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Last Updated on May 9, 2019

The Ultimate List of 29 Goals for Living a Fulfilling Life

The Ultimate List of 29 Goals for Living a Fulfilling Life

What does it mean to live a fulfilling and meaningful life?

If you search the web as I have, you’re bound to find several answers. Answers like focus on long-term happiness, tap into your full potential, discover your purpose, foster good relationships, and so on. The deeper you dig, the more you’re likely to find.

Those are all great ideas, but they’re also pretty vague and directionless. If we’re searching for how to live a fulfilling life, we need more than answers. We need a robust list of goals, that will help us live a meaningful life, and that’s exactly what I’m going to give you!

But before we jump into the list of goals, I want to mention that most of these are habit goals, not achievement goals.

Achievement goals are S.M.A.R.T. goals. They are time-keyed goals usually have a finish line that you can reach.

Habit goals, on the other hand, do not have a finish line per se. They work by breaking achievement goals down into smaller pieces. For example, if I want to read 12 books per year, I could set a habit goal of reading for 30 minutes per day or reading a set number of pages per day.

Habit goals can also help you move the needle on aspirational things. I picked up the concept of Habit Goals from Michael Hyatt, and he uses the example of “Growing closer to God,” which is a little vague, yet aspirational.[1]

By setting a habit goal to read his bible for 20 minutes per day, he can work towards growing closer to God. There’s no finish line in sight, and the habit goal doesn’t move him closer to a finish line because there’s always the opportunity to be a little closer to God.

The list of habits goals I’ve outlined below will help you live a fulfilling life. Living a fulfilling life isn’t something you can check a box on—it’s an attitude, and it’s something you have to strive for every day.

Below is the ultimate list of 29 goals that you can set in the coming years. Best of all, they’re broken out into categories so that you can start with any area of your life that you want:

  • Goal #1-8: Focus on Long-Term Happiness
  • Goal #9-15: Foster Deep Relationships
  • Goal #16-23: Tap Into Your Full Potential
  • Goal #24-29: Discover and Live Purpose-Driven Life

Let’s dive into the list of goals now:

1. Start a Gratitude Journal

If you haven’t heard of gratitude journaling, it’s essentially the practice of beginning each day by writing down 3 to 5 things for which you’re truly grateful. Your spouse, your health, your favorite movie—whatever it is, you would write 3 to 5 things down each morning.

The practice is powerful because it starts your day out with a positive mindset. Though bad things may be happening in your life, there’s always something good too, and gratitude journaling is a way to find that perspective.

You can start your gratitude journal in a notebook, or you can buy a guided journal like The Five-Minute Journal from Amazon. There are a ton of options to help you through this practice, but whatever you choose, be sure to journal daily.

2. Create a Life Plan

A life plan is crucial! In Living Forward, a book by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, the authors show that creating a life plan is the best way to ensure you live a fulfilling life.

A life plan will help you identify where you want to be 5, 10, 25, or even 50 years from now. What are your long term goals? How do you want to be remembered once you’re gone? What legacy do you want to leave behind?

When most people reach the end of their life, they regret how they lived. They wish they had done more, risked more, tried more, and so on. Life planning changes that and leads to long-term happiness!

You can find out more on creating a detailed life plan online, but Living Forward provides detailed, step-by-step instructions that are extremely valuable. I highly recommend the read.

3. Develop a Healthy Exercise Routine

The power of exercise cannot be understated. Exercise has been shown to increase happiness , health, mood, energy levels and more! Exercise has also been shown to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety.

When we exercise, we release several hormones, most of which lead to a feeling of happiness and because exercise leads to better long-term health, we’re going to be happier when we get older.[2] When we feel good, we’re happy.

Set a habit goal to exercise 3-5 times per week if you can, but 2-3 times per week would be a great way to start!

4. Find a Way to Give Back

Volunteering made it on my list of goals because it’s been shown to be fulfilling and to improve happiness. In a paper published by Harvard Health, the authors discovered that volunteers benefit from what they call the “happiness effect.” According to their study, volunteering leads to happiness levels comparable to a life-changing salary boost.[3]

Volunteering and helping those less fortunate than ourselves puts life into perspective, helps combat depression, provides a sense of purpose, and so much more.

If you’re looking for a way to live a fulfilling life, find a volunteer opportunity that you’re passionate about and set a habit goal to volunteer as often as you can.

5. Start a Creative Hobby

Believe it or not, we all have innate creative abilities. Finding a way to express our creativity through a hobby is a great way to focus on long-term happiness.

When most people think of creativity, they think of the fine arts: art, music, writing, etc, but creativity comes in many forms.

Programmers and architects have to solve creative problems. People who love to cook can be creative in the kitchen. People who love plants and flowers can be creative in their landscaping—you can find creativity almost everywhere.

Perform some self-reflection and identify your creative ability and find a way to express it routinely. I know people who love to brew their own beer, make their own clothes, refurbish old furniture, and so on. The thing they all have in common is that they’re happy when they’re expressing their creativity through a hobby.

6. Become More Mindful

If you want to live a fulfilling life, you have to learn to live in the present.

When we over analyze our mistakes or continually look to our past regrets, we forget to live in the present. How can we feel the joy of today if we’re still allowing ourselves to suffer from our past?

On the other hand, if we’re always anxiously awaiting the future, we forget to see the value in the present. It’s good to have goals and strive for future success, but we can’t forget about today. Mother Teresa said,

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“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today.”

With that in mind, we need to set a goal to live more mindfully in the present. Your new gratitude journal is a good start towards being mindful, but you can also meditate or take some breaks throughout the day to cherish the moments you experience throughout the day.

If it helps, set a reminder to check in on your thoughts and feelings several times per day and write them in your journal.

7. Be Kind Daily

Another great way to practice mindfulness is to share kindness. Even when I’m in a bad mood, I try to find a way to be kind to strangers several times per day. It could be the chatting with the bagger at the grocery store, holding the door for someone, or even letting someone in or out of traffic on the way home.

We all have bad days, stressful deadlines, and a variety of unseen things going on in our lives, and it’s easy to disconnect from other people, but sharing kindness is a great way to reconnect with people.

You may never see the result, but simply saying “Hi, how are you?” to a stranger may improve their day significantly. Sharing kindness tells other people that you care—that there are still people in the world who care for other people. It’s a great feeling!

8. Seek Personal Growth

No list of goals is complete without some mention of personal development . If you want to live a truly fulfilling life, you must grow as a person.

I recommend setting a goal to read at least one personal development book per month. If you’re not a fan of reading, try and audiobook on Audible or Overdrive or watch out a personal development guru on YouTube or tune into a podcast once per week.

One of the most common regrets people have at the end of life is the feeling of not living up to their fullest potential. By exploring personal development and setting goals, you force yourself to grow and as you grow, so will your relationships with the people around you.

9. Do Away with Bad Relationships

This may seem counterproductive, but if you want to build deep and meaningful relationships, you have to get rid of the bad ones first.

Maintaining bad relationships is a drain on your time, energy, and happiness. It’s never easy to cut things off with an old friend, but if you want to live a fulfilling life, you need to examine your relationships and strengthen the ones that matter.

For every minute you spend pursuing a bad relationship, you could be letting one of your better relationships suffer.

Set a goal to review your relationships, strengthen the good ones, and phase out the bad ones. It may be difficult at first, but you’ll feel lighter a happier in no time.

10. Surround Yourself with People You Admire

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.

If we want to grow into our greatest potential, live fulfilling lives, and achieve life-long happiness and success, we must surround ourselves with successful, kind, and positive people.

Whether we like it or not, the attitudes, world views, and mindsets of the people we spend time with rub off on us, so we must choose our relationships wisely.

Take some time to think about what your ideal life looks like and then pursue relationships with people who share that vision or who are already living it. Allow them to mentor and mold you into the person you want to be and always look for ways to give back to those people as well.

11. Schedule Routine Phone Calls

Life is super busy these days, and it can be challenging to remember to check in with family and friends. It may not be that you don’t want to talk to your family or friends—it could be that you’re too busy to remember.

Set a recurring reminder in your phone for calling each person you’re trying to stay in touch with. Texts, emails, and snapchats are great for sharing memes and quick thoughts, but a five- to ten-minute phone call once or twice a week is so much more impactful.

I usually spend my ten-minute commute home chatting with loved ones on speakerphone. It’s the perfect amount of time time to catch up on recent events and it’s way more productive than listening to bad radio commercials.

12. Do Something New Together Once a Month

Do you have a spouse, significant other, or best friend that you would like to be closer to? Doing something new together once a month is an excellent goal for strengthening your relationship.

Trying new things is a great way to create an exciting shared experience which builds closeness in the relationship. And if you have time, you can do this with as many people as you like, but if you’re as busy as I am, you may only have time to do this with one lucky person in your life.

Give it a try! Set a goal to try something new with someone you love next month. Half of the fun is in looking for that new thing to do.

13. Volunteer Together

Volunteering is a great way to spend time with loved ones, especially if you can find a cause that everyone in your group is passionate about. Set a goal to volunteer as a group every month.

Pick a cause that you’re collectively passionate about and schedule your volunteer dates well in advance and make a day of it. Get together beforehand, volunteer together, grab dinner together after, and talk about your day together.

When you’re fostering deep relationships, sharing experiences are a great way to feel connected, especially if you’re giving back to the community as a group.

14. Have Deep and Vulnerable Conversations

The best and most cherished relationships blossom from a foundation of trust, and a great way to build trust is through being vulnerable with one another.

The next time you and your friends get together try having a deep and vulnerable conversation. Reveal some of your fears, secret passions, or even dream goals.

You might be surprised how these more in-depth topics will help your relationships grow. Better yet, you might find an ally for one of your dream goals.

15. Spend One Evening Not Talking About Yourself

Admittedly, this one was hard for me, but setting a goal to spend an entire evening not talking about yourself is a great way to discover more about the people you care for.

Instead of relating to their stories by tying in one of your own, just keep asking questions about them and their experiences.

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It will be difficult at first, but it will get more comfortable, I promise!

16. Do Something that Scares You

In my early twenties, I swore I would never go scuba diving because I’m deathly afraid of sharks. However, in 2015, my boss talked me into trying it on a trip to the Grand Cayman Islands and I loved it!

Since then, scuba diving has been one of my favorite new hobbies, and although I can’t go as often as I’d like, I’m forever grateful that I tried it. Better yet, I now actively try things that scare me just to see what else I may love — Snowboarding, check; Sky-diving, Here I come!

Set a goal for yourself to try one new thing this month that scares you. You may love it!

17. Take a Risk

This goal is similar to trying something new that scares you, but in this situation, you know that there is a logical risk involved.

Doing something that scares you involves emotion. Take scuba diving, for example. There’s very little to fear on a guided dive. I was afraid, but there was little risk.

With a risk, you can see two possible outcomes: one in your favor and one not so much. Is there something you’ve been afraid to try based on a potentially negative outcome?

For example, starting a business may seem risky, especially if you have to quit your current job. On one hand, you could face financial hardships. On the other hand, you could experience wealth beyond your wildest dreams.

If you want to live a fulfilled life, you have to take chances; otherwise, you’ll always look back and wonder what might have been. Growth happens when we step beyond our comfort zone and take a risk .

Be courageous. Take a risk.

18. Read Personal Development Books or Audiobooks

I’ve found personal development books to be one of my greatest teachers, so no list of goals is complete without them. I’ve learned so much more about myself and the world around me than I ever thought possible. Truly!

There’s so much information out there that will help you grow, and most of it is never taught in school.

If you want to tap into your fullest potential, start with personal development. Set a goal for yourself to read or listen to one personal development book per month and watch your life transform!

19. Ask for More Responsibility at Work

Another great way to tap into your potential is to ask for more responsibility at work. If you ask for more work and you receive a task you don’t know how to do, embrace the opportunity to learn a new skill.

Have you ever heard the old saying “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”? Well, it’s true!

Some of life’s greatest experiences come from trying new and challenging things. What better place to try new things than at work? Try it this week!

20. Find a Mentor

I cannot talk about the power of mentorship and its effects on living a fulfilling life enough. Mentors can point out our weaknesses, blind spots, and areas that need improving. A good mentor will help you reach new levels in your life.

You can read more about the importance of mentorship here.

Set a goal for yourself to find a great mentor in the area of your life that you want to improve the most. You won’t regret it!

21. Teach or Mentor Someone Behind You

They say that the best way to learn is to teach and I’ve always found this to be true.

When you decide to teach someone, you realize just how much more you need to know. A mentee will always ask new questions. This will force you to level up continually and push your knowledge to higher levels.

Even if you don’t think you have much to offer, remember this:

No matter where you are in life, there’s always someone behind you looking up to you.

If you want to feel fulfilled, find a mentee, reach out, and help them along. Teach them the things you’ve learned, and you’ll learn just as much throughout the process.

22. Embrace Failure

Of everything on this list of goals, embracing failure can be one of the toughest! No one likes to fail, but it’s in failure that we can learn some of life’s greatest lessons. John Maxwell teaches that:

“Sometimes you win—sometimes you learn.”

When we think we’ve failed, we can take a step back and evaluate the situation. Chances are, there’s a profound lesson that you can learn and try again more intelligently.

You only truly fail when you quit. So, the next time you find yourself bummed about a failure, embrace it and learn from it. It’s not easy at first, but the more you practice reflecting on your failures, the more comfortable it will become and the wiser you will become.

23. Identify Your Strengths, Weaknesses, and Personality Type

Don’t we all hate that interview question: “What’s your biggest weakness?” I know I do!

But there’s a lot of value and wisdom in knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and your personality type. You can’t live a fulfilling life if you’re chasing a dream for which you’re ill-equipped. If you’re 4 foot and 8 inches tall, chances are you won’t be an NBA star.

Me, I’m musically challenged—it’s not one of my innate abilities in the slightest. So, I know not to pursue music. If I wanted to pursue music, I would probably face an unfulfilling life of frustration, but I’m at peace with this limitation.

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My innate abilities lie with helping people. For some reason, people around me feel comfortable confiding in me and asking me for guidance, so I embrace this strength and try to help as many people as I can.

So, what can you do? Set a goal for yourself to find out your strengths and weaknesses. Take tests like Strength Finder, Enneagram, or Myers-Briggs and find out what makes you tick. Then, you can focus on your strengths and work towards living a purpose-driven life.

24. Discover Your Dreams with Blue Sky Thinking

No matter what season of life you find yourself in—no matter how old you are—it’s never too late to dream.

If you haven’t heard of Blue Sky Thinking, it’s the act of thinking about your future as if you had no limits to speak of—your dream life.[4]

Can you imagine that?

What would you do if you could do anything?

Blue Sky Thinking is a technique for helping you discover what you’re genuinely passionate about. Take a few minutes or an afternoon to journal out what your dream life looks like and hold nothing back. It’s an imaginary future.

Then, return to reality and start setting some goals to move towards that dream. Anything is possible—you just have to take the first step and believe.

25. Define Your Values

What matters to you?

This is a question that many people fail to think about. It’s tough to live a fulfilling life if you’re living a life that isn’t congruent with your values. For example, I value honesty, integrity, hard work, and trust.

What kind of life would I be living if I were always breaking promises, avoiding work, or lying to those around me? Probably an unpleasant one, right?

What are your values? Sit down and journal your way through what matters to you and what’s most important to you.

If your values are family, spend as much time with your family as possible. If your values are the environment, do your part to save our planet.

If you identify your values and live them every day, you’re bound to live a fulfilling life full of joy.

26. Be Your Authentic You Every Day

Have you ever heard of Bronnie Ware?

Until recently, I hadn’t.

Bronnie is an Australian nurse who spent several years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives while recording their dying epiphanies.

Through her career, she discovered that most people shared the same five regrets at the end of life with this one making the top of the list:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

With that in mind, why would we spend another minute trying to be someone we’re not?

If you’ve taken time to discover your values, your strengths, weaknesses, personality types, and so on, you’re getting closer to knowing your true self.

Of everything on this list of goals, this one is probably the most nebulous, but it’s pretty simple:

Focus on living life as your authentic self every day. Don’t live to regret who you were.

27. Try New Things

I come across so many people who are doing the same things day out. I’ve heard people say “There’s nothing to do in this city” even though they haven’t done 10% of what the city has to offer.

It’s easy to get bored with the same old things, but it’s also easy to try new things. Like I mentioned before, I thought I would hate scuba diving but ended up loving it. How many opportunities have you declined because they didn’t sound “fun”?

How many times have you said no to new things because it was easier to stay in and binge Netflix?

I get it! I’ve been there!

But if you want to live a fulfilling, purpose-driven life, you have to try new things. Trust me, your purpose isn’t to do the same old things every day. We’re meant to explore. We’re meant to seek excitement!

Who knows, maybe your very best friend is someone you haven’t even met yet. Perhaps your favorite hobby is the thing you haven’t tried yet.

The only way to know what you’re made for is to try as many things as possible. Give it a try this very weekend!

28. Find a Career You’re Passionate About

Speaking of trying new things, are you one of the many who are working a job that you hate? Maybe you don’t hate it, but you’d really rather not go in tomorrow? Either way, you don’t have to keep working the same job you have.

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In fact, the best time to look for a new job is when you already have one, so why not explore the possibilities?

Apply for some jobs that you think you may not get. Go on some interviews just for fun! Even if you don’t get the job, you can get some valuable practice and meet several new people along the way.

There’s no reason to keep working a job you don’t enjoy. On average, Americans spend 90,000 hours at work, roughly a third of their lives. Why waste it doing something you despise? Even if you don’t switch jobs this year, set a goal to go on at least three interviews for jobs that intrigue you.

You might just get lucky and land your dream job!

29. Defend Your Dream by Saying “NO!” to Everything Else

If you’re fortunate enough to know your dream or your purpose, the worst thing you could do is fail to live it because you’re busy doing everything else.

Take it from me:

I used to say yes to everything. I thought it would help me climb the ranks at work, make new friends, get me noticed, and so on.

Guess what? It doesn’t work! Everyone has an agenda, an emergency, an opportunity—but that doesn’t mean you have to say yes to everything that comes along.

Sure, if someone asks you to do something new and exciting and you want to give it a try, go for it! But only if you really want to. Just don’t lose track of your own goals and dreams while you’re busy saying yes to everyone else.

Once you’ve identified your dreams, goals, and long-term vision, defend it by saying no to anything that gets in your way. There’s no better way to live a purpose-driven, fulfilling life than to know you’ve always lived towards your dreams.

Summing It up

So, if you’ve made it this far, you must be serious about living a fulfilling life, and I commend you for it.

Here’re some final thoughts how the above list of goals help you lead a more fulfilling life:

Focus on Long Term Happiness

Living a fulfilling life often begins with a strong focus on happiness.

But sadly, the lack of happiness is a huge problem today. With people creating highlight reels for all to see on social media, FOMO and jealousy are at an all-time high. With careers being more competitive than ever, people are spending more time at work than with loved ones, and they’re burning out. With the fast-paced world we live in, people feel like they’re being left behind.

So to find happiness in spite of all the noise and start living a more fulfilling life, goal #1-8 can help you.

Foster Deep Relationships

One of the most significant contributors to long-term happiness and living a fulfilling life is fostering deep, meaningful relationships with the people in your life.

Harvard’s 75-year Grant and Glueck studies has shown that the key to long-term happiness and fulfillment are our relationships:[5]

“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

So, if we’re trying to set goals that are going to contribute to a long and meaningful life, we need to tackle a list of goals that help us foster deep relationships with our friends and family. And this is what goal #9-15 can do.

Tap Into Your Full Potential

One of the worst things you can experience as you get older is the nagging feeling that you could have done more, been more, or achieved more.

So many of us coast through life, merely floating along with no thought of our potential. If you want to live a fulfilled life, you need to explore your potential, tap into it, and see it realized. But doing so takes courage.

When you take a risk, you face the chance of experiencing disappointment and maybe even failure, but nothing is worse than never having tried.

You can never know what you’re capable of until you know where your boundaries are, and you can never know where your boundaries are without stepping over them.

And so goal #16-23 are designed to help you step beyond your comfort zone and into your greatest potential.

Discover and Live Purpose-Driven Life

If you don’t know your purpose, you should take some time to discover it. At the end of our lives, we’re all going to look back and wonder if we mattered, if we made an impact on those around us, and if we lived with purpose.

Today, as you read this post, you have two choices: breeze past goal #24-29 and carry on with your life or pause for a moment and consider this list of goals and discover your purpose in life.

If you’re looking to live a fulfilling life, I hope you’ll do the latter.

It’s not easy taking control of your life. It’s not easy tuning out the noise and focusing on what matters: your happiness, your relationships, your potential, and your purpose.

But you’re here! You’re committed to living your best life, and if you pursue the list of goals within this article, you’re guaranteed to do just that. Good luck!

Featured photo credit: Will Li via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Austin Bollinger

Austin is the founder, blogger, and podcast host at Daily New Years. He's on a mission to help people identify, set, and crush their goals.

What Is Self Awareness (And How to Increase Yours) What Is Self-Actualization? 13 Traits of Self-Actualized People How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong The Ultimate List of 29 Goals for Living a Fulfilling Life

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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

How to Use the 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

How to Use the 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

I was 10 and it was a white Lisa Frank journal with a red bubble gum dispenser on the front. It also came with a heart-shaped lock and key which was a must considering I had an older brother living under the same roof who was always looking for new and inventive ways to humiliate me.

That one little journal (okay…I called it a diary back then) unlocked a world of potential to me which quite literally became my saving grace, my happy place, for the rest of my life.

Over the years, the aesthetics of my journal evolved, as did my writing subjects and style thankfully. But the one thing that’s been constant is that, no matter how sad I am or how bad things have seemed before I started writing, somehow the world and my place in it always becomes clearer and less noisy after just 5 minutes of “writing it out.”

In this article, we will take a look at how investing a few minutes a day in the 5 minute journal can lead you to happiness.

The Benefits of the 5 Minute Journal

For most of my life, I never really knew or cared why writing for even 5 minutes made me happier, I just knew it worked.

If I was feeling lost or unhappy, I’d eventually realize I hadn’t written in a while (duh!). So I’d meet myself back at the blank page and word by word, start feeling more like me again.

To be completely honest, I did (and still do) this forgetting-to-journal dance way more often than I’d like to admit. For the life of me, I don’t know why I don’t keep doing the thing I know makes me happy every day instead of waiting until I’m unhappy to do the thing. Can you relate?

I’m pretty certain it’s not just a me thing: it’s a human thing. We know we’ll be happier if we eat better, exercise, disconnect from technology, get more sleep, etc. but often times, it takes us feeling unhappy in order to put in the effort to be more happy.

A couple of months ago, I found myself in that place:

I’d hit a wall of resistance around my business and a downturn in my health that caused me to doubt what I was capable of accomplishing. I was completely confused and indecisive about the direction of my business and where I should be focusing my limited energy, so I hired a coach to help me sort through my noisy brain.

As I laid out all of my decisions and endless to-do lists in front of her, she asked me an important question:

What’s one thing you can start doing everyday that will have a positive impact on all of these things?

In other words: What if instead of having to worry about ALL THE THINGS to be happier, you could just do ONE thing and everything else would get better too?

I could start every day with a few minutes in my journal.

It’s both hilarious and embarrassing that as a coach and a writer (and a coach who works with writers), that I hadn’t thought of this myself. Alas, as the saying goes, doctors are the worst patients.

Of course, the answer was writing in my journal! Isn’t the answer almost always the most obvious thing?

But sometimes, the answer is so obvious, so simple, so free and convenient that we convince ourselves that it can’t possibly do that much to improve our situation. Somehow in the busy-ness of life, I’d convinced myself I just couldn’t spare that time to do something so…(cringe) arbitrary.

Yet, as I thought about my coach’s question and the ONE THING that could positively affect all the things, I realized that journaling for me has always been so much more than a random outlet for exploring my feelings.

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Sure, nothing actually happened but me sitting on my bed in my pajamas writing. Over the years, from breakups to big moves, my most life-changing moments–like my decision to pursue writing as a career, to uproot my entire life and move cross country, and my finally feeling ready to become a mother–happened in the quiet moments between me and the pages of my journals.

How to Be Happy with the 5 Minute Journal

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about writing this article. I asked her how often she journals and if she thought it made her happier.

In general, she said, yes, journaling does seem to help her get things off her chest but she doesn’t always feel better afterward. And, in fact, sometimes if she’s already in a negative place, she can spiral even worse while journaling and go to an even darker place.

She told me that usually with time and perspective, she can see that just the act of writing and getting out of her head is therapeutic but, suggested that for people like her, prompts to help her not spiral into the negative abyss would be super helpful.

And so, in order to make sure you get the most out of your 5 minute journal, I’ve broken up each writing prompt based on how you’re feeling so you can let your emotions guide the best prompt for you that day to increase your happiness meter.

1. When you’re burnt out, talk to your inner hero (a.k.a the “real” you).

What’s the one thing everyone tells you about maintaining happy, healthy relationships?

You’ve gotta have great communication!

But what about your relationship with yourself? How do you connect with you? How do you continue being the hero in your story?

The same way that you have to make the time to connect with the people in your life who mean the most to you, you also have to make the time for you to hear your voice:

To remember what YOU sound like amidst all of the noise in the world. To listen to your inner hero.

For me, the only way I know how to do this, the only way I’ve ever known how to do this, is through journaling.

Our brains can go down negative spirals, especially when we’re tired and stressed.

In my last Lifehack article about finding motivation, I walk you through some questions you can ask yourself about whether you’re playing the role of victim or hero of your story. Definitely check it out if you’re really on the brink, or in the midst, of some serious burn out.

Essentially, if you’re burnt out, you’ve somehow let your circumstances take control of your life. In other words, you’ve started to act like the victim instead of the hero.

Luckily, just 5 minutes in your journal can help you find your inner hero (your true voice) and reclaim your right to live your happiest life.

Write down these questions in your journal and answer them one at a time–permission to be 100% honest granted:

  • What do I believe is the #1 reason I’m feeling burnt out?
  • Who or what did I blame in my last answer?
  • Taking 100% responsibility for my own life and decisions, and casting blame on no one (including myself), how can I improve this situation?
  • What decisions am I currently making to stay in these circumstances (how am I choosing them)?
  • What new decisions can I start making to get closer to where I want to be?
  • What do I need to let go of in order to get my energy back? What do I need to say “no” to?

When you start to own your role of hero, you start to realize how your current choices and limiting beliefs may be holding you back from living the happiest version of your life.

The great news is once you realize your past choices have brought you to your current circumstances, you also realize that you can make different choices to bring you to a happier place.

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2. When you’re doubting yourself, write off the gremlins.

Whenever I’m feeling down on myself, it usually has less to do with what’s happening on the outside, and more to do of what’s happening between my ears. In other words, how “I’m” talking to myself.

We all have little shame gremlins (I call mine “Mean Girls”) who live inside of our heads and tell us we’re dumb and ugly and worthless. The only way to combat those noisy buggers is to expose them for the liars they are.

Writing down these lies makes them powerless. Once they’re out of your head and on paper, you realize how ridiculous they truly are (even though they were completely owning you just moments before).

I like to write out all the nasties and put them in their place (which is on the page and out of my head, pronto). Then I can go back to living my happy truth.

Here are some powerful questions to ask your inner gremlins (perhaps better known as you being a real jerk to yourself). Write down each question and answer them in your journal.

Ask your gremlins:

  • What are you saying about me? (Don’t hold back. Really write down all of the terrible thoughts you’re having about yourself)

Then ask:

  • Is anything true about each of the things I just wrote?
  • Repeat this same exercise for each of the nasty things your gremlins are saying about you and expose them in their lies once and for all.

When you’re done, answer these powerful questions:

  • Knowing what I know now, what’s one thing I can do to improve each of these areas of my life?
  • Knowing that the voices of the gremlins are strong, what are 3 new beliefs or positive affirmations I can say daily about myself to drown out their negativity?

For example, let’s use a fictional character of a guy named Sam. Sam’s gremlins are telling him “you’re a lousy parent, a terrible spouse, and mediocre at work.”

If Sam asks himself, “Am I really a lousy parent?” Maybe his answer is “No, I love my kids and I’m doing the best I can. I just wish I could be more attentive when I’m with them instead of so distracted by work.”

So maybe Sam decides to not bring his work computer home with him anymore and really unplug once he leaves the office so he can give his kids his full attention.

Sam decides that his new daily affirmation is: “I’m a loving father and am fully present for my kids. I save the best of me for my family.”

Imagine how much better you’ll feel when you start to take back control over your self talk and program in the messages that empower you and get you closer to the person you strive to be.

3. When you’re indecisive or afraid, talk to your fear.

Those same shame gremlins or mean girls inside of our heads feed off of fear. It’s like a good piece of gossip they can’t help but spread and exaggerate.

Luckily, when we write out how we’re feeling and what negative thoughts are spiraling, we can generally recognize when it’s actually just our fears talking.

You’re probably wondering how to tell if it’s fear talking or your intuition, right? This is where exploring your feelings comes into play.

Are you feeling powerless? Are you feeling anxious or sad? Everyone’s response to fear is different but it’s never a positive feeling.

If you’re at peace and calm but feel nudged that something isn’t right, that’s most-likely your intuition talking. But if you’re in a glass cage of negative emotions, you can bet fear is the culprit.

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Don’t hate on fear too much though. Our fears are just trying to protect us from something–the rub is they also usually keep us from something even better in the process.

I like to use journaling as a way to have a little talk with my fear, understand where it’s coming from and then decide if it’s worth listening to.

Here’s your journaling prompt for hashing it out with your fear:

Again, write down these questions in your journal one at a time and answer each one:

Ask your fear:

  • What are you trying to protect me from?

Once you answer that, ask:

  • What are you preventing me from having if I listen to you?

If the thing you really want is on the other side of your fear, then you know what you have to do next (luckily journals are a great place to make to-do lists as well)!

My last and favorite questions to ask fear is:

  • What’s the absolute worst-case scenario?

For example, let’s say you’re terrified of breaking ties with a client who is making your professional life miserable. You may answer this question with something like “My client blacklists me and smears ugly rumors about me all around town and not only do I lose one client but my entire business goes down.”

Eeesh. That does sound scary. Now ask yourself:

  • What are some steps I can take to ensure the worst case scenario doesn’t happen?

And then:

  • How likely is it that the worst-case scenario will actually happen (especially if I use the plan above)?

Maybe, when you think about it, the client is actually preventing you from bringing in new business because they’re taking up so much of your time.

And maybe that client doesn’t even have the best reputation so the chances of them being able to bring you down are pretty small.

What if you spent one hour a week for the next 3 weeks working on bringing in new business to replace the the income you make from that client, and figure out a way to end the contract in a very respectful, classy way to hopefully make the odds of them making a stink minimal?

Now you have a plan! But there’s one more question to ask yourself:

  • If the worst case scenario happened, what would you do?

Maybe you realize that if you really needed to, you could always go back to your previous job; they loved you and beg you to all the time. Or you could get by for a couple of months until you were able to bring in some more clients, especially if you cut back on expenses.

Once you stare your fear in the face, it magically loses its power. Left inside of your head, it can destroy you; but taking a few minutes to look at it and use it as a friend who’s showing you where you may need to implement a plan in order to protect yourself, you can take back the reins of your happiness and realize that fear really isn’t all that scary at all.

At this point, it needs to be said that journaling isn’t only good for getting out the nasty feelings, it’s also super useful for recording the good stuff of life which leads me to the fourth writing prompt.

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4. When you’re in a funk, focus on gratitude.

Just about any happiness book or article you read will tell you that being in a state of gratitude dramatically increases your happiness. For me, having a place to get down to the truth of my life and what’s actually going really well and what I’m grateful for helps put everything into perspective, especially when I’ve got a case of the blues.

Here are some of my favorite gratitude prompts to help get me out of a funk and focusing on the sunnier side of life.

Write down these questions in your journal one at a time and answer each one:

  • What is something good that happened today?
  • What made me laugh or smile today?
  • Who am I grateful for today?
  • What am I grateful for today?
  • With my “gratitude glasses” on, how do my problems or the funk I’m in look in relation to all of the good things I have in my life?

Take a look at this article too to learn more about keeping a gratitude journal: How a Gratitude Journal and Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life

Shifting out of a funk and into gratitude shifts your energy out of “woe is me” and into “yay for me” which means, based on the Law of Attraction, you’ll begin to attract more of the things you want and less of what you don’t. Seriously, yay for you!

5. When you’re uninspired or bored with the status quo, let it flow.

One of the best and easiest ways to tap into your inspiration and feel a little bit of creative magic in your life is through stream of consciousness writing.

I dare you to put your pen on a blank page for 5 minutes and do nothing but make sure the pen doesn’t stop moving.

No thinking. No judgements. The only thing you’re not allowed to do is overthink or judge your writing. It’s all good. Everything that comes out is good (even if it’s total crap).

When I was in grad school, I took this awesome class on creativity and in it read a book called From Where you Dream by Robert Olen Butler. The book is mostly about fiction writing but essentially, he says that the best time to tap into your subconscious (where your “flow” lives) is when you first wake up in the morning. Since you’re fresh from dreaming, your brain is still tuned to that frequency, so to speak, and not clouded by “reality” from your day-to-day life.

So my last and final 5-minute journal prompt for you, uninspired one, is to wake up and let yourself keep dreaming on paper.

Here are your instructions:

  1. Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  2. Open your journal.
  3. Pick up your pen.
  4. Keep your pen moving until your timer stops.

What I love about this is it requires releasing all expectations and giving yourself creative freedom to let whatever needs to come out come out.

Become Happier in 5 Minutes (or Even Less)

Giving yourself a safe space to not expect anything other than to just show up and be honest is incredibly liberating.

In a world where there are endless things we are supposed to be doing, and ways in which we’re supposed to be doing them, I love showing up to a blank page with no requirements other than to just let my hand move.

It’s free and requires nothing from me other than just showing up wherever I am–talk about an endless source of grace!

Plus it gets my myriad thoughts out of my head and allows me to release them from my body, which research at top universities has shown can dramatically reduce stress.[1]

You don’t need to change EVERYTHING in your life all at once (it doesn’t work anyway, trust me, I’ve tried).

Start with giving yourself the gift of reflection in your journal every day and see how your life starts to change. I guarantee you’ll feel more connected with yourself in the process and over time everything in your life will start to be a better reflection of you and what you value.

And that, my friends, is the key to lasting happiness.

More Journaling Ideas

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Health Publishing: Writing about emotions may ease stress and trauma

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