Goal Setting Journal Strategies for Stress Relief

Woman writing in a notebook

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Sometimes we feel stressed because we’re not achieving things that are important to us, or our focus is headed in the wrong direction. Daily stress can result from a lifestyle that isn’t in line with our values, and an overall feeling of underlying tension when part of us feels we’re not leading the life we’d hoped for.

The following goal setting journaling techniques can help you to get more in touch with your goals, and actually help you achieve them, and acquire the lifestyle you dream of.

How to Journal Your Way to Better Goals

  1. Ask yourself, if you had a magic wand, what would you like to see included in your future? Ignoring the ideas of how you’ll get there, vividly imagine your ideal life, and what would be included in it. Then take a few minutes to list, on paper or on your computer, the changes and goals that would be included in this picture. Be specific about what you want. It’s okay if you want something that you seemingly have no control over, such as a mate who is perfect for you; write it.
  2. You may want to keep a running journal of how you’re doing on your goals, as a way to pat yourself on the back for success, work through the frustration of setbacks, and as a form of continued motivation. You can also make updates to your goals as they change with you. (Sometimes the pursuit of one goal will lead to growth that will lead to the realization that a different direction would be better for you.)
  3. Research on journaling has shown numerous benefits to journaling that includes processing feelings and brainstorming solutions. This can not only relieve stress, but also help you attain goals by providing an opportunity to work through problems, find solutions, and keep from getting ‘stuck’ in unhealthy patterns.
  4. You may also want to keep a gratitude journal, where you write about all the things for which you are grateful each day. Popularized by Oprah and more recent proponents of happiness habits, this form of journaling can help you feel more gratitude in your life as you develop the habit of noticing all the good in your life. This can decrease the stress that you feel, as well as help you realize all that you have available to you already.
  5. You may follow the lead of many businesses and have a 1-year, a 5-year and a 10-year plan for your life. (It doesn’t have to be a set-in-stone plan, but a list of wishes and goals.) Keeping in mind what you hope for in your future can help you feel less ‘stuck’ in the stressful parts of your present life, and help you see more options for change as they present themselves.
  6. Write down all the coincidences (or, what Henriette Anne Klauser, in refers to as “Go! Incidences, referring to their momentum-building quality) that you encounter that bring you closer to your goals. Keeping track of coincidences helps you become more aware of them when they happen, and more likely to use them to your advantage.
  7. Keep a ‘dream journal’ chronicling each night’s nocturnal adventures. You may begin to notice patterns, messages, and other important things your dreams can tell you that you’d otherwise forget. (Remember, you are generally the best interpreter of the meaning in your own dreams.)
  8. Maintain a "dream journal" of a different sort: instead of recording the dreams you have when you’re sleeping, record the hopes you have (or once had) for your life that seem completely out of reach or borderline ridiculous. Have fun with it, and imagine where you’d be in life if you could be anywhere! This can help you get in touch with what you really want in life, and find uncover some dreams that you really can make come true.
  9. If you’re trying to find something specific in your life, writing about it has worked for many people. For example, if you’re looking for a compatible mate, writing down all the qualities you hope to find in a person, very specifically, has brought many people success. (Whether this practice aligns with the spiritual law ‘ask and it shall be given unto you’, or whether it causes you to be more likely to know it when you see it, it appears to work!)
  10. If you’re not the regular-writing type, even writing one list once can help you to attain your goals. The process helps you to become more aware of what more you could get out of life, notice that you don’t have to be ‘stuck’ in any circumstances indefinitely, and more often notice opportunities that come your way, either on a conscious or unconscious level.


Try to do this when you’re not exhausted, or so stressed you want to scream, but in a serious mood; you’ll get more relevant results this way.

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.