Issue #12

Journaling: How to handwrite your way to success

Personal Development Goal Setting
9 min read

What do you want for you and your life?

This powerful question evokes desire as it inspires you to imagine something different for yourself. It’s the chance to use your imagination that makes goal setting fun.

But then comes the hard part!

According to studies, only 8% of people achieve their goals. It’s a tiny percentage and a depressing one too because it means the vast majority of people settle for a life that’s less than they want.

So if you’ve ever left a goal by the wayside, know you’re far from alone. But also know it needn’t be that way.

Success isn’t reserved for the privileged or the ‘lucky few’. The truth is you can create your own luck. Better still, success leaves clues so you don’t have to rely on trial and error to figure out how to achieve it. And one such strategy that can make success inevitable is journaling.

Let me explain…

You need more than a to-do list to achieve your goals

When you have a goal, it seems obvious to break it down into a to-do list.

Sure, it’s helpful to get tasks out of your head and onto paper, but if you’re not careful, a to-do list can feed the belief that the more you do, the more success you’ll have.

Unfortunately, that’s not how success works.

When you’re overwhelmed, paralysis kicks in and you end up getting stuck. That’s the problem with to-do lists. If they’re not prioritized or aligned with a goal, we can get hypnotized by a frantic outpouring of action and forget that busyness does not equal productivity.

Ever get to the end of a super busy day and wondered what you actually accomplished?

Goals require more than ticking tasks off an ever-growing to-do list. For better results you need a way to make a to-do list purposeful. You need a tool that keeps your vision top of mind, helps you prioritize, and evokes emotion into every activity.

And that’s what journaling can help you achieve.

Journaling helps you connect with your goals daily

If you don’t feel purposeful when working toward your goal, you’re likely to fail. That’s because a life-changing goal is going to stretch you out of your comfort zone.

It’s inevitable. When you’re striving for something you don’t have, you’ll be ‘forced’ to take different actions, make new priorities, and do things that will leave you uncomfortable and unsure. So if you don’t have a way to reflect on your progress, check in against your goal, and set up each day for success, you’ll struggle to overcome the roadblocks that will get in your way.

That’s why journaling is so powerful.

A journal is more than a list of things to do, it’s a way to set priorities for a productive day.

Your journaling keeps your goal front of mind. In turn, this serves as a benchmark to ensure your daily targets are aligned with where you want to go. This simple focus ensures you can win the day and invest your time wisely. Aligning daily to-dos with your goal also flags up those tasks you can ditch, which in turn reduces the overwhelm.

In other words, planning your day against a well-defined goal creates and supports a sense of purpose that a to-do list lacks.

And this strategy builds momentum.

When you feel that you’re making progress, you’re more motivated to keep going. You get a sense that your habits and actions are paying off and that alone can prevent you from giving up.

Success is more than the sum of all your actions

Effective journaling goes further than prioritizing your actions and ensuring your day is spent moving the needle.

Journaling also helps you develop as a person and become who you need to be to hit your targets. As Zig Ziglar said, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”

Success is determined by your mindset as well as your productivity and performance. That’s because how you feel about yourself and your abilities has a big impact on what you’re able to achieve.

That’s why connecting with your inner dialogue makes all the difference on the journey to your goal–and journaling helps you do that. Especially when you ask yourself these sorts of questions:

  • What am I doing well?
  • What am I learning?
  • How can I improve?
  • What should I do differently in the future?

journaling- inner-dialogue

By reflecting on your progress you get to figure out what you need to tweak and change to get where you want. This process alone can make the difference between a goal achieved and a goal that you decide is ‘impossible.’

Handwrite your journaling to get an edge

When it comes to the process of journaling, you could type up your thoughts or use a selection of apps, but we recommend that you use pen and paper. There are many reasons for this.

  • Something connects in the brain when you write things down. Forming words and letters with your own hand uses a different mechanism to typing on a keypad. Somehow it’s more personal and intimate.
  • Retention goes up and the likelihood that you’ll move forward skyrockets. We see this everyday. People that use the SELF Journal say things like, “If I write it down then it's real.”
  • Anything that involves a piece of paper makes it ‘official’ and this automatically gains an innate importance. As evidenced by countless businesses that still use paper for signing deals, job offers, or schools recognizing academic accomplishment. If it’s on paper the credibility skyrockets.

That's not to say we don't think there's lots of value in digital products. We have our own favorite list of things we use every day (and we’ve created a productivity app too). The big difference isn't about what’s in use, the differentiator is why you are using it.

Handwriting your journal leads to other unexpected benefits too. The main one is reflection:

  • You learn to see mistakes as a lesson and not a character flaw.
  • You can let go of the need to be perfect and instead embrace experimentation and unleash your creativity.
  • You learn to persevere through the dips and stick to the process.

Success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the result of new habits, persistent action, and personal growth. If you keep going on the right path you make success more likely. Sometimes it’s simply perseverance that makes the difference between a goal achieved and a goal left by the wayside.

All these benefits happen because as you write, connections are made. With a journal it’s easy to flip back and forth between pages as associations and insights pop out. These are insights that an algorithm can’t generalize.


The revelation is too personal. It’s not calculable in a code because sometimes it’s not even logical. But it’s these very connections that lead to the kind of productivity and success that leaves everything else in the dust.

Reflection leads to real growth and uncommon results.

Numbers and trends are great for measurement but when you see the world– including yourself– as a set of ones and zeroes, a core element is missing from the equation.

That’s the variable of our sometimes messy but always incredible humanity. Nobody wants to see themselves as a number or a trendline. Describing ourselves as a revenue stream isn’t inspiring. We are not our success. Rather our success is a product of who we are.

Writing a goal in a journal puts these aspects to the forefront in full view. When you write your goals into a journal it’s like your eyes become a two-way mirror.

On the page is who you are, in your mind is who you want to be. One can see the other with such clarity that the adjustments you need to make to achieve your goal become more obvious. Like staring at a “spot the differences” picture. Once you see the difference you can’t help but notice it every time it happens in your day. And that drives you to do something about it.

And eventually, what’s reflected back at you on the page finally matches what you see in your mind.

Connect. Write it down. Make it real.

Using a journal to set goals isn’t about holding onto the past. It’s not about creating nostalgia or attaching to a trend. It’s not old school!

Instead, it’s about utilizing the natural responses that spark in our minds when we stimulate our thought patterns and perceptions in the most optimal way, to accomplish the result we want.

Brain connects to hand, hand connects to pen, pen connects to journal, and when that happens your best self connects to your current self. The paths are revealed and clarity is achieved. You stop just being productive and you start becoming fulfilled.

And the only thing that can come from a sense of fulfillment is success.

Try the journal we use for free

Over the past three years we’ve been obsessed with strategies that create and enable success. We’ve studied the world’s top performers, attended seminars and workshops, and digested countless books.

What we found is there’s a particular daily structure that can make success inevitable.

Remember, success is a habit and if you take persistent action toward your goal everyday, you can achieve virtually anything you want. We’re proof of that!

We wanted to build a business that helps people unlock their potential, achieve their goals, and live a life that makes them proud. We started with a Kickstarter project and turned that success into an 9-figure business in less than two years– all through the power of journaling.

So if you’d like to roadtest the daily structure that has worked for us and thousands of other users, click the button below.

Get Your Free PDF Version of the SELF Journal

And remember, for best results use a pen! Handwrite and allow the power of pen and paper to connect you with your goal, your passion, and the courage you need to achieve the things you want for you and your life.






Cathryn Lavery

Cathryn Lavery is a serial entrepreneur, designer, and speaker. As co-founder of BestSelf Co, she and her team have grown the company from zero to 8-figures in less than two years while on a mission to help people become the best version of themselves. The company has won Shopify’s Build a Business Competition in 2016 and the Build a BIGGER Business competition in 2017 – making BestSelf Co. the only company to win both awards consecutively. Their work have been featured in Fast Company’s 2017 Innovation by Design Awards, as well as Entrepreneur, MTV, Huffington Post, Forbes, Inc. and more.

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