There are many, many different types of journaling. One type that’s recently gained popularity is known as “future self journaling.” When you keep a future self journal, you bring attention to the positive changes you hope to bring to your life. It relies on the concept of manifestation, gratitude, and being open to change.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Is a Future Self Journal?
- How to Start and Keep a Future Self Journal
- Future Self Journaling Prompts and Ideas
Psychologists are already familiar with the benefits of journaling, so this is just one of the many ways to introduce even more positivity with this practice. Everyone has a journey they’re on, and they might need a bit of inspiration to get from Point A from Point B.
While there’s no such thing as a “perfect” life, we can all use a bit of reflection to focus on the changes that matter to us. In this guide, we’ll share the ten best tips for starting (and keeping) a future self journal.
What Is a Future Self Journal?
Before we begin, let’s explain what a future self journal is so you can understand why it’s so powerful. Essentially, future self journaling is the process of writing a letter to your future self. You might write about where you want to be a few months, years, or decades from now.
Why would you journal in this type of way? Not only is this a great way to work through feelings about your goals and dreams, but it’s also a way to exercise your own mind.
Research shows that those who feel connected and in-tune with their future selves are better prepared for the future and take better care of their health than those without this same connectivity.
How to Start and Keep a Future Self Journal
Introducing a new habit into your life is never easy. If you’re new to journaling, you might find yourself struggling to start your future self journal, let along keep with this practice long-term. These tips help you create a healthy habit that focuses on your future self.
1. Reflect on the present
Before you get where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve been. Take some time to start with a reflection on where you are now. What aspects of your life do you wish were different? How can you go about beginning to change?
Create a list of behaviors or patterns you’d like to target. Store these somewhere safe and easy to find. They’ll serve as inspiration for your future self journal.
2. Choose only one behavior to target
If you focus on everything, you’ll quickly get overwhelmed. This is one of the biggest mistakes with future-self journaling. It’s easy to get caught in the excitement of crafting a brighter future that you try to change everything all at once.
In reality, slow and steady wins the race. Remember that list of behaviors or patterns we just talked about above? Choose just one to focus on.
For example, maybe you want to become less stubborn, or maybe you want to stop spending so much time on the little things. Your self-aware goals would be “I want to stop being defensive” or “I want to spend more time with my family instead of worrying about the small stuff.”
3. Create inspiring aspirations
Now that you have your thing you want to focus on, it’s time to make some affirmations. An affirmation is a strong, positive statement that solidifies something. It’s a way to build confidence, even if you have a hard time believing it the first few times.
If we use the goal of becoming less defensive, your affirmations might be something like “I am open-minded to new ideas.” Create as many affirmations as you can with your existing focus point.
4. Make strategies
Your future self journal can’t just focus on what-ifs and hopeful sayings. It also needs real-world strategies. How will you make your future self a reality? Think of this as the bridge from who you are today to who you want to be in the future.
Your strategies should be realistic, like practicing a little bit every day. Using the same example as before, your strategy might be to “pay attention to my reactions to opposing thoughts.”
5. Explore the world of gratitude
How often do you think about the role of gratitude in your own life? Reading gratitude books, exploring popular self-care blogs, and even just thinking about what you’re thankful for has a big impact on your own life.
Taking stock of your own gratitude is an effective way to find inspiration for your future self journal long-term.
6. Create a template
There are a number of free future self templates to follow online, but you can also create your own. Having a simple template takes the guesswork out of figuring out how to start your journal entries. This is especially useful if you’re prone to writer’s block or if you only have a limited time for journaling.
Your template doesn’t need to be complicated. It could be as simple as starting with an affirmation, sharing steps you’re taking to reach your future goals, and writing where you want to be in a few days, years, or months.
7. Stick to a schedule
One of the biggest challenges of journaling in any form is sticking with it. How do you find the motivation to write regularly?
While it might seem like you need to journal every day, this isn’t the case. You can journal every day, every other day, weekly, or even monthly. It’s all about finding the rhythm that works best for you.
8. Don’t assign meaning to skipped days
Things happen. Sometimes your schedule doesn’t work out for some reason or another, and that’s okay. The problem with missing a scheduled journaling day happens when we assign meaning to this minor slip up. It’s easy to jump to self-accusations, saying you skipped it because you’re lazy or you never finish anything you start.
In reality, this type of thinking gets you nowhere. New habits are hard to build. Things don’t always go perfectly according to plan, and that doesn’t mean you can’t trust yourself to get back to it in the future. Think of every day as a new opportunity.
9. Ignore the mental chatter
Your mind is a powerful tool, but it also can get in your way if you’re not careful. If you feel a lot of anxiety and intimidation about journaling, you need to work out a way to push this aside. All of these mental thoughts are getting in the way of your progress.
Whether you’re journaling to become more death positive or to reach your goals, don’t focus on being “perfect” or doing everything the “right” way. Journaling should be relaxing and reflective. Defeat this stigma that’s holding you back by pushing through and writing, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Over time, it becomes second nature.
10. Don’t wait for a “breakthrough”
Last but not least, don’t get overwhelmed with the idea of looking for a “breakthrough.” You might have heard future self journaling leads to some impressive self-breakthroughs, and this is definitely true. However, the benefits of this practice are plentiful, even if you don’t experience any massive revelations.
In fact, if you focus too much on achieving a “breakthrough,” you might get in your own way. Instead, just be consistent. Results are always closer than you think, but don’t let them be your only motivation.
Future Self Journaling Prompts and Ideas
Because getting started can be difficult, follow these prompts and ideas when inspiration doesn’t strike on its own. You’ll be lost in your writing in no time.
- Visualize where you want to be: If you’re a visual person, take the stress away from writing by starting with a visualization exercise. Imagine where you want to be and how you’ll get there.
- Reverse bucket list: a reverse bucket list is a list of things you’re already proud to have achieved. Having a list of accomplishments is a source of inspiration, and it could push your thinking further for the future.
- Gratitude: Sometimes we need to focus on what we’re grateful for today as well as tomorrow. If you’re stuck, take some time to write out your own gratitude.
- Write a letter: When in doubt, write a letter to your future self. Even if you have no plans to read it, think about who you’ll be, what you’ll be doing, and how you’ll feel.
Manifest Your Future with Journaling
While we often think we push ourselves further by connecting with who we are, the truth is it’s always more important to connect with who we want to be. Even if we can’t control what happens to us, we can take control of our own actions and destinies. How can the person you are today shape who you are tomorrow?
Future self journaling is a way to hone in on this connectivity. It’s a way to focus on self-development and personal growth. Even though change won’t happen overnight, this is a strong practice that sharpens your mind and your intuition.
- “Your present self if your best future self.” Science Daily: Society for Personality and Social Psychology. 29 April 2019. ScienceDaily.com.