Reach Your Goals with a Goal Journal: Turn Dreams into Reality

Most of us daydream occasionally. We dream about things we want to achieve and how we’d like our lives to be. But the thing about these daydreams is that they are just dreams. And they’ll stay this unless we do something to take them out of our heads and put them into the real world. With a goal journal, you can take your dreams, turn them into goals, and create a plan for how to reach them.

A sum up of a post about goal journaling. The image sums up how the reader can make a goal journal in 5 steps
Create a goal journal in 5 steps

What is a goal journal?

A goal journal is a type of journal where you can reflect on your goals, dreams, progress, and celebrate your achievements. It’s a tool that helps you track and clarify your goals while helping you stay motivated and create a realistic plan.

Why you need a goal journal

A goal journal is a great tool. Here are 5 reasons why you need one.

Goal Journals can make your dreams seem realistic

Most people have big dreams. They think about getting in shape, starting a business, becoming the top student, or being the best in their field. They have these dreams, but they seem so distant, unrealistic. To avoid failure and disappointment, they rarely let it get past the stage of daydreaming. Most people don’t reach their goals.

A goal journal is a tool that can help you take dreams and put them into the real world. Now that it’s out of your head, it suddenly seems real. It might still look difficult, but it helps you to understand that it’s within reach. Once you’ve taken the first step, you might notice that the fear of failure is smaller.

A goal journal can help you make a plan

With a goal journal, you identify your goals and what you have to do to reach them. It gives you a list of different behaviors and milestones you need to accomplish. When you know exactly how your end destination looks, you can create a detailed plan for how to get there.

You can track your progress and stay motivated

If you’re working towards a long-term goal, you’ll have moments where progress is so slow that you can’t see any. These times can feel discouraging. It’s easy to lose motivation.

With your goal journal, you’ll track progress along the way. When you enter slow periods, you can look back and see your progress. You might not improve much when you look at days, but if you shift your focus to months, you might see a different picture.

Related: Gratitude journal

Help you to not get discouraged by set backs

Almost any process of reaching goals is two steps forward, one step back. You progress and get closer until something happens, and you regress. This is unavoidable and a part of the process. But it can be extremely discouraging.

Again, you can use your goal journal to look back. Your situation might be worse than yesterday, but it’s still better than when you started. You probably had other setbacks, but you managed to recover and get better every time.

Related: Journaling for stress and anxiety

Help you learn

A goal journal can help you learn. As you note your success and failures, you’ll understand what works and what doesn’t.

You can use this knowledge for personal growth or to ensure success in future projects. You might even share it with others and help them succeed.

How to start a goal journal

There are several kinds of goal journals with slightly different approaches. The following is my favorite approach and the one I use when working on a new goal.

Below you can find a guide with 5 steps to start your goal journal. Below each step, you’ll find a short and simplified example of how it could look.

1. Write down your goal(s)

The first thing you need to do is identify your goal. In as much detail as possible, describe what it is that you want to achieve. The better you can describe this, the easier the next steps will be.

If you’re unsure how to set your goal, you might draw inspiration from SMART goals.

Related: Identity based habits


I want to get in better physical shape. I want to get more energy to be productive and get up from the couch. To be able to move freely without pain and feel comfortable taking my shirt off at the beach.

2. Write down sub-goals

Unless you have a really simple goal, there’ll be sub-goals you need to reach first to get there. It’s time to identify those. Mention all that you feel are relevant enough to your goal that you’ll work on them but don’t overdo it. This isn’t about having as many as possible but having the right ones.

Related: The power of small wins


To reach my goal I need to:

  1. Have and follow a workout routine.
  2. Eat healthy.
  3. Have a reasonable sleeping schedule.
  4. Increase non-exercise activity.

3. What do you need to do to reach your sub goals?

Now that you have your sub-goals, it’s time to find the behaviors you need to reach those. Take one sub-goal at a time and write everything you need to do to reach it. It’s okay if you write the same behavior under several goals. You’ll organize the list later. At this stage, you won’t have to prioritize. Just write the behaviors down as they pop into your head.

Related: The best habits for self-improvement


To reach my sub-goals I need to:

  1. Have and follow a workout routine.
  2. Get a workout plan (stretching included)
  3. Get a gym membership/buy equipment.
  4. Create the habit.
  5. Eat healthy.
  6. Start cooking at home.
  7. Eat enough vegetables and fruit.
  8. Cut back junk food.
  9. Follow a meal plan/Learn the basics of macro nutrition.
  10. Have a reasonable sleeping schedule.
  11. Get 8 hours of sleep every night.
  12. Create a good sleep hygiene.
  13. Increase non-exercise activity.
  14. Walk/bike every within reasonable distance.
  15. Take the stairs.

4. Put together a plan – How are you going to approach this?

Now that you know what you have to do, it’s time to put the behaviors together to create a plan. Note at what stage you’ll do or start doing the different behaviors. If possible, plan all the way from the start to the end. You don’t have to worry about 100% accuracy. No plan is ever perfect. It’ll most likely need adjustments along the way.

Some find it overwhelming to create a detailed plan like this. That’s completely fine. Instead of creating a complete plan from the beginning, you can plan along the way. Plan how you’ll start and how you’ll proceed. Try to always plan at least one step ahead to keep an overview of your situation.

No matter your approach here, start with the behaviors that need the most time.

Related: How to build a habit


To reach my goal, I need to work successfully through several stages.

Stage 1:

Stage 2:

Stage 3:

  • Cut back on junk food
  • Take the stairs

Stage 4:

  • Walk/bike when possible
  • Follow a meal plan/Learn the basics of macro nutrition.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep

Depending on who you are, you might benefit from setting durations and small objectives for each stage. This is just a loose example to show you how it can look.

5. Follow up

You have your plan ready. At this stage, you’ve started working on it. But that doesn’t mean you won’t need your goal journal anymore.

Describing your goal and creating the plan was to get you started. The last step of your goal journal is the longest but, for most, the most enjoyable.

In the last step, you’ll follow up on your plan. Here you can track and celebrate progress, learn from your experiences, and adjust your plan to make it better. How you do that depends on your goal and how you can measure success.

Related: How to increase productivity with a journal


In the example, I would write about the following things:

  1. How do I feel?
  2. What’s going well?
  3. What’s not going well?
  4. How can I improve the things not going well?
  5. Body measurements
  6. Is the plan working?

Related: Journaling for problem solving

Tips for reaching your goals with a goal journal

Now that you know how to create your goal journal, we can look at a couple tips to help you succeed.

Start slow.

When most people start their goal journal and start to plan, they are impatient. They want to reach their goals as fast as possible and try to make an explosive start. They do a lot from day 1, but 1 of 2 things tends to happen soon.

At some point, you’ll hit a plateau or a difficult period. It’ll be difficult to handle if you have been pushing with everything you got from day 1. It kills momentum, and only a few get past this.

The second thing that might happen is burnout. If you make a drastic increase in your load from one day to another, you might not be able to handle it. You won’t be able to keep up.

The best way to create change is to do so slowly. Slowly work on creating new habits and increasing your workload. When you give yourself time to adapt, you create a foundation for consistency which takes us to the second tip. 

Stay consistent

Intensity isn’t the secret to success. Consistency is. It doesn’t mean that you have to put up top performances every day and constantly push yourself to the limit. It means that you continue to show up. Some days you might not do much, but you show up.

Related: How to beat procrastination

Goal journal prompts

If this type of goal journal isn’t for you, you might enjoy some prompts instead. Below you can find 16 goal journal prompts.

  • What are my short-term goals? How can my reach them?
  • What are my long-term goals? How can my reach them?
  • What scares me about my goals? Why is it worth it to push past my fears?
  • What would I do if I could do anything in life?
  • What is stopping me from doing what I truly want?
  • What are my best qualities or skills?
  • What are my top 4 priorities?
  • Are my lifestyle aligned with my goals? If not, what can I do to fix this?
  • What can I accomplish in the next month?
  • What can I accomplish in the next year?
  • What can I accomplish in the next 5 years?
  • What can I accomplish in the next 10 years?
  • What is my biggest dream? Why do I want this?
  • Am I holding on to goals that doesn’t fit me anymore? Have I let go of dreams in the past?
  • How does my ideal future look? Is it realistic?
  • Why is it worth it to pursue my goals?

Finishing thoughts

Hard work without a plan, and a plan without hard work isn’t worth much. A goal journal can help you create a plan for how to reach your goals, so you just need the hard work.

Reaching goals might be a long and difficult process, but if you really want it, it’ll be worth it. Stay patient and do something good for future you.

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