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Journal Your Way to Success With These 9 Essential Elements We've all heard that writing in a journal every day can transform your life. But what are you supposed to be journaling about?

By Anna David Edited by Kara McIntyre

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Richard Branson does it. Oprah swears by it. Julia Cameron has sold four million copies of The Artist's Way, which guides people through it.

It's a fact: Keeping a journal can make you more successful. As Stephen Covey wrote in Primary Greatness: The 12 Levers of Success, "Keeping a personal journal — a daily in-depth analysis and evaluation of your experiences — is a high-leverage activity that increases self-awareness and enhances all the endowments and the synergy among them."

Related: 20 Thought-Provoking Journal Prompts to Help With Your Success

What do you journal about?

What to journal about depends entirely on what you want to get out of the process. Some entrepreneurs want to find more balance because they've been working themselves into the ground; others want to get their health on track; while still others want to set and meet professional goals.

Although I've kept some form of a journal since I was 6 years old, last year, I committed to doing it daily. But without direction, my thoughts would meander, and I'd veer off into directions that didn't matter to me — so I started asking myself what areas of my life were most important to me. Over time, I realized the questions I was asking myself were all based on nine essential elements. By focusing on them over the past year, I've not only accomplished more but also found a great deal of peace.

The elements are:

  • Self-care
  • Goal setting
  • Acts of service
  • Recognizing fear
  • Dealing with resentments
  • Developing faith
  • Recognizing progress
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Coming up with new ideas

Related: Why It's Time to Dust Off That Journal

Why does self-care top the list?

While most entrepreneurs are extremely goal-oriented, we can occasionally become so focused on my goals that we forget to take care of the most essential element: us.

That's why the first question I answer every night is what self-care I practiced that day. I realized early on in the practice that I had to get really clear on what self-care meant to me. To entrepreneurs who are always on the go, taking a nap may be the ultimate form of self-care. To others, taking a nap would feel like a cop-out (spoiler alert: I'm part of the latter group).

The importance of setting goals, recognizing progress and helping others

Since accountability is key when it comes to meeting your goals, I realized there was no better way to keep myself accountable than to log every night what steps I took that day toward my goals.

Sometimes your progress may be minor. But if you have a goal that's important to you, I'm going to guess you take one small step toward it every day. If you don't, knowing you're supposed to write in your journal about it is fairly likely to motivate you to take one of those steps.

Many entrepreneurs find when they've reached a certain level of success that continuing to focus on the climb becomes increasingly unfulfilling. The best way to spark the fire within again can be as simple as helping another person — whether that's mentoring someone just starting in your field, volunteering or simply going out of your way to help a friend or partner.

Related: Keeping a Daily Journal Can Give You Tremendous Power

Dealing with fear and resentments

According to various studies, 80% of business partnerships dissolve. While plenty of times those breakups are a result of plain-old disagreement and battles over power, many times the reason these struggles end the way that they do is that one or the other partner isn't aware when their fear or resentment is creeping in.

Maybe one business partner fears the company is hemorrhaging money while the other partner thinks they need to spend more to grow. Maybe one resents the other for getting more credit for their success but doesn't feel like he can say anything — until his frustration seeps out in a relationship-ending argument.

If partners regularly wrote about their fears and resentments, I guarantee that there wouldn't be as many bad business breakups.

Faith and gratitude

While it requires faith to start a business, it's easy to lose sight of that faith when our businesses struggles. That's why writing down how the universe has your back can keep your faith in good standing.

It's also easy to become so accustomed to success that we forget to be grateful for it. Evening gratitude lists keep me in check — helping me to remember how lucky I am and how far I've come, which is something every entrepreneur needs.

Related: 5 Goal-Setting Journals to Take You From Intention to the Finish Line

Coming up with new ideas

Coming up with new ideas is the final element. That's because it not only makes us feel good by triggering dopamine but is also the key to helping us continue to grow in business.

All businesses, after all, are a result of an idea someone had. While not all ideas are great, the more ideas you write down, the more good ones you're going to have. That's why, when I'm done writing what I've described above, I log every idea I had that day — oftentimes ideas that were so fleeting they otherwise might have flitted off into the ether.

In short, a nightly journal can transform you from someone with a lot of potential into your best self. All it takes is a pen and a few minutes.

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Anna David

Host of Fail Your Way to Success Podcast

Anna David is one of the world's leading experts on how entrepreneurs can build a business from a book. A NYT bestselling author of eight books, she's also the founder of Legacy Launch Pad Publishing and host of the Fail Your Way to Success podcast. 

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