There are many "out of the box" ways that you can utilize your journal. Here are some examples:
Find personal answers: It has been said that when we are confused about a situation, we shouldn't be, because all of the answers lie within ourselves. Do you believe this to be true? Have you ever been truly puzzled about something in your life? Once it was resolved, did you feel that you knew the answers all along? Or did the answers lie elsewhere?
Write in your personal journal. If you are in the middle of a difficult time right now, try to work through it in your journal. If not, spend some time reflecting to see how you discovered the answers.
Set personal goals: The world is filled with possibilities for each of us. We can choose where to live, what job to take, what hobby to enjoy and much more. However, sometimes we start a project and lose interest quickly because we find another project that excites us. In the end, we find we have no time to set goals — and even if we do, they are usually not accomplished.
Pick up the pen and begin to write down everything that interests you. Then take a look at all of the things you want to do. Pick two items and make them your goals. In your personal journal, write down the steps you will take to accomplish those goals and then sign the bottom. Imagine that this is your own written contract, and then commit to work on those two things until they are completed.
Write about procrastination: The project you found out about weeks ago is due tomorrow, and you have done little work on it. Does this sound like a familiar situation? Is this a behavior you would like to change? Or do you find this is the best way for you to work?
Try writing in your personal journal about procrastination. If this is a pattern you would like to break, write about the steps you might take to change it. If, on the other hand, this is a good way for you to work, spend time writing about why it works for you.
Write about fear: Every person suffers from one type of fear or another in their lifetime. In order to feel truly alive, we need to face our fears. Once we do this, we step out of our inner prisons, sprout wings and fly. Do you think this statement is true?
Spend some time journaling on the idea of fear. What is your biggest fear? Do you think it's holding you back from accomplishing all you could do in your life? Do you feel you are ready to begin to overcome it? How will you begin?
Write about a journey: Too often, as we work toward a goal we have set for ourselves, we wind up either fixating upon the obstacles along the road or focusing too hard on the goal itself. When we do this, we miss the magic and beauty of the journey.
Do you agree or disagree? Do you have a goal in your life? Are you missing all of the wonderful things you have the ability to gain along the way, including meeting new people and learning new things about yourself and others? Or do you feel it will be good to accomplish the goal but it is the journey that brings the most rewards?
Write about success: Many people in this world equate success with money. The more you have, the more successful you are.
Spend some time reflecting upon this idea in your journal. Do you agree with this statement? If so, write down the reasons why. If not, how would you define success?
Write about positive experiences: Those who keep a positive attitude will be able to achieve anything. If they reach for the stars, they will touch them. If they want the moon, it belongs to them. Do you believe that maintaining a positive attitude is the key to success? Or do you think that hard work and determination are the only keys? Think about times when you were feeling positive about something as opposed to negative — what happened?
Spend some time writing about this in your personal journal. If you find areas in your life where your thoughts take a negative turn, stay with that and try to explore the reasons why. If you want to challenge yourself, think of ways in which you can change your negative thinking into something more positive.
Write about self-reflection: Have you ever been in an argument with someone and heard them say "Stop thinking for me"? If you think someone is angry or upset with you, do you ask them or do you just presume they are? Do you find you often let things build inside your head instead of talking to the person? Do you base your reactions to people on assumptions or facts?
Spend some time writing in your personal journal about how you relate to people. Think about how you approach situations and whether or not you are upfront and honest about your feelings and concerns.
Barry J. Ewell is author of "Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips and Tricks for Discovering Your Family History" and founder of MyGenShare.com, an online educational website for genealogy and family history.