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Goal Setting Journal

Journal Your Way From College To Career

As college graduation approaches, the prospect of entering “the real world” can be overwhelming. There seem to be a million different options for what to do, where to live, and who to befriend.

“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom,” Soren Kierkegaard once wrote, and he was right! When the freedom of options becomes crippling, we need to have ways to overcome our stress and process our choices productively. 

Enter journaling. Journaling is a great way to brainstorm your options, goals, responsibilities, personal strengths, creative ideas, and more. 

This post combines 3 journaling ideas to plan and process your future: gratitude lists, goal planning, and simple to-do lists. Put all of these down in your journal.

Beginning a goa

Goal Setting Journal Part 1: Gratitude

We have all heard them. The quotes about the power of gratitude. The calls from celebrities to make a thankfulness list. The reminders from friends to count your blessings so you’ll be happier. We might roll our eyes at them. 

But you know what? A thankfulness list really works! William Arthur Ward once famously said, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

Many of us want to feel more thankful, more often. Certainly all of us want to feel happier. Training our minds to feel gratitude requires work. It is an intentional practice.

More importantly, cultivating gratitude helpfully sets our perspective as we think about the future. We see where our abundance lies and where to set our priorities.

How To Start A Gratitude Journal Entry


  1. Don’t feel the need to rewrite the same things. Even if you are thankful for your family every day, you are not compelled to write it out daily. Once you’ve written it once, it’s there to stay.
  2. Don’t forget personal growth. One central list lets you see how certain blessings shaped you at certain times, and shows your future self how you’ve worked on weakness and where your strengths lie.
  3. Be grateful for any support system. Maybe you realize that you are especially thankful for nature when work gets busy. Maybe you remember that particular friend who knows just how to see you through a particular challenge.
  4. Review your list every so often. A long list is powerful to see. This is one something that you have to see for yourself. It is moving to see the list of blessings in your life grow from page to page. Gratitude can reshape your perspective on many a day when the future seems overwhelming. This long list is an excellent reminder that there will be more good things to come!


Goal Setting Journal Part 2: Goal Planning

With your gratitude mindset in place, it’s time to dream, both big and small.

Goal planning is especially great for thinking about the big picture. It is also more complex and can be taken a few different directions. Let’s look at the possibilities for this process.

Recent grads or, frankly, anyone, can profit from journaling about goals. We all have near-term goals, like get into grad school, or get a job, but it’s often nice to see that in combination with the “become a college professor,” or “become a Cezanne expert.”

Start At The Beginning

Write “Goal Planning” at the top of your page in big, clear letters.

Next, write your goal in general words at the top of the page. Then, list any and every step that needs to happen for you to achieve your goal.

For instance, your goal might be, “Have my first art show.” Maybe you include a specific dream location: “in the gallery on 2nd street.” Next, jot down any preliminary step that comes to mind: “Make 10 more pieces of art. Send email to Aunt with connections to gallery owners. Make art website.”

You may realize there are steps within steps! Don’t worry, just jot down those too. Maybe to make an art website, you need to “Take photos of art,” “Write artists bio” and “Contact Peter for help with squarespace.” Keep going. You’ve got this. Once you have it all written down, you will be able to plug away little by little at this to do list – our next journaling task! It will feel good to have a clear vision of your steps and know that you are making progress toward your goal!

A Short Goals Journal Template

My Goal

  1. Write your first step (or any early step) here…
  2. …and another step here (it does not have to be in order)…
  3. Etc….

Goal Setting Journal Part 3: A To-Do List

Woman writing a to-do list in a Leatherpress journal with Britannica Red journal on top of a Chesterfield Tan journal and holding a cup of colffee

With your mindset and goals on paper, the next step is to set up the steps to move toward your goals.. 

Do you ever write up a grand to-do list, only to realize that by the end of the day, you’ve checked off just one, or maybe two, of your items? The next day rolls around and you make another list; pretty soon you’ve got multiple lists floating around.

Give yourself one central place to write your to-do lists, so that you can clearly see what you have accomplished and what still needs to be done. Create a few mastermind to-do lists to help push you toward your goals.

Here are a few tips for the To-Do List portion of your journal:

  1. Categorize your To-Do Lists.
    • Write a list of “Job Search Tasks.” Who should you call? What websites to peruse? Versions of your resume to create, and networking calls to make.
    • Make one for “Around The House” Hanging some pictures, washing the windows or replacing the furnace filter.
    • Have another for “Fun Activities” i.e. go to Monticello, play tennis with Drew, get drinks with the girls, explore the riverfront, etc.
    • “Appointments To Schedule” is another great one to have on there, especially when doctor and dentist visits become supplemented by haircuts, counselor visits and physical therapy, oil changes for your car and more.
  1. Refresh your Lists Weekly.
    • At the end of each week, look back on your To-Do lists and make note of anything that didn’t get done. Instead of rewriting every incomplete item from the day before, this will give you a buffer period to catch up on those items without losing track of them.
    • This will help you start each week with a clear vision of your tasks for the week.
  1. Celebrate all that you accomplished.
    • Take a moment to flip through your lists from the week and remind yourself of the wins of each day. It can be easy to feel as though we did not accomplish “anything” this day or this week. By jotting down your to-dos in one location, you’ll easily be able to change that narrative to one of success.

Keep Yourself Moving Forward

These three types of journaling “lists” can bring structure and hope to your planning process. The future holds many great opportunities. There’s not always certainty in the road ahead, but thinking, planning and journaling help you walk ahead confidently.

Step into your post-college future using these three easy journaling tasks and know that you are investing in your future self!

Check out our Leatherpress Journals Page for any journaling supplies.