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156 Journal Prompts to Fuel Your Personal Growth in 2023

Journaling is one of the best ways to inspire personal growth. It helps us uncover our thoughts, plan for the future, and stay accountable to the goals we want to achieve.

Unfortunately, sitting down in front of a blank page to journal is intimidating. It’s hard to know where to start, how to write, or what to write about. To lower the barrier to entry journal prompts are a great tool to help us get the pen moving on the page.

Most journal prompts are broad and ambiguous, but each prompt below is related to a specific idea of concept and focused on personal growth and development. In addition to the quotes included for each topic, the title for each idea is linked to a short essay about the idea to provide additional context and inspiration for your journaling.

My hope is that you’ll find a few topics that resonate with you and use the prompts and ideas below to journal about new ideas and work towards becoming a bit better each day.

Intentionality

Intentional living is the art of making our own choices before others’ choices make us.
Richie Norton
  1. How are others deciding your priorities for you?
  2. What intentional action will make tomorrow a fulfilling day?
  3. How can you adjust your life to include more intentional action?

Daily Action

You have to love doing it more than you love the reward for doing it.
Erik Anders Lang
  1. What would you line up to do every day even if you never received the typical rewards or recognition?
  2. Do you enjoy your daily actions for their own sake? Or are you pushing through something you don’t enjoy to achieve a reward or receive validation?
  3. Where are you over-prioritizing short-term pleasure where you should be valuing long-term gains instead?

Insignificance

Anyone who thinks they're important is usually just a pompous moron who can't deal with his or her own pathetic insignificance and the fact that what they do is meaningless and inconsequential.
William Thomas
  1. What was your last mistake or failure? How does remembering it make you feel?
  2. Now imagine for a moment that this mistake/failure was completely inconsequential. How does this change how you’re feeling?
  3. In which area of your life do you overestimate significance the most?

Impact

Millennials make decisions based on personal values first and foremost, and the pursuit to maximize impact is at the center of what shapes all of their thinking and choices.
Fast Company
  1. How can I meaningful help someone within my inner circle today?
  2. Where am I holding out for a big impact where I can make a difference right now?
  3. In what areas of my life am I striving to make an impact? Am I succeeding?

Discomfort

Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you're doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they're hiding out in the comfortable zone. When your uncomfortable actions lead to success, the organization rewards you and brings you back for more.
Seth Godin
  1. Where am I avoiding discomfort?
  2. How can I make discomfort a part of my daily routine?
  3. In what area of my life would I most benefit from consistent discomfort?

The Middle Ground

Virtue is the golden mean between two vices, the one of excess and the other of deficiency.
Aristotle
  1. Where do I frequently act too far in one extreme?
  2. What decisions or actions stress me out when I think about doing the right thing?
  3. Where can I apply the concept of the middle ground in my life?

Questions

Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.
Tony Robbins

For these prompts, I’m borrowing impactful questions from others that have consistently help me find clarity in my own life.

  1. “How have I been complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?”
  2. Jerry Colonna - Founder of Reboot.io
  3. “What is the worst-case scenario if I make the jump and try something new? What steps could I take to repair the damage or get things back to normal, even temporarily, if things go wrong?”
  4. Tim Ferriss - Author of The 4 Hour Workweek
  5. “What’s the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?”
  6. Gary Keller - Author of The One Thing

Seasons

You cannot change the seasons, but you can change yourself. Therein lies the opportunity to live an extraordinary life – the opportunity to change yourself.
Jim Rohn
  1. What is defining my current cycle and season in life? Did I intentionally choose these commitments?
  2. Are the people I surround myself with impacting my perception of the seasons in my life?
  3. What can I commit to today that will help me trend in the right direction?

Make Things Easy

The less tension and effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.
Bruce Lee
  1. What would this look like if it were easy?
  2. Where can I scale back my input/effort and receive a similar outcome?
  3. What am I making more difficult than it needs to be?

Spiritual Productivity

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, inlcuding you.
Anne Lamott
  1. What does spiritual productivity mean to me? How do I best reflect and reset?
  2. How can I alleviate external pressures to feel productive?
  3. When have I prioritized world productivity over spiritual productivity in the past? What were the results?

Self Awareness

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.
Richard Feynman
  1. What forms of self-reflection work best for me? How can I practice these regularly?
  2. What patterns of thinking or behavior do I repeat unconsciously?
  3. When was the last time I said something I didn’t mean? What was the real reason I said it?

Outward Bound

A man can pretend to be a lot of things in this world; but he can only pretend to be a sailor for as long as it takes to clear the harbor mouth.
Bernard Hayman
  1. Where am I sitting in a safe harbor instead of heading outward bound?
  2. What fears do I have about leaving a safe harbor?
  3. What can I learn by challenging myself in an unprotected environment?

Grit

There are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people imagine....you've got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people....Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you're willing to stay loyal to it...it's doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.
Angela Duckworth
  1. Where do I keep going when everyone else seems to give up?
  2. What rules can I put create to force myself to keep going when I want to quit?
  3. How gritty am I right now? How can I become grittier?

Self-Criticism

Self-criticism is the gateway to high performance.
Andrew Huberman
  1. When I criticize myself, do I take action to improve, or I am just complaining?
  2. How can I remain self-critical without feeling hopeless?
  3. Am I providing the people I care about with honest feedback?

Benefit of the Doubt

Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by past experiences.
Adaptation of
Hanlon’s Razor
  1. Do I assume positive intent when I think about the actions of others?
  2. What projects am I working on right now? How have my previous experiences informed my approach to these efforts?
  3. What do I disagree with other people about the most? Why does my belief differ from others?

Believe in Yourself

To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.
Yann Martel
  1. When was the last time I surprised myself and accomplished more than I thought I was capable of?
  2. What do I want to do, but don’t think I’m capable of accomplishing?
  3. Is there anything I can do to intentionally push myself past what I’m capable of and build my levels of self-confidence?

Zone 2

Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
Navy Seals
  1. On a scale of 1-5, 1 being almost no effort and 5 being completely exhausted at the end of each day, how much effort do I exert each day?
  2. Do I ever overdo it because I want to show how hard I’m working?
  3. What does a Zone 2 pace for my professional work look like?

Values

When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.
Roy Disney
  1. What are the 7 most important areas of my life? On a scale of 1-10, how would I rate myself in each of those areas?
  2. Thinking of the activity where I invest the most time and energy, am I pursuing an end that is congruent with my values, or am I chasing something else?
  3. For each role in my life (i.e. husband, wife, sister, brother, son, daughter, father, mother, lawyer, salesperson, entrepreneur, etc.) write one sentence to express what my values are in this area of life.

Focus on Inputs

First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit is persistence in practice.
Octavia Butler
  1. Even if I don’t achieve my desired output, are my inputs valuable for their own sake?
  2. i.e. Even if I don’t win my soccer game, am I still getting better at soccer when I practice?
  3. What is one thing I should do every day regardless of the results?
  4. Have I been consistent enough for long enough to achieve the results I’m hoping for?

Pedaling the Right Path

There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.
Peter Drucker
  1. Am I intentionally investing my time to reach a specific end or pedaling along without knowing exactly where I’m going?
  2. Am I too focused on pedaling that I’m losing sight of where I’m going, or too focused on steering that I’m slowing myself down unnecessarily?
  3. Could I benefit from stopping to adjust my route or do I need to double down on where I’m already headed?

Method Doesn’t Matter

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.
Richard Feynman
  1. What do I want to achieve? What do I need to do (regardless of how I do it) to get there?
  2. Are there multiple avenues to reach my desired end goal?
  3. Are my actions creating progress?

Speak Your Mind

We make all sorts of assumptions becasue we don’t have the courage to ask questions.
Miguel Ruiz
  1. What assumptions have I created about the thoughts of others that are preventing me from making forward progress?
  2. Who do I need to have a conversation with to clear my assumptions and find out what they truly think?
  3. What have I resisted doing because it’s “crazy” or a “waste of time”? Should I do it anyway?

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

The conventional wisdom on career success—follow your passion—is seriously flawed… for many people it can actually make things worse: leading to chronic job shifting and unrelenting angst.
Cal Newport
  1. Would my employer panic if I quit tomorrow?
  2. How can I become irreplaceably valuable to my firm?
  3. When I become so good that I can’t be ignored how will I use my leverage to develop control of my work and create a meaningful impact?

Accepting Attack

Non-violent resistance implies the very opposite of weakness. Defiance combined with non-retaliatory acceptance of repression from one's opponents is active, not passive. It requires strength, and there is nothing automatic or intuitive about the resoluteness required for using non-violent methods in political struggle and the quest for Truth.
Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer them with love.
Mahatma Gandhi
  1. What situation do I know I will face temptation or attack within the next 7 days? What does accepting that situation with compassion look like?
  2. What are the internal values that I will revert to when faced with an attack?
  3. What does it mean to me to “accept attack”?

The Pursuit of Happiness

Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.
Ben Franklin
  1. If I had to convince someone else that I was content and truly happy with my life as it stands right now, how would I describe it to them?
  2. What consistently brings me a feeling of contentment when I stop and feel an uncommon feeling of appreciation? How can I create more of this in my life?
  3. What consistently brings me a feeling of dread or hopelessness? How can I remove this from my life?

The Long and Short

Some people say life is short and that you could get hit by a bus at any moment and that you have to live each day like it’s your last. Bullshit. Life is long and you’re gonna have to live with the choices you make for the next fifty years.
Chris Rock
  1. What can I do on a weekly or monthly basis that will positively impact my life 10 years from now?
  2. How often do I think about how my daily and weekly activities contribute to the next decade of my life? Do I need to do this more or less?
  3. What is something I’ve been worrying about that will become completely trivial in one month?

Quitting - Smart or Lazy

Quitting is letting go of things (or people) that are sucking the life out of you so you can do more things that will bring you strength.
Osayi Osar-Emokpae
Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.
Lance Armstrong
  1. Where are the current inflection points in my life where I could give up or double down?
  2. Do I lean towards being a perfectionist or an early quitter?
  3. Are there any decisions where I should commit to an option even though I’m not sure what the “right” choice is?

The Problem with Helping

I tried to groan, Help! Help! But the tone that came out was that of polite conversation.
Samuel Beckett
  1. What is something I need to ask an expert to do for me?
  2. What is something I’ve been asking someone else to do that I should be doing for myself?
  3. What is the difference between asking for help and asking someone to teach me?

Progressive Overload

Nothing changes if nothing changes.
Brian Mazza
  1. In the two most important areas of my life, what does increasing the level of stimulus to encourage adaptation look like?
  2. How can I regularly monitor where I stand and determine if I need to increase my stimulus levels?
  3. Do I have too much stimulus in my life or not enough?

Embracing Emptiness

People don’t have enough silence in their lives because they don’t have enough solitude. And they don’t get enough solitude because they don’t seek out or cultivate silence. It’s a vicious cycle that prevents stillness and reflection, and then stymies good ideas, which are almost always hatched in solitude.
Ryan Holiday
  1. Am I uncomfortable without having “something to do”?
  2. How can I add intentional stillness or emptiness to my day?
  3. What am I avoiding when I reach for stimulation in uncomfortable silence? How can I face that head-on instead?

Approach is Everything

It isn’t what you do, but how you do it.
John Wooden
  1. What am I optimizing for with everything I do in a day? For example, am I optimizing for speed/convenience when eating breakfast or I am fueling for the day?
  2. Are there 1 or 2 recurring themes I’m optimizing for throughout different activities?
  3. What point of optimization would make the biggest positive difference in my life?

The Watchful Eye

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Isaac Newton
  1. When’s the last time I lashed out because of my own insecurity? What can I do to patch up that area?
  2. How can regularly remind myself that the tide will eventually go out?
  3. What will I do the next time I recognize that I’m feeling vulnerable and the instinct to retaliate surfaces?

Dealing with the Deep End

Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
  1. What is one experiment I can design and implement this week?
  2. Do I tend to avoid change entirely or jump into new things too quickly?
  3. What’s a big piece of my future I’ve always imagined? How can I test it before I commit to it completely?

Do Stuff

The most important thing is to live an interesting life. Keep your eyes, ears and heart open. Talk to people and visit interesting places, and don't forget to ask questions… you need to drink in the world around you so it's always there in your head.
Michael Morpurgo
  1. What stuff do I want to do more of?
  2. How can I make time every day to do stuff?
  3. How do I feel after going through a day without doing any stuff?

Constant Change

My theory on life is that life is beautiful. Life doesn't change. You have a day, and a night, and a month, and a year. We people change - we can be miserable, or we can be happy. It's what you make of your life.
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
  1. What is a small thing I can change in my bedroom to positively influence my sleep or the state I wake up in each day?
  2. Am I actively influencing my trajectory in life? Or letting whatever comes up control my path?
  3. Are there any people in my life that have a negative influence on the way I am changing?

Horizon of Happiness

Happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.
Roy Goodman
  1. Am I succumbing to short-term indulgences at the cost of worthwhile pursuits and long-term happiness or vice-versa?
  2. What are the parameters or rules I can set for myself so I know what indulgences are worth forgoing in the pursuit of longer-term ambitions and what moments I’ll regret missing out on?
  3. What are the costs of living in the moment? What are the costs of only building for the future?

Hungry and Foolish

The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.
Stephen McCranie
  1. In what areas of my life am I a beginner? If none, why is that?
  2. What skills or accomplishments do I see as insurmountable? What small daily action would get me closer to that end state?
  3. What I am really good at? Do I rely on that skill too much?

Leaning In

Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.
Tony Schwartz
  1. In what situations or environments do I find myself most at odds with the life I’m trying to live?
  2. What’s the result when I try to force my idealistic lifestyle in difficult scenarios?
  3. What type of situation or occasion warrants leaning into the circumstances and forgetting about the pursuit of growth?

Win the Day

We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we've established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.
Earl Nightingale
  1. Do I ever do things at the end of the day to try and make the day worth it? Or indulge in something I shouldn’t to try and feel in control?
  2. What is something meaningful I do that creates a genuine feeling of progress?
  3. How can I do one thing at the beginning of each day that satisfies my natural craving for progress?

There’s No Such Thing as the Truth

We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
John F. Kennedy
  1. What Truth did I believe but later realized was more complex?
  2. How can I avoid getting trapped in my opinions and thoughts no matter the situation or circumstance?
  3. What can I do to continue my journey of discovery and exploration of new ideas?

Deciding Destiny

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
  1. Do I lean towards a passive or active mindset?
  2. Are there certain parts of life where I’m more prone to accepting current circumstances as destiny?
  3. What inputs do I need to take control over?

Letting Routine Define Us

Our challenges don't define us; our actions do.
Micheal J. Fox
  1. What are all the routines or habits I have from the time I wake up to when I go to sleep?
  2. Which routines and habits are serving me? And which ones do I need to replace?
  3. How will I know to evaluate if a routine is working for me or if it needs to be adjusted?

An Approach for Anything

Discipline is not a one-time event. Self-discipline is like building your muscle. It’s like going to the gym. You cannot go to the gym today and build your muscle. You should get a program and go slowly by slowly—that’s the way to build your muscle. And that’s the way you can cultivate your self-discipline.
Eliud Kipchoge (Marathon World Record Holder, 2:01:09 or ~4:37 minute/mile)
  1. How can I “build volume” or slowly increase the frequency or intensity of something important to me?
  2. What is something that seems insurmountable to me today? How did the people at the top of this field or activity start?
  3. What kind of results could I achieve if I slowly built up my efforts over the next 6, 12, or 18 months?

Removing Ourselves from the Equation

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw
  1. How do I define myself?
  2. How have these beliefs or characteristics affected how I behave?
  3. What does it mean to me that I am separate from my actions/emotions/beliefs?

Zooming Out to Gain Control

You can’t see the picture when you’re in the frame.
Les Brown
  1. When have I felt stuck in the past week? What was I focused on?
  2. Zoom out. What are all of the important pieces of your life? Which ones compete against each other the most?
  3. What’s one change I can make to my daily schedule to further balance my priorities?

Trickle Down Planning

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.
Abraham Lincoln
  1. What does an ideal day in your life look like in 1 year, 3 years, or 5 years?
  2. To achieve the life you want in the timeline above, what do you need to achieve in the next year in the 5 most important areas of your life?
  3. To accomplish the goals you’ve established for the next year, what do you need to do this month?
  4. To reach your goals for the month, what do you need to do this week?
  5. To stay on track for the upcoming week, what do you need to do today?

A Reason to Live Well

Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow, I can do what others can’t.
Jerry Rice
  1. Are there any tangible short-term consequences for your actions?
  2. What type of pursuit can you create or sign up for to construct consequences for actions you want to avoid?
  3. What pursuits are truly outside of your current capabilities? What would it be impossible for you to do today that you can work towards in the future?

Adapting as the Future Evolves

Living with uncertainty is one of the few established facts of modern life (or any life for that matter).
Lawrence J. Raphael
  1. How have your long-term pursuits changed over the last year?
  2. What have you invested time into pursuing this year that’s likely to change in the coming months?
  3. How can you regularly evaluate how your life is changing and adjust your priorities accordingly?

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