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20 Journal Prompts to Check In With Yourself

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it." - J.M. Barrie

Imagine a beautiful river or stream. The one that comes to mind for me is the beautiful, clean, and cool stream I saw in Wyoming.

Now imagine resting in an inner tube on that river. Get in and take a seat. When I sit on an inner tube and float a river, I feel light and at ease. My only concern is my own relaxation and enjoyment, and for many of us, this is how we want to float through life.

We would like life to be effortless and natural. We don't want to pay it much mind, we just want to live it.

Unfortunately, in life when we drift along, we do not naturally drift towards growth, but rather with the current of thoughtless comfort.

Originally I created these journal prompts for myself. They are an attempt to keep my own life from just drifting. They are areas of my life that I wanted to pause and create awareness. Without the questions, I know how easy it is to lose sight and focus, on what is important.

I wrote these as a way of nudging myself back to the path I want to be on.

I hope they can do that for you because we go where we focus. So let's set our sights on what we really want, our own personal life-well-lived.

Well-Being Questions

1. What are the top 3 emotions you felt today? Which emotion felt most prominent or overarching?

This is just a check-in with our emotions. Throughout the day, we can get very busy. Our sight can be so focused on the task at hand that we forget to acknowledge how we feel. This question is intended to let our heart have a voice somewhere in our day. By listing three emotions, hopefully it causes us to pay attention to the nuance of emotions throughout our day.

2. How did your thinking impact how you were feeling?

Our thoughts cause our emotions. Asking this question brings awareness to what we are thinking about throughout the day. This is often more overlooked than our emotions are.

3. What are you thankful for?

Gratitude creates the ability to enjoy, so if we want to enjoy our day, the process of pursuing a goal, our family, our hobbies, or even our life, we must know how to enjoy. Gratitude cultivates that for us.

Awareness Questions

4. What are some new ideas that you have had lately?

I have found in my own life that creativity does not show up with a grand entrance, but rather, it kind of slips in and slips out. Sometimes I do not even notice. This question reminds me that sometimes creativity shows up in the ordinary, but can lead to the extraordinary if we notice it arriving and take some action on it. I do not have to take action on every idea I have, but this question keeps me aware that I have them all the time.

5. How do you feel you are growing or changing?

Sometimes our growth is subtle. Our progress is formed on small daily decisions of growth. If we do not pay attention to it, sometimes we do not even realize it is happening. Hiking a mountain takes one small, ordinary step, but sometimes when we make it to the peak, we forget that we just climbed a mountain. We can't forget to celebrate that.

Also, we must continue to look for the subtle ways we are changing as a person. They might be micro-adjustments but overtime they add up. If our life does not change with us, sometimes we do not feel at home in our own life. Being aware of how we are changing, allows us to change our life along with it, so we live in alignment and are up-to-date on our values and goals.

6. What is something that you are really enjoying right now?

This one is like gratitude but the intention behind the question is different. Gratitude is meant to reflect the small and big things all the time, and addresses one thing right now that we are grateful for that outshines the rest. This changes season by season but helps hone in on thoroughly enjoying and celebrating it.

7. What is something new stirring in your heart? Do you sense any change on the horizon?

The hope behind this question is to be open to new possibilities and to have the awareness to see opportunity before it passes you by. It is meant to acknowledge we change so the new thing stirring our hearts might be a reflection of the purpose or opportunity of what is next.

8. What is something that you have learned lately that is helpful or good to know?

If we know that we will ask ourselves this question regularly, then we will begin to look for an answer to it during our days. This will create a posture of learning and will keep us more in-tune and engaged with our conversations and experiences. Who knows? We might actually learn something that really benefits us.

Goal Oriented Questions

9. What are some of your goals right now?

If we do not want to drift towards complacency then we will have to climb uphill. Having goals gives our growth a focus.

10. How have you made progress on your goals?

Similarly to question 8, if we regularly ask ourselves this question, it will help keep us on track. It is a question that intends to keep us accountable to action.

11. What "wins" have you had while moving towards your goals?

Moving forward in growth can be deeply satisfying, but equally frustrating. With growth, we face the unfortunate falling down, missing our goal, and overall discomfort. If we do not take time to celebrate our wins throughout the process then we might throw out our goals altogether.

12. What are some challenges that have come up and how do you plan to overcome them?

Challenges will inevitably arise during the process and having a plan to overcome them is what creates a sense of empowerment. If we struggle with resilience, one setback is all that is needed to cause us to give up. A plan helps ensure that won't happen.

13. What are the next important steps to take towards your goals?

Not all steps towards our goals are created equal. Some will have a significantly higher payoff than others. Asking this question reminds not to take just any action, but rather a thoughtful next step.

14. Do I have any out-dated ambitions?

This question is a reminder that we do change, and at times we can get so fixated on the goal or plan that we never take a moment to re-evaluate whether it is something we still want or just something a previous version of ourselves wanted. This question reminds us to ask if our goals still reflect what we want.

Intentionality Questions

15. What is something you would like to be more intentional about?

This is very similar to asking what our goals are. However, this may be something we feel is unnecessary to write on our goal list. It could be something along the lines of making our bed each morning, or saying thank you to others more often, or answering text messages more quickly.

16. What is something new that you have done recently?

A few years ago, I came across the quote, "Do not live the same day over and over again and call it a life." For some reason, that quote rocked me. I noticed I had been eating at the same restaurants, doing the same things, and not really creating any new experiences. I was concerned that I was well on my way to living the same day repeatedly and I wasn't okay with it. This question is meant to draw our attention to creating a colorful life.

17. What are some experiences you would like to have?

This question gives the previous question some direction. It is good to know we do not want to live the same day over and over again, but once we decide that, what do we actually want to try? Setting an intention for the type of experiences we want to have, makes them a lot more likely.

18. In your ideal/perfect life, how would you spend your week?

How much time would you spend with your friends? How much would you exercise? How much would you read? Netflix is always easier than these things, and Netflix isn't necessarily bad, but if we lose our ideal life at the expense of Netflix then it is. This question makes us consider how we actually want to spend our days.

19. What do you really want?

Have you ever actually asked yourself this question? Sometimes we are so afraid we won't get what we want that we don't let ourselves want at all. We don't allow ourselves to stare at our longing face-to-face. This question is meant to cause us to do that. If you want to raise your chances immensely of getting what you want, you have to be clear of what that is.

20. Does my life reflect my current values?

This is a great reflective question. Sometimes in my own life, my own values can be in conflict with one another. Sometimes my value of self-growth can be so demanding of my time and resources that my value of friendship and community are not as deeply reflected in my life as I would like it to be. We do not necessarily have to change, but asking this question makes us aware of some of the trade-offs that we might be participating in, and maybe we want to renegotiate them.

If the sheer number of questions overwhelm you, I encourage you to just pick a few of the questions that stuck with you and start there. These questions are not meant to overwhelm but rather keep you focused on what really matters to you. If writing is not your thing, I have used these questions to start a discussion with friends as well. I hope you found these help. Enjoy friends!

Click here to download and save a copy of these journal prompts.

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