professional development

Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


How to Set Goals with Journaling in 6 Steps

PUBLISHED Sep 9th, 2020 & UPDATED ON Feb 8th, 2023

Do you know what your purpose is? Are you well on your way to being the version of yourself that you want to be? Do you feel fulfilled with the place you are at right now in this moment? It’s ok to not have answers to those questions. At least for now anyways, until we teach you how to set goals with journaling and make you a goal-setting expert! Come along, we have some stuff to dive thru…

Most of us have come across the principles behind SMART goals but if you haven’t, let us enlighten you. The acronym stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Some people have also expanded on the acronym to make it SMARTER, adding Evaluated and Reviewed. SMART goals are helpful because they are clear, realistic, and tailored specifically to you, which means you’re more likely to achieve them. 

We’re gonna make your SMART goals even SMARTER-er! We’re going to teach you how to set goals with journaling and actually make them happen. 

Ready? Leggo!

1. Use Freewriting to Identify Your Goals

Your feelings, values, and beliefs are at the heart of everything you do. If you don’t take time to explore them, you won’t know what’s important to you and, therefore, won’t know what goals to set.

If someone came up to you and asked you what your short-term, long-term, health, career, relationship, and personal goals were, would you have an answer on the spot?

The truth is, there are things you might not even know you’re feeling until you take the time to think about them and write them down. Freewriting is a stream-of-consciousness type of writing where you just write whatever comes to your mind until you run out of words. No interruptions or erasing or grammar checks welcome. 

This style of writing is beneficial for goal setting because the unfiltered expression allows you to pinpoint exactly what your goals are, as well as the reasoning behind each of them. 

2. Journal Through Your Goals to Make Them Stick 

When you have a goal in your mind, it’s just an idea. But as soon as you put pen to paper and write it down, suddenly it becomes a real, tangible thing. It becomes doable. Writing down your goals makes them seem more attainable, which is a synonym for achievable, which is one of the characteristics of a SMART goal. How convenient?

According to Forbes, “the act of writing stimulates the reticular activating system (RAS) in the brain. The RAS is like a filter and it sorts the things that are written down as being important.”

So, one could say that writing down your goals is a SMART thing to do. 

3. Write Your Goals Down Now, Then Expand and Modify Them Later

You aren’t the same person you were 5 years ago, 1 year ago, 6 months ago, or even one month ago. 

You change, your life changes, and guess what? Your goals are allowed to change, too. Writing your goals down allows you to modify and change them as needed, without losing all of your prior progress. Everything will still be there, allowing you to keep track of where you’ve been and where you’re going. 

Goals might not come to you in an instant, either. Some may need a little bit more thought and refinement. It’s hard to brainstorm in your brain without it becoming a storm of ideas. Before you know it, you’ve lost all the good ideas you thought you had and you’re back to square 1.

Plus, there’s only so much you can keep in your head before you start forgetting. Journaling allows you to expand on your goals so that your thoughts will be kept and not forgotten in favour of your family’s Subway order. 

4. Use Journaling to Help You Sort Out Your Priorities

When you keep your goals in your head, it’s easy to let them come and go. Goals can quickly become the least of your worries when you’re trying to deal with everything else going on up there: 15 (definitely different) versions of the same password, impossible microbiology terms, your daughter’s dance schedule, the works.

Seeing everything written down and lined up can help you organize your goals and decide what’s most important instead of trying to keep track of everything at once. After you write them down, use categories or give each one a ranking number to prioritize your goals.

5. As You Write, Allow Yourself to Be Honest

It can be intimidating to write and share your goals in front of an audience, so if that’s not for you, we definitely get it. Luckily, when you practice goal setting in a journal, it’s for your eyes only. 

Make it a judgement-free, safe space where you can share whatever your heart desires and be completely, 100% honest about your goals. When you’re honest with yourself, you’ll end up setting more realistic goals anyway, instead of trying to be and achieve something unattainable. 

6. Kick Start the Process with a Deep Dive

If you’re looking to zone in on one of the goals you’ve identified, we suggest using our DiveThru app. DiveThru has over 1000 structured journaling exercises, allowing you to dig deep and explore topics that interest you. 

If your goal is career related, DiveThru has an entire section of exercises to help you in that department: prepping for a job interview, starting a new job, or making a career change. Actual actionable prompts, pals.

If your goal is to develop a gratitude practice, we’ve got your back with both quick dives (gratitude hit) and deep dives (6 day gratitude challenge). Download the app for free to start crushing your goals today.

By getting into the habit of writing down your goals, you’ll ensure you’re getting the most out of them. Before you know it, you’ll have the SMART-est goals around.


Read More: Self-Sabotage: What Is It & How Do We Stop Doing It?, 6 Ways To Take Care of Yourself While Working Night Shifts,