Journal Prompts for Problem Solving
When you’re facing a problem, the first solution that comes to your mind might not involve journal prompts, but hear me out…
You’ve heard the phrase, “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” Or maybe you heard this version, “Life’s a journey, not a race.” And even better, “Life’s a journey, there is no one ahead of you or behind you. You are exactly where you need to be.”
These are the phrases we’ll say to our friends when they’re struggling but when it comes to our own problems we don’t want to hear about life’s journey – we want to know exactly how to get there, and once we’re there, exactly what’s going to happen. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.
Journeys are not well-thought-out plans; they don’t go in straight lines and they certainly don’t have an itinerary. A journey is a process with the knowledge that your experiences will mostly dictate which direction you go in.
In order to navigate through life, you have to start to see yourself as an explorer. You’re on your journey, seeking knowledge and new experiences. You have some idea of what’s out there but you know you want to see it for yourself.
By seeing yourself as an explorer, you can let go of the fear of failure because, when you explore, you allow yourself to be curious. When you’re curious, you don’t care if you’re “right” or “wrong,” you only care about what you learned from the experience.
As much as you may wish someone would come along and tell you exactly what’s going to happen if you travel down this road vs. that road, you know deep down inside that’ll never make you happy. If we all wanted to be told what to do, we’d still be living at home with our parents.
If you want to learn how to coach yourself and solve your own problems, be an explorer. Grab your “map” ( i.e. your journal) and start working on your own path forward. Writing out your feelings might make you feel like you’re dragging your feet on this task, but research has shown journaling has helped people reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, so by taking this step you’ll actually start to feel better.
Journaling allows you to organize your thoughts and feelings and it also allows you to get all of your unhelpful thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Our irrational thoughts are so scary in our minds but once you see them written on the page, those same thoughts lose power. The best part of journaling is that it forces you to put down your phone, get away from screens and stop scrolling social media for the answers.
If You’re Ready To Explore And Learn More About Yourself, Here Are Two Journal Prompts You Can Use To Help You Coach Yourself Through Any Problem:
Journal Prompt No 1: Look To The Past To Help You Navigate Difficult Situations
When a situation like this has come up in the past, what’s worked for me and what hasn’t worked for me? Do I think those things will work for me now?
Just like you learned in school, you have to understand your history or you may be doomed to repeat it. While past experiences don’t define you as a person, they are clues as to how previous life experiences affect how you see yourself and the world around you.
By asking yourself what’s worked and hasn’t worked in the past, you’re parsing out which thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and mindsets helped you move forward and which kept you stuck. You want to spot negative patterns of behavior because awareness is the first step towards change.
Now that you have a better sense of what’s worked as well as what hasn’t worked in the past, ask yourself if you think it’ll work for you today. You’re looking into the past to better understand the choices you once made, but you also have to take into account the ways in which you’ve changed since that time.
Don’t get into the habit of assuming you will always feel the same way about certain people, events and situations. By looking into the past and then drawing your attention to today, you’re able to see how you’ve changed and evolved and that’s a good thing.
Journal Prompt No. 2: Look At The Present (And A Little Bit Into The Future)
Right now, what feels like the best choice for me in this moment? If I make this choice, then what do I think will happen in the future? Is that the future I want?
You’ve looked into the past and now have more awareness of your patterns of thinking and behavior, which means it’s time to look at the present day. There is so much pressure to make the “right” decisions all the time when in fact, we have no idea if a decision is “right” or “wrong” for us until after we’ve made the decision.
This is why it’s so important to ask yourself, based on how you feel today, what you want to do. You know what’s worked and hasn’t worked in the past. Now that you’re in the present, what do you think will work moving forward?
The hardest part of decision-making is sitting with the decision once we’ve made it. While you may feel tortured trying to make a decision, you still have all your options available to you which means there is no chance you can fail. The fear of failure is the biggest reason why so many people don’t make certain decisions, they fear they’ll choose the “wrong” choice.
Remember you’re an explorer; there is no “right” or “wrong” direction. Allow yourself to think about what will happen if you travel east and if that’s what you’re looking for right now. Then think about what happens when you travel west and if that’s the future you’re seeking.
Writing your thoughts down allows you to experiment so you can sit with various visions to help you determine which way to go. It also allows you to examine your fears. Fears are, well, fears, they are always most powerful in the dark. Coaching yourself through journaling gives you the opportunity to bring those fears to light on the page.
Having a crystal ball that predicts the future may seem like the solution to all of your problems but it isn’t. Yes, you’ll never fail in any way and you’ll have all the winning lottery numbers, but you need to travel down the wrong roads and make decisions that don’t work out as planned in order to learn and grow and discover what you do want for yourself. If life’s a journey, you’re an explorer and you have to do what great explorers do: seek and experience. The answers lie inside of you. Happy writing!