you made it this far.
How far have you come? Seriously, how much have you grown? Think about the specifics of your recent and long-term growth. What have you not given yourself enough credit for?
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 often the ones you’ll look back on with gratitude for how far you’ve come.
What’s the hardest thing you’re trying to accomplish or cope with right now? What’s something small and necessary about this struggle?
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 often 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? What’s the next step?
And remember, consistency is everything…
These morning journaling prompts will have little effect if they are not practiced consistently. One morning of journaling by itself won’t cut it.
It is the compound effect of simple, seemingly mundane actions over time that leads to life-altering, positive results.
There is nothing immediately exciting about putting one foot in front of the other every day for weeks, but by doing so, many normal human beings have climbed over 29,000 feet to the top of the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest.
There is nothing immediately exciting about forcing yourself into self-reflection for a few minutes every day, but by doing so, hundreds of students and clients Marc and I have worked with over the years have drastically better lives.
Remember, the mind needs to be trained to gain strength. It needs to be worked consistently to grow and develop over time. And that’s precisely what daily journaling will gradually allow you to achieve. If you don’t proactively push your mind in little positive ways every day, of course it’ll stumble on the days that are tougher than expected.
You have a choice right now!
Choose to put one foot in front of the other, when it would be easier to stay seated.
Choose to open your journal at dawn, when it would be easier to sleep in.
Prove to yourself, in little consistent ways, that you have the power to take control of your days and your life.
(Reminder: Marc and I build the small, life-changing daily ritual of journaling with our readers in our newest publication, “The Good Morning Journal: Powerful Prompts & Reflections to Start Every Day”. And if you pre-order it today and email me at [email protected], I’ll reply to you with four insightful bonus books attached.)
Now, it’s your turn…
Marc and I would love to hear from YOU before you go. Your feedback is important to us.
Please leave us a comment below and let us know:
Which journal prompt and corresponding quote mentioned above resonates with you the most today?
Also, 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.
M&A, the whole idea of investing in yourself and working out your thoughts first thing every day resonates. And as I read over the journaling prompts #15 really jumped out at me. I used to struggle with this to no end. In fact, I found your work about three years ago when I was stuck in a moderate bout of depression. Between mind-wrenching career challenges and tough family obligations, my tank was totally dry. In a nutshell, I had been stretching myself too thin…I was giving all my energy to others and leaving absolutely no time to recuperate and grow. After reading your articles and emails, I signed up for your getting back to happiness course and completed the scheduled coaching with you. The little rituals we designed and implemented for overcoming my self-neglect and balancing my energy output have been a daily life-saver.
And now, I’m going to add 10 minutes of morning journaling into the mix. Thank you, and I just ordered your new journal too. Emailing you to get the bonuses.
Thank you! Again.
Kevin Newland says
Thanks for the email this A.M., Angel! I’m thankful I took a few moments to read and reflect on this linked post. Although it’s taken me a long while to get to where I am now, journaling has been a part of my morning routine and personal wellness practice for nearly a decade now. And my morning routine is also one that brings peace. For me, that means a 15-minute walk at sunrise, a cup of decaf coffee, and reading (or re-reading) a few pages of a book that inspires me, like your book (and I just pre-ordered your new book too). 🙂
Hope everyone who reads this has a wonderful day.
Angel and Marc, until I attended your Think Better Live Better conference last year I never thought about my daily rituals the way I do now–that what I do every single day either makes or breaks me. This write-up on morning journaling as a ritual was a good reminder, and surely pushes me to continue practicing what I’ve learned, in addition to cracking my dusty journal back open. Just small, consistent actions that start my days off right. Just a few short weeks ago, I never would have said that. I just wanted everything to be easier, rather than right. Anyway, thanks for making a difference over here. Cheers! And your new journal is ordered!
Marilyn E. Conway says
I am a life long journaler, with a few years here and there that I took a break. I find that journaling is almost as good as having your own counselor – now I have Marc & Angel to give me new ideas. I just printed this latest article and am going to start answering the questions at the end every day to keep me on my toes about things that could get me down. I am a very positive person which helps tremendously, but we all have those days where we get tired of dealing with problems and your articles help me a lot! Thank you!!
John Jurkiewicz says
As soon as I saw your email last night, I pre-ordered a copy of the book. I can’t wait!! Thank you so much for the 30 days of prompts. There are times I have a difficult time coalescing my thoughts into when I want to journal and I see that these prompts are really gonna help me out a lot. Thank you again so much.
Dana Smith says
I did not have to go any further than number one! I have struggled for months now trying to forgive myself for something and I’m still battling it. I’m gonna start today doing a journal and continue for the next 30 days with the rest of them so, for now, I’m not reading anything past number one. I’ve got to focus on it because it is draining everything out of me. Not only did I hurt someone else, it’s making me question who I’ve always thought and prided myself to be. Yet I did just the opposite of that and continue to struggle with this decision and in forgiving myself.
MBA - Mohamad bin Abdullah says
Hi Marc & Angel, everyday I always look forward to your message and am glad that you found me. I have been journaling since 1983 though not everyday but I still do it now and more often. I agree with you on all your comments and one of the things I I find interesting for me is when I took time to read my old journal I felt good inside me. Thank you for sharing with us and may God bless you well.