Don’t just think outside the box this summer…

Think like there is no box.

Ease your worried mind by tuning out the excess noise in your head for a little while every day.  It’s summertime after all, and there’s no reason not to take your mind off (the wrong) things and find a little extra peace.

You know how you always turn down the volume on the radio when you need to a moment to think clearly?

The same is true for your life in general.  The noise you need to cut out first?  That’s the mental noise you hear all too often—the busy, worried thoughts screaming over your sanity.

Turning down the radio refocuses your mind and offers you peace and clarity when you need it most.  You don’t really think about how or why this makes such a huge difference, you just know that it does.

Now it’s time to apply this same strategy to all the other noise in your life, starting with the noise in your head.  And although it’s not quite as easy as spinning the radio’s volume dial, the good news is you can quiet your mind and train it to think more peacefully and rationally simply by reminding yourself to do so every day.

The best tool for the job this summer?

Daily Journaling…

It’s just a simple practice of self-reflection that keeps you on track by keeping peaceful, productive thoughts at the top of your mind, even when life gets noisy.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you want to get somewhere in life, you need a map, and your journal is that map.  You can write down what you did today, what you tried to accomplish, where you made mistakes, and so much more.  It’s a place to reflect.  It’s a place to capture important thoughts and eliminate the rest.  It’s a place to sort out where you’ve been and where you intend to go.  And it’s one of the most underused, yet incredibly effective tools available to the masses.

If you’re interested in getting started with journaling this summer, or if you’d like some fresh ideas for your current journaling practice, I’ve listed 40 journaling prompts below that I’m personally using this summer to take my mind off things and nudge myself into a calmer state of being.  They will bring awareness to the nagging subconscious beliefs and assumptions you have.  And they will help you filter out the noise, be more present, and make better decisions.

Challenge yourself to read and write on each prompt for at least ten minutes every day for the next 40 days, and then simply start over again—keep going until the end of summer.  See how doing so gradually changes how you think, feel and behave…

Day 1

The goal isn’t to get rid of all your negative thoughts, feelings, and life situations this summer.  That’s impossible.  The goal is to change your response to them.

What’s something small that’s been stressing you out recently?  What can you do to improve your response today?

Day 2

One of the most important moments in life is the moment you finally find the courage to let go of what can’t be changed.  Because when you are no longer able to change a situation, you are challenged to change yourself—to grow beyond the unchangeable.  And that changes everything.

What’s one unchangeable reality you’ve been resisting recently?  What can you do right now to ease your mind into the acceptance of this reality?

Day 3

Love what you do, until you can do what you love.  Love where you are, until you can be where you love.  Love the people you are with, until you can be with the people you love most.  This is the way we find happiness, opportunity, and peace.

What do you love about your present life situation (despite the challenges that exist)?  Who do you love today (despite the quirks they have)?

Day 4

Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no chaos, trouble, or hard realities to deal with.  Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still remain mentally, emotionally, and physically centered.

What’s something small that always brings you peace when you think about it?  Why?

Day 5

Oftentimes you don’t even realize you’re blocking your own present blessings by holding on to the past.  Do your best to let go.  You are not your bad days.  You are not your mistakes.  You are not your scars.  You are not your past.  Be here now and breathe.

Who are you in this moment, without the baggage?

Day 6

Do not waste your energy fighting against where you are.  Rather, invest your energy into getting to where you want to go.  Let go of everything from the past that does not serve you in this moment, and just be grateful it brought you to where you are now—to this new beginning.

What’s something about the present moment that makes it the perfect time to begin (again)?

Day 7

Too often we say “life is not fair” while we’re eating our food, sipping a drink, and reading tweets on our smartphones.  Think twice and be thankful.  Right now, before you think of anything else, breathe deeply, appreciate where you are, and see the value in what you have.

What’s one privilege you have that you often take for granted?

Day 8

Happiness is letting go of what you assume your life is supposed to be like right now and sincerely appreciating it for everything that it is.  At the end of this day, before you close your eyes, smile and be at peace with where you’ve been and grateful for what you have.  Life is good.

What do you appreciate most about your present life situation?  Why?

Day 9

As you age, you’ll learn to value your time, genuine relationships, meaningful work, and peace of mind, much more.  Little else will matter.  Thus, the strongest sign of your growth is realizing you’re no longer worried or stressed by the trivial things that once used to drain you.

What’s something that used to drive you crazy, but no longer bothers you?  Why?

Day 10

What you focus on grows.  Stop managing your time.  Start managing your focus.  99% of what stressed you out recently won’t even matter a month from now.  Shake off the nonsense, bring your attention back to what’s important, and move forward with your life.

What is truly worth focusing on today?  What is NOT?

Day 11

Everything gets a bit uncomfortable when it’s time to change.  That’s just a part of the growth process.  Things will get better.  Be patient and remind yourself: Life never gets easier, you just get stronger.

How has the discomfort you’ve felt in the past helped you grow?  How can you better accept the discomfort you presently feel?

Day 12

You can disappoint people and still be good enough.  You can fail and still be smart, capable and talented.  You can let people down and still be worthwhile and deserving of love and admiration.  We all make mistakes sometimes.  Take a deep breath.  You are allowed to be human.

How does giving yourself full permission to be human feel right now?  How will you remind yourself to do this more often?

Day 13

It’s OK to… Say “no.”  Speak up.  Tell the truth.  Ask questions.  Believe differently.  Change your mind.  Prioritize your needs.  Learn from your mistakes.  Embrace your imperfections.  Forgive and seek forgiveness.  Begin again, stronger than before.

What can you do to loosen the grip your have on yourself?  How can you give yourself a little extra space to make the right decisions today?

Day 14

Forgive yourself for the bad decisions you made, for the times you lacked understanding, for the choices that hurt others and yourself.  Forgive yourself, for being young and reckless.  These are all vital lessons.  And what matters most right now is your willingness to grow from them.

What specifically do you need to forgive yourself for?  What have your error(s) in judgment taught you?

Day 15

Inner peace begins the moment you take a deep breath and choose not to allow another person or event to control your thoughts.  You are not what happened to you.  You are what you choose to become in this moment.  Let go, breathe, and begin again.

What are you holding on to that’s holding you down?  What can you let go of right now (without losing a thing)?

Day 16

If you wait until you feel 100% ready, you will be waiting the rest of your life.  Realize this!  Some people wait all day for 5pm, all week for Friday, all year for the holidays, all their lives for happiness.  Don’t be one of them.

What’s one (true) reason you’re good enough and ready enough, right now?

Day 17

We waste our time waiting for the ideal path to appear.  But it never does.  Because we forget that paths are made by walking, not waiting.  And no, you shouldn’t feel more confident before you take the next step.  Taking the next step is what builds your confidence.

What’s the next step you’ve been thinking about taking, for far too long?

Day 18

It’s funny how we outgrow what we once thought we couldn’t live without, and then we fall in love with what we didn’t even know we wanted.  Life keeps leading us on journeys we would never go on if it were up to us.  Don’t be afraid.  Have faith.  Find the lessons.  Trust the journey.

What’s something you’ve moved on from that once meant the world to you?  And, what’s something you love today that you never even knew you needed in your life?

Day 19

Even when it seems personal, rarely do people do things because of you, they do things because of them.  You know this is true.  You may not be able control all the things people say and do to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.  Make that decision for yourself today.

What’s something you often take too personally even though, logically, you know better?  How does consciously removing this burden from your mind in this moment feel?

Day 20

When someone upsets us, this is often because they aren’t behaving according to our fantasy of how they “should” behave.  The frustration, then, stems not from their behavior but from how their behavior differs from our fantasy.  Let’s not get carried away.  Remember, calmness is a superpower.

How can you let calmness be your superpower today, instead?

Day 21

Don’t lower your standards, but do remember that removing your expectations of others is the best way to avoid being disappointed by them.  You will end up sadly disappointed if you expect people will always do for you as you do for them.  Not everyone has the same heart as you.

How have your expectations of others gotten the best of you recently?  How will you remind yourself to ease your expectations today?

Day 22

Everybody you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something.  Know this.  Respect this.  And be extra kind.  Take time to really listen.  Take time to learn something new.  Take time to say thank you, today.

What can you easily do to be a little kinder than usual today?  And, who was the last person who was unexpectedly kind to you?  Let this sink in, and carry on accordingly.

Day 23

You can’t control how other people receive your energy.  Whatever someone interprets or projects onto you is at least partially an issue or problem that they themselves are dealing with, which has nothing to do with you.  Just keep doing your thing with as much love and integrity as possible.

What’s one good, recent example of someone with a negative attitude completely misjudging you?

Day 24

You will never find your worth in another human being—you find it in yourself, and then you will attract those who are worthy of your energy.  Realize this.  Accept and acknowledge your own worth.  Stop waiting for others to tell you how important you are.  Tell yourself.  And believe it..

What’s one little thing that makes you worthy in your own eyes right now?

Day 25

You won’t always be a priority to others, and that’s why you have to be a priority to yourself.  Learn to respect yourself, take care of yourself, and become your own support system.  Your needs matter.  Start meeting them.  Don’t wait on others to choose you.  Choose yourself, today!

Why do you often turn to others for the support you can easily give to yourself?  How will you choose yourself today?

Day 26

A tiny part of your life is decided by uncontrollable circumstances, while the vast majority of it is decided by your perspective of these circumstances.  Let this sink in.  Regardless of what’s going on around you, peace of mind arrives the moment you come to peace with what’s on your mind.

What is one reality you need to come to peace with?  Why?

Day 27

When things aren’t adding up in your life, begin subtracting.  Life gets a lot simpler when you clear the clutter that makes it complicated.  Fill your life with lots of experiences, not lots of things.  Have incredible stories to tell, not incredible clutter in your closets.

What forms of clutter have been complicating your life and diverting you from meaningful experiences?  How can you simplify and clear some space for yourself today?

Day 28

There’s a big difference between giving up and starting over in the right direction.  Know when enough is enough already, and respect yourself for feeling that way.  Sometimes we have to say goodbye before we can say hello.  Sometimes we have to let go to move forward with our lives.

What’s something from your past that you are thankful you gave up on?  Just let this sink in right now.

Day 29

Stop rushing.  Breathe.  Be where you are.  You’re where you’re supposed to be at this moment.  There’s a time and place for everything, and every step is necessary.  Just keep doing your best, and don’t force what’s not yet supposed to fit into your life.  When it’s meant to be, it will be.

What is necessary and true about where you are right now?  How does it feel to embrace this present reality?

Day 30

Just breathe, be, and pay attention to what it’s like to be YOU.  Nothing to fix.  Nothing to change.  Nowhere else to go.  Just you, breathing, being, with presence, without judgment.  You are welcome here.  You belong here.  Here, you are enough.  Close your eyes.  Breathe…

What’s something true about you that you need to embrace more openly and lovingly?

Day 31

Give yourself the space to hear your own voice—your own soul.  Too many of us listen to the noise of the world and get lost in the crowd.  Stand strong!  Live by choice, not by chance.  Work to grow, not compete.  Choose to listen to yourself, not the jumbled opinions of everyone else.

What has your inner voice been trying to tell you today?

Day 32

Forget popularity.  Just do your thing with passion, humility, and honesty.  Do what you do, not for an applause, but because it’s what’s right.  Pursue it a little bit each day, no matter what anyone else thinks.  That’s how dreams are achieved.

What’s something that’s worth working on today, regardless of what other people think?  Why is it important to you?

Day 33

If it entertains you now but will hurt or bore you someday, it’s a distraction.  Don’t settle.  Don’t exchange what you want most for what you kind of want at the moment.  Study your habits.  Figure out where your time goes, and remove distractions.  It’s time to focus on what matters.

What distractions have been getting the best of you lately?  How will you refocus your energy?

Day 34

Don’t fall back into your old patterns of living just because they’re more comfortable and easier to access.  Remember, you left certain habits and situations behind for a reason: to improve your life.  And right now, you can’t move forward if you keep going back.

What’s one old pattern of behavior that sometimes still sneaks up on you?  What’s a better alternative today, and why?

Day 35

Love what you do, until you can do what you love.  Love where you are, until you can be where you love.  Love the people you are with, until you can be with the people you love most.  This is the way we find happiness, opportunity, and peace.

How will you embody “love” today?  What does this mean to you?

Day 36

The older we grow, the more peaceful we become.  Life humbles us gradually as we age.  We realize how much nonsense we’ve wasted time on.  So, just do your best right now to feel the peace that flows from your decision to rise above the petty drama that doesn’t really matter.

What kind of drama do you sometimes get caught up in?  What can you do to rise above it?

Day 37

You become a true master of your life when you learn how to master your focus—where your attention goes.  Value what you give your energy to.  Rise above the pettiness trying to draw you in.  Focus on what matters.  Where attention goes, energy flows.  Where energy flows, things grow.

What truly DOES matter to you most right now?

Day 38

It’s not too late.  You aren’t behind.  You’re exactly where you need to be.  Every step is necessary.  Don’t judge or berate yourself for how long your journey is taking.  We all need our own time to travel our own distance.  Give yourself credit.  And be thankful you made it this far.

How far have you come?  How much have you grown?  Think about the specifics of your recent and long-term growth.  What have you not given yourself enough credit for?  Give yourself credit right now.

Day 39

You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago.  You’re always growing.  Experiences don’t stop.  That’s life.  And the very experiences that seem so hard when you’re going through them are the ones you’ll look back on with gratitude for how far you’ve come.

What’s the hardest thing you’re trying to accomplish or cope with right now?  What is something small and necessary about this struggle?

Day 40

There will come a time when you think it’s all over, everything is finished… you’ve reached the end of the road.  That’s the starting line.  Be humble.  Be teachable.  The world is bigger than your view of the world.  There’s always room for a new idea, a new step… a new beginning.

What does “a new beginning” mean to you right now?

Remember, consistency is key…

Are you willing to spend a little time every day like most people won’t, so you can spend the better part of your life like most people can’t?

Think about that question for a moment.

For the longest time I knew the value of journaling—I heard the success stories of others—and yet I never cracked open my journal consistently.  Why?  Because I thought I didn’t have enough time for it.  I was “too busy.”  That was, until my ongoing negligence led to heightened levels of stress—continuous mental noise—that literally put me in a hospital (my life was so disordered and hectic, I started having panic attacks).

I learned the hard way, but YOU don’t have to.

Consider this my attempt to shake you awake and get you started with a small, life-changing ritual of daily journaling.  And note my emphasis on “daily.”  Because the journaling prompts above mean almost nothing if they are not practiced consistently.  One day of journaling by itself won’t cut it.

It is the compound effect of simple, seemingly ordinary actions over time that leads to life-altering, positive results.

Consider this quick quote from our New York Times bestselling book: “There is nothing immediately sensational about putting one foot in front of the other every day for weeks, but by doing so, many normal human beings have climbed over 29,000 feet to the top of the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest.”

And, there is nothing immediately exciting about forcing yourself into self-reflection through journaling for a short time every day, but by doing so, I (and hundreds of course students and conference attendees Angel and I have personally worked with) have drastically better lives.

Remember, the mind needs to be trained to gain strength.  It needs to be worked consistently to grow and develop over time.  And that’s precisely what a daily ritual of journaling will gradually allow you to achieve.  (Note: Angel and I build more small, life-changing daily rituals like this with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy Course.)

Your turn…

The most fundamental aggression to ourselves and others—the most fundamental harm we can do to human nature as a whole—is to remain ignorant by not making the time to pause every day and look at ourselves and others carefully, honestly and gently.

With this in mind, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this article and the morning journaling prompts.  What resonated with you?  What didn’t?  Is there anything else you would add?


Article written by Marc Chernoff from marcandangel.com 



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