Here we'll talk about the benefits of journaling, offer some prompts to get you started, and provide ideas to journal your way to your dreams.
Are you looking for a guide to help you start a practical, fun, and useful journal? Then why not start with a manifestation journal? A manifestation journal is a place where you write down your thoughts, dreams, goals, plans, or other things you want to manifest. It can help you gain clarity about your life goals and what you need to do to get there.
To start journaling for manifestation, all you need is a notebook or journal and a general goal (no specifics needed at this point). We'll walk you through the steps to get your manifestation journal going.
Step 1: Free Write
Starting a journal with freewriting can be really helpful—we just let whatever comes to our heads flow onto the page. It can help you overcome the inertia of the blank page. If you’re note sure what to write about, it may be helpful to clear out any thoughts or emotions that are distracting you. Consider sharing emotions and disclosing private things that you haven't told anyone (don;t worry, no one gets to read this). Research suggests that sharing these deep feelings may help release them (Pennebaker, 1997). With that gunk out of the way, it may be easier to open up space for your goals and dreams.
Step 2: Set SMART Goals
Although science is skeptical of "Law of Attraction" approaches to manifestation, research supports the idea that setting fairly ambitious goals may help us achieve more. To start, we can use a manifestation journal to get clearer on what goals to set. One method for doing this involves the SMART system (Lawlor, 2012). Check out the 'SMART' system below and use it to guide you as you write about your goals.
Step 3: Find Meaning
Once you have your goals clear, you might want to spend a little more time thinking about the meaning behind your goals. To start, answer these questions in your journal:
Step 4: Believe in Yourself
A negative mindset or the failure to believe in ourselves can often block us from achieving the things we want in life. By believing in ourselves, our capabilities, and our future, we give ourselves a better chance to succeed.
In your journal, try to work on developing a growth mindset—or the belief that your most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work (Dweck, 2015). When we develop a growth mindset, we put in more effort to improve our skills because we believe those efforts are worthwhile.
To build a growth mindset, write in your manifestation journal about times when you did learn new things or build new skills. Write about how it went, the challenges you overcame, and how you eventually learned the new thing. Reminding yourself of what you did in the past can help you gain confidence in your ability to do it again in the future.
Step 5: Map Your Path Forward
Here are some more questions to ponder in your journal to help you find your path forward:
Get to know more about long-term goals and how to set them.
Goals, broadly speaking, are defined as the desired states that we seek to obtain, maintain, or avoid (Nair, 2003). Long-term goals can be defined as the set of goals that need a longer period to achieve. For example, they could be goals related to our education, career, relationships, fitness, etc. Long-term goals require planning and sustained effort, so they can be a bit trickier to achieve than shorter-term goals. Here are some tips to get you started.
How to Reach Long-Term Goals
1. Set specific and challenging goals. It turns out that we achieve more by setting specific goals that are a little bit bigger or challenging, but not too challenging. If we set easy goals, we often don't achieve as much as we could because we don't push ourselves quite as hard.
2. Set meaningful goals. Reaching goals that you care about is easier than reaching goals you don't care about. So it's helpful to get clear on what you do care about right from the start.
3. Set realistic goals. It can be tricky to know just how much you can achieve. In fact, if you don't believe in yourself, you might set your goals too low and miss out on doing some great things. If you believe in your ability to manifest something, you are more likely to persist until you do. So, take some time to dream big and then put on your reality cap to reflect on what is possible.
4. Commit to your goal. We silly humans don't like to disappoint ourselves or others. So, when we commit to something, we're actually more likely to do it, especially if we share the commitment with other people in our lives.
5. Create a feedback cycle. Feedback can be helpful so that you know how well you are doing (Latham, & Locke, 2007). Even if you don't have someone to provide feedback for you, you can still put systems in place to give yourself feedback. In other words, you could track your progress on how you're moving towards your goal. That way, you'll know how you're doing.
Align Long-Term Goals with Core Needs
Researchers suggest that we are more motivated to fulfill core needs like autonomy, relatedness, and competence (Sheldon & Elliot, 1999). So, when setting long-term goals, try to identify how each goal relates to a core need. For example, 'starting your own business' might relate to autonomy because you are free to work on what you want. 'Finding love' might relate to relatedness. And 'getting a promotion' might relate to competence. By identifying how your goals relate to your needs, you'll have a better sense that what you're striving for will make you feel good once you get there.
Phases of Long-Term Goal Pursuit
The long-term goal achievement process includes:
Sticking to Your Goals
The thing about long-term goals is that they are ... well ... long. That means they require dedication, determination, and persistence. They require overcoming both tangible obstacles and emotional obstacles. So, some have suggested that in addition to creating an action plan (a plan for what you will do), it can be helpful to have a coping plan (Sniehotta, Schwarzer, Scholz, & Schüz, 2005). Here are some tips:
Clarify possible challenges. Anticipating the situations that will slow or stall your progress towards the goal can help you develop a plan for how to respond effectively. Then, creating "if-then" statements for each potential obstacle can help you more easily overcome it. For example, if I'm exhausted and just need a nap during the time I have set aside for my goal, it's OK because then I have a backup time set up that I only use when I need it.
Think about how to overcome distraction. Perhaps the most common obstacle is distraction. Maybe some parts of our long-term goal are boring or hard. Or, there are just a lot of distractions in our lives. That's why putting a plan in place to minimize distractions can be helpful. For example, we can download an app to pause our emails, log ourselves out of social media, or put a time limit on our internet time. Or, maybe we benefit from headphones to drown out noise. Or maybe we just need a few snacks nearby so we don't have to keep running out to get something. Think about what distracts you and how you might overcome these things.
Know your challenges. Take some time to think about what's stopped you from reaching past goals. Write these down and then brainstorm what you'll do. Try to be specific (say more than "I'll figure it out!"). For example, if low self-confidence often keeps you from reaching your goals, maybe you use some self-love exercises when you find you're getting down on yourself. By having specific plans in place to cope with your unique difficulties, you can increase your chances of success.
How do you set the right priorities for you? Here are some tips and guidance to help you clarify your top priorities and stick to them.
Do you know what is high-priority for you? Or do you feel like everything is high-priority and don’t know what to do first? Or, are you just too plain busy to ever get to the high-priority stuff? If you're reading this, then you're likely looking for more help figuring out your priorities. Don’t worry, we can help.
What, Exactly, Is High-Priority?
What, exactly, is high-priority? Well, the answer depends on who you ask and which aspect of life we're looking at. Are we talking about work priorities, relationship priorities, family priorities, or figuring out which is the highest priority of these high priority items?
To start, let’s take a look at each of these life domains to better understand different types of priorities, how they fit together, and how they may compete with each other.
To set priorities for work, make a list of the major tasks that you need to accomplish. Then list these tasks in order of importance. Be sure to also note whether one task needs to come before another or is dependent on another task being completed first. For example, maybe you need a website before you can start selling things in your online business.
Maybe there are some people we want to see more than others. Or, maybe there are certain activities that we feel are more important to ensure the success of our romantic relationships and friendships. Some examples of relationship priorities could also include: being honest, making time for fun, practicing kindness, or talking about fears and difficulties.
What are the highest priority actions you need to take to ensure your family is taken care of? This might depend a lot on whether you have kids, aging parents, or a small family. So take a moment to think about high-priority actions within your family. Remember, your priorities don't necessarily have to be engagement related. For example, your priority may be to set boundaries or take time off rather than spending a lot of time with family. Everyone is different.
Do you have other priorities related to your mental or physical health, finances, purpose, or personal growth? Think about what these priorities are.
What are Your Top Priorities
Now that you’ve thought about your priorities in each of the life domains, you're probably now wondering, How do I prioritize my priorities?!
Well, pause here to look over or think about your top priorities in each life domain. Combine these into one long list. Put the most important things at the top to hopefully get a sense of which things are most important to you. This can be a bit tricky, so try not to be too hard on yourself—just do the best you can. Your priorities might also change over time, and that's okay too.
Managing competing priorities
There are only so many hours in the day. If we spend all day doing our top priority, then we'll have no time for our second priority. But if we spend an equal amount of time on each priority, we'll move forward so slowly on all of them that we may get frustrated and give up. So knowing our priorities isn't always the solution to sticking to our priorities.
Sometimes it can be easiest to focus on a few high priority items at a time. For example, maybe you spend one month really focusing on your family but the next month, you need to prioritize more work. It’s okay to try to find a balance that works for you and experiment as you go.
Taking action on your priorities
Another thing to consider is what things make it easier or harder for us to stick to our priorities. For example, are there people who make it difficult to stick to your priorities? Are there situations that make it hard to stick to your priorities? Or, are there things about you that make it hard to stick to your priorities? By taking the time to better understand your own unique challenges, you’ll also better understand what solution might best work for you.
Here you’ll learn about habits, review multiple strategies for building good habits, and get some tips for how to break bad habits.
Habits have been described as repeated actions that arise from some kind of internal or external trigger (Robbins & Costa, 2017). Often, these habits exist in particular contexts. For example, Billy might have a habit of smoking a cigarette when he drinks alcohol. Sharon might have a habit of brushing her teeth before bed. And Mark might have a habit of biting his nails when he’s nervous.
Habits—both good and bad—are closely related to our goals. Since habits are just things we do regularly, they can contribute to —or deter us from—achieving the things we want to achieve. That’s why building good habits—and perhaps getting rid of some bad ones—is so important for building the lives we want to lead. So what are some good habits to build?
Habits of Highly Effective People
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is perhaps one of the most popular self-help books of all time. It suggests that there are 7 key habits that we should all strive to build. The habits are the key to being successful. According to the author, these are the the things we need to do:
More Ways To Build Good Habits
The book, Atomic Habits, suggests even more tips for building good habits. Here are a few:
Some Good Habits to Explore
Good habits tend to be good for the mind and body. Habits of the mind are what help us successfully engage in effective behaviors that lead to success over the long term (Costa & Kallick, 2009). Habits of the body can help keep us strong and healthy. Here are some examples:
Habits of the mind include:
Habits of the body include:
Beating Bad Habits
The good (and bad) thing about habits is that after repeatedly engaging in them, they become automatic. That makes it somewhat easier to build good habits, but also harder to break bad ones.
Learning how to break a habit like smoking, drinking, gambling, overeating, or overspending is likely more difficult than starting a new habit. It requires more than building new patterns of behavior—it requires understanding how your existing patterns of behavior benefit you and finding other ways to get those benefits. For example, maybe smoking helps us calm down or drinking helps us feel more social or binging on cookies feels good. So we have to ask ourselves, how do we get these positive outcomes without the habit?
To start, it can be helpful to:
What is self-actualization and how do you strive towards it?
If you’re not familiar with self-actualization, the idea comes from renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow's theory of human motivation. Maslow hypothesized that unsatisfied needs drive our behavior. Needs like food, water, and safety need to be met first, then we strive to achieve social connection and self-esteem. Once all of these goals are met, we move on to seeking self-actualization—or achieving our full potential.
Later, an additional need was added—contributing something purposeful that is greater than ourselves. This is also referred to as "Beyond Self-Actualization," "Transcendence," or “Selfless Actualization” (Greene, & Burke, 2007).
Maslow suggested that lower-level needs are "deficit needs." We need them to survive, so they take priority. Self-actualization and beyond are "growth needs." Personal growth is considered to be a crucial precursor to well-being (Ryff, 1989). We may focus on actualizing our potential and extending our abilities to serve others. We might have:
How to Become Self-Actualized
So how do we strive self-actualization? Here are a few tips:
1. Cultivate Openness to Experience
When we think in black-versus-white, we miss opportunities to learn, grow, and experience things that could bring more meaning to our lives. That's why self-actualization involves being open to alternative information and points-of-view (Greene, & Burke, 2007). We’re served by looking at problems in creative ways and from different perspectives. So try to be more open to experience if you're aiming for self-actualization.
2. Reflect on Your Values
If you aim to self-actualize and become your best self, it’s important to first get clear on your values (Greene, & Burke, 2007). If we strive to reach goals that go against our values or morals, we could end up feeling worse off—unfulfilled and unhappy.
3. Move Beyond Love and Esteem Needs
When we think of self-actualization, many of us actually are thinking of esteem needs (Krems, Kenrick, & Neel, 2017). Maybe we strive for love and belonging or for career success. There is nothing at all wrong with that. In fact, according to Maslow, we need to satisfy these needs before moving on to self-actualization. Once we feel like we are loved and respected it may be easier to shift our focus to personal growth and selfless pursuits.
4. Live Authentically
Each of us desires to achieve different goals and manifest different dreams. By exploring what it is that we really want, we can feel more fulfilled in pursuing it.
Self-actualization is a peak experience that many of us strive for. But it should also be thought of as a lifelong pursuit. It is about growth and giving back. With some effort, we have the potential to experience all that self-actualization has to offer.
The different types of life goals and how you can set yours.
Life goals are the desired states that people seek to obtain, maintain or avoid (Nair, 2003). Our lives include many different pieces so life goals can include relationship goals, career goals, financial goals, and more.
Why We Might Set Life Goals
Researchers believe that the reason we set life goals is to resolve "discontent" with aspects of our present situation. Indeed, we may want something in our lives to be different—our relationship, career, or health, for example. And indeed, the simple act of setting a goal makes it more likely that we will reach it.
How to Set Life Goals
Setting specific and slightly difficult goals—like "I will run a marathon by running a little further each day for a year"—tends to go better than setting vague or abstract goals, like "I'm going to be rich!" Commitment to the goal also seems to help us achieve it. And getting feedback from others and tracking our progress also help us achieve our goals (Locke & Latham, 2006).
To set effective life goals, we can use the "SMART" acronym. Although there are some variations in what SMART stands for (Rubin, 2002), here is one example:
What Are Short-Term and Long-Term Life Goals?
Achieving easier, shorter-term goals can help us feel like we're making progress and motivate us to keep going towards long-term goals. That's why it can be helpful to break longer-term goals up into a bunch of short and mid-term goals—things that we could accomplish in an hour, day, or week. For example, if I want to go to college, I might study for the SAT one hour per day for several months. Over time, these short-term goals allow me to accomplish my longer-term goal.
Turning Life Goals Into Objectives
Most short-term goals can be broken down even further into objectives—or actionable parts. For example, if my goal is to get into college, I might plan to study an hour per day (a short-term goal), but what I do during that time would be to accomplish my objectives. I might complete 10 math problems, memorize 10 vocabulary words, and quiz myself each evening on my vocabulary works. Those would be my objectives.
Examples of Life Goals
Setting life goals can be good for us. If we take just a little more time to set the right goals in the right ways, we'll have a greater chance of reaching those goals and manifesting some of our dreams.
Want to write a personal mission statement? Here are some tips.
A personal mission statement is a written declaration of our unique direction or purpose. This statement makes it clear not just what you intend to do in this world, but how you intend to do it. It's sometimes just one sentence, but it can be as long as you want.
Each of us has our own unique values, purpose, and desired direction, but often we don’t know exactly what they are. That’s why we can benefit from having a mission statement—something that gives us clarity about how we want to live our lives and ultimately achieve personal fulfillment and well-being. Writing a mission statement can help us get clear on our values and better understand whether we are spending our time in the best ways. It can also provide a sense of inner stability during times of change (Searight & Searight, 2011).
What's Your Personal Mission?
Many of us have spent little time thinking about our personal mission in life. We're too busy dealing with immediate, urgent tasks to think about what we want to do in this life and where we want to end up. As a result, we might feel this low level of discontent—we know the way we are living our lives is not making us happy, but we’re not sure why. Thinking about our mission can be one way to begin to resolve this discontent.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to explore your mission:
Tip: Think of the end and work backwardAnother way to gain more clarity on what you want to do in life is to think about the end of your life and what you hope to have accomplished. Then, work backward. Some people have suggested that we could imagine attending our own funeral. Think about what would be said in the eulogy and whether it reflects your values and goals (Searight & Searight, 2011). If you find that the eulogy of today's version of you isn't what you really want, clarify for yourself what you do want and consider how your mission statement may guide you to that end goal.
What are Your Values?
Next, ask yourself, what are your values? That is, what are the underlying traits, beliefs, or experiences that drive you and make you feel like you?
Some values might be Love, Freedom, Creativity, Kindness, Adventure, Loyalty, etc...
Make sure that your mission reflects these values so that you don’t end up pursuing a goal in ways that are not a good fit for your values. This way you'll have a better chance of feeling more fulfilled as you strive to achieve your mission.
What are Your Goals?
In addition to your values, it can be helpful to get even more clear on your goals. It can be easy to focus on short-term goals, but thinking about medium-term and long-term goals can help you make sure your short-term goals don’t lead you astray.
Ask yourself a few quick questions about your goals:
Write Your Personal Mission Statement
Sometimes a personal mission statement is just one sentence. In that case, it could be:
To do [X Action] for [Y group of people] to [have Z impact] with [optional: other details].
It’s okay to revise, rewrite, or make it longer. For most of us, creating a personal mission statement takes some work. This process doesn't have to be a "one and done". In fact, it is quite common for personal mission statements to change and evolve over time, just as we do (Li, Frohna, & Bostwick, 2017).
Need a more creative way to think through your goals? Vision boards may help.
What is a Vision Board?
A vision board is usually a collage of images that represent goals and dreams. It can include cut-out pictures from magazines and words that help inspire you to manifest your dreams and get where you want to go.
Although vision boarding is a commonly used tool, there is not a lot of research on its effectiveness. Initial research suggests it can help us more easily reach our goals. This may be due to how vision boards help us gain self-awareness and self-reflect on what is important to us.
Vision boards may also help us imagine what a positive future could look like for us. Imagining a positive future is a helpful way to increase positive emotions and optimism. And positive emotions often create opportunities and increase the chances of success.
Even though this research doesn't directly assess the benefits of making a vision board, it suggests that many of the components of vision boarding have potential benefits for our well-being and success. It's just key to remember that vision boards are not magic. Rather, they can help you better understand what it is you'd like to manifest.
Here are some tips to help you make a vision board.
How to Make a Vision Board
Start by exploring your values. If your goals are not aligned with your personal values, achieving these goals won't provide the sense of satisfaction and well-being that you're seeking. Ask yourself, what really matters to you? What gives you meaning? Who do you want to be? Who do you want to help? And how do you want to spend your time? When making a vision board and thinking through your goals, keep these values-focused questions in mind.
Think about what motivates you. If you pursue goals that you find motivating, you'll have an easier time reaching them. So ask yourself, what do you want and why do you want it? Does it have anything to do with your childhood or past experiences? Does it have to do with your personality?
Try to better understand why the goals you've set are so important to you. Or revise them if you discover they are not as important as you once thought.
Set priorities. Sometimes vision boards can end up being a collection of all the goals we aspire to—being rich, beautiful, and successful. If we really want to achieve these goals, we need to be more realistic with them. What can we reasonably accomplish in a year or five years? You can visualize your priorities by focusing a vision board on your most important life goals or by placing them above, in the center, or over a greater majority of the board.
Potential Problems With Vision Boards
Vision boarding is somewhat controversial in the scientific community. Because vision boards are often associated with the "law of attraction," which doesn't have scientific support behind it, many assume vision boards are not a useful tool.
It's true that we don't fully understand the precise benefits of vision boards, but the truth is we don't understand the precise benefits of many tools that are used in coaching, counseling, and psychotherapy. That's because testing each one of these tools without the others is quite burdensome research. Anyway, given we know that the very act of setting goals is better than not setting goals, vision boards are indeed likely to be a useful tool, at least for some people.
Vision Board Ideas
Here are some types of goals that you may want to include in a vision board.
Do you want to reach your goals and create the life you've always dreamed of? Here are some strategies to help you dream bigger.
Dreaming big doesn't have to mean we suddenly want to be a millionaire or become famous (although it could mean that for some of us). That's because 'bigger' is a relative term. If we currently have no dreams, dreaming bigger might just mean we have a small goal that we want to reach. But even that is not always easy. If we knew how to dream bigger, we'd already do it! we might think. So how do you start dreaming bigger?
1. Cultivate Confidence
To achieve big things, first, you must believe that you can. If we’re not sure we deserve to achieve big things, why would we try, right? That's why the first thing we need to dream big is a confidence boost.
To get this boost, try to remember a time when you succeeded in doing something you set your mind to. Or, if you have a hard time, look for role models that dared to dream big and achieve more than was expected of them. Use your and others’ experiences as inspiration and motivation.
2. Face Fear of Failure
If you want to do something big, the fear can be intense. We might think: What if we fail? What then? If this sounds like you, it may be helpful to shift your mindset or perspective. Developing a growth mindset—or the belief that growth and learning are more important than success or other people's opinions—can help you shift your focus to the journey instead of the end goal. That way we can better enjoy the pursuit, even if it ultimately does result in failure.
3. Face Fear of Success
We often think we don’t pursue big dreams because we’re afraid of failure. But what if we’re really afraid of success? Success can mean different things to different people—some of these things are scary. For example, success might mean feeling like the odd one out in your family or friend group. It might mean having more responsibility than you really want. Or, it could lead to jealousy from others. There are lots of reasons why you may have a fear of success. But taking a closer outlook at these fears and thinking about how you might deal with them can help you move through them.
4. Use Your Imagination
Start by visualizing a variety of different possible exciting outcomes that might come from following your dreams. Maybe you imagine yourself owning your own business, having a big family, or traveling all over the world.
As you visualize, try to be mindful, paying attention to how your body feels during each scenario. Try to tune into how each experience feels in your body, and take note of any thoughts or emotions that come up. Ask yourself:
5. Find Meaning
Many of us get stuck on the path towards small dreams (or the wrong dreams). Often, it’s because we have not yet deeply explored what really matters to us. To make sure our big dreams are meaningful, reflect on these different things that research shows give us meaning (Ryff, 1989):
6. Enjoy in the Process
Sometimes we end up spending so much time focusing on our big dreams that we forget to enjoy the process. Indeed, big dreams can help us imagine a life or a future that is unlike any that we've ever known. But big dreams take time, and if we don’t enjoy the process, it’s going to be tough to get there.
So, try to focus on the enjoyable parts of creating your dream. You're taking control of your life, you're building a new reality, and even small steps you take are worth celebrating. If our dreams are truly meaningful to us, striving towards them can increase well-being, regardless of whether we achieve the big goal at the end or not.
Pamela (Pami) Parker currently serves as a holistic practitioner, coach and teacher. Her intention is to be a compassionate guide to those who choose to experience a healthier, happier and more peaceful way of life.