It’s no secret that acknowledging the positive elements in your life can improve physical and mental health, but did you know gratefulness also plays an important role in professional growth? By documenting your life experiences and lessons learned, you create a guidebook for future success.
Your guidebook may be a traditional bound, hardcover book or more of a casual, perhaps spiral bound notebook. You might call it a gratitude journal or planner. Maybe it doesn’t have a name. Regardless of the nomenclature, the physical act of transferring specific information from your brain through writing preserves both the data and the emotion generated from an event. When repeated often, this mind-body response leads to lower stress levels, better sleep, reduced inflammation and more!
If you’re interested in reaping the benefits of journaling but don’t know where to start, keep reading. We’ve listed 10 specific writing prompts designed to help you identify important milestones and life-changing interactions. Capturing these moments in a tangible way preserves them for future reference and provides a way to gain fresh perspective on where you are in your professional journey.
What do you write?
- Words. Literally any words that depict an event or feeling. The basic act of turning thoughts into concrete language reinforces the memory and deepens the emotional impact.
- Something specific. Start by describing an enjoyable event or encounter. Include tons of details because recounting those tiny occurrences makes it easier to connect with the original emotion.
- The real reply. Your professionalism kept you from sending the email reply you really wanted to send. Instead of letting those words fester in your head, write them down! Journals are great places for those witty and snarky retorts that might do more harm than good to your career. (This only works if the journal is private!)
- Achievements. Jot down the committee assignments, certifications and awards you receive. It’s a great way to document the achievement and how you felt about it, and it becomes a useful tool when you need to update your resume.
- Failures. With the good comes the bad. Make sure to document situations where you didn’t feel successful. Include your plan, what actually happened and the tough lessons you learned.
- Guidance. Write down any words of wisdom from your mentor, a conference presenter or a peer. If it resonates with you, it’s probably worth sharing with others.
- Giving help. Recount a time when you helped someone else complete a difficult project or task. How did it make you feel?
- Receiving help. Reflect on a time when people helped you manage a tough situation. Was it hard to accept help? Were you glad they stepped in?
- Your intentions. Do you aspire to move up the ladder, change departments, go back to school or follow your inner voice? Write down your plans. Manifest positive energy by stating concrete goals and track your progress toward those goals.
- An opportunity. In Japanese culture, strangers are greeted with the phrase, “ichigo ichie.” It means, “In this moment, an opportunity” and encourages people to treasure the unrepeatable nature of a moment. Be sure to capture coincidences and chance encounters. Who knows where they may lead.
A note for the perfectionists:
You will not be graded on the quality of these journal entries. Document formatting or penmanship has absolutely no bearing on future promotions or evaluations. This is a tool to help you track growth and development. No one is coming behind you with spell-check. Mistakes are okay.
Journaling is quite possibly the cheapest form of professional development. It gives you the opportunity to reflect upon your experiences and set audacious goals for your career. The practice also comes with health benefits like better sleep, improved mood and reduced cardiac risk.
So, take our prompts and start writing. “Future you” will be grateful.