The First 21 Pages of Your Journal

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Since I posted Your First Step to Being a Renaissance (Wo)man, I’ve received emails from some of you about how you’ve started journaling. So what do you do if you feel like you’ve become repetitive in your journal? This post presents 21 prompts to write about in your journal. Why 21? Not because of the “It takes 21 days to form a habit” claim. That’s actually a myth. A study done by Lally et al. [1] shows that habit forming could take around two months. So again, why did I choose the number 21? Simply because I like the number. It’s a Fibonacci number and what’s not to like about Fibonacci numbers?

Day 1. Draw a blueprint of all the houses you’ve lived in, all the schools you’ve been to, all the offices you’ve worked in….It’s interesting to realize how easy it is to forget the places we’ve spent considerable amount of time in. You could add a descriptive section to this prompt.

Day 2. Take a picture of your favorite dish and write about it. What memories are associated with it? Who cooked the best version you ever had?

Day 3. Write about your ideal day. What time do you wake up? What are you doing? How are you feeling?

Day 4. Write a fictional conversation with one of your heroes. Where are you having this conversation? What are you talking about?

Day 5. Write a letter to your thirteen-year-old self. What are your biggest regrets? What are the biggest lessons learnt?

Day 6. Who are the people you admire the most and why do you admire them?

Day 7. Write a blow-by-blow account of the previous day from the moment you woke up to the moment you went to sleep. Compare this with your entry for Day 3 and see how you can improve your life.

Day 8. Write about one of your happiest memories. What were you doing? Where were you? Who were you with? Is there a picture? If yes, add it to your journal.

Day 9. Every day on the news we learn that the world is a scary place. Is there anything that happened recently to give you hope in humanity?

Day 10. Write a thank you letter to someone who has influenced your life greatly. You could mail this letter (or not).

Day 11. Write about an inspiring talk/speech you’ve listened to recently. It could be a  TED talk or a podcast or simply a conversation with a friend. What did they say that made you feel pumped up? How did it resonate with you?

Day 12. Write about a time when you were really worried about something and it turned out to be all right in the end.

Day 13. Write a letter to your future self about something you’re really worried about right now, and send it to your future self via Don’t let your anxiety cripple you and refer back to Day 12’s prompt to calm yourself down.

Day 14. Describe a day you spent totally alone. Why were you alone? What did you do? How did you feel? Would you like to repeat it? [If it’s been a while since you’ve had a complete day to yourself, then describe a time when you spent a long stretch of time (6 hours) on your own].

Day 15. What was the longest time you’ve had to wait in queue for something? Was it worth the wait? How did you spend that time?

Day 16. Describe a book that considerably changed your life. Or describe a book that evoked such a strong emotional response that you experienced a book hangover.

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Day 17. Look back at your life and write about a belief you held for so long that in retrospect makes you feel so stupid and naive.

Day 18. Describe your favorite journaling spot. Do you get natural light or do you use a lamp? Are you sitting at a desk or lounging on the sofa? How is the noise level?

Day 19. If there is one thing you could change about the people around you what would it be and why?

Day 20. Is there something that you want so bad? It could be a thing like a car or a job or a lifestyle? List down ten ideas of ways to get it – without robbing a bank. See if you can take the first step towards implementing your list.

Day 21. Start the page with “What scares me the most…” and write down your biggest fears.

If you are inspired by these prompts, feel free to take a picture of your journal and tag me on twitter @ahechoes #21pages

Also if you want to improve your life and learn more about personal development, but don’t have to read many books, get my new ebook Mine Your Inner Resources which presents ideas from top books in the field so you can take action right away. To learn more, go to;

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Book Hangover Image: Pixabay image modified via Buffer Pablo

[1] How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world


The pain might not fuel your journey

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Dear Friend,
There’s a quote by Kenji Miyazawa that says, “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”
You think Kenji didn’t know what he was talking about. Not only can’t you do anything about this pain. You can’t even do anything with it. It’s like a heavy useless marble block just sitting there. Actually it’s not like marble. Because at least with marble, you can chip pieces off and turn it into a sculpture. But this pain you can’t translate into any form of art, because you can’t comprehend it yourself so you just carry it with you day in, day out, hoping that one day you will wake up and it will no longer be there.
Maybe by then your threshold for pain would have shifted so you don’t feel it anymore, or maybe the pain would have in fact simply gone. Just disappeared. But does it really go away? Or does it remain in a more dormant form waiting for the smallest thing -word, gesture, breeze – to trigger it when you least expect it?
We are all wounded. It’s part of being human. And yet the human spirit is resilient. It makes you go on even when you feel like giving up. It makes you dig your way out when you’ve been buried under crumbling stones of despair.
We are all wounded, but maybe we need to think of ourselves in terms of kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing cracks with pieces of gold so that the broken is more beautiful than the new.
And the pain…it might not fuel your journey, but it does serve a purpose.
E. K. Ross says, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”


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You can say that what happens around you doesn’t affect you a bit, but we’re all affected somehow by every experience, every person we interact with, every word we hear and see, every soundbite we watch on TV. We are all affected somehow. Whether the effect is positive or negative, it doesn’t matter. How many people have we run into who changed the course of our lives? Some people beautify the landscapes of our lives, while others ruin it. Then there are those who don’t influence it much. Until they’re gone and we realize how subtle their contributions actually were.
If there’s something I learned in my life is never to get attached. To people, to places, to lifestyles. Don’t get attached, because life can change in a second. And don’t be too picky about making plans because plans are perfect until the time comes for you to execute them.
Sometimes Kid President’s words make sense especially when he says that sometimes you need to give yourself a high-five just for getting out of bed. Go through the motions and focus on making it through the day, from sunrise to sunset, and be grateful to God when you do.
It’s very easy for us to live in our own bubbles, heads hung over our smartphone screens, shutting out the world around us. It’s very easy to imagine that our personal problems are the biggest problems on Earth. Whether to it’s trying to figure out where today’s dinner is going to come from, or whether you have wi-fi coverage where you are; whether it’s a third world problem or a first world problem…it’s very easy to think we’ve got it worse than others.
But everybody’s got problems, everybody’s worried about something, everybody’s got secrets. So don’t go wishing you’re living someone else’s life just because they appear to have no problems. Appearances can be deceiving. It’s like the Swahili saying that crudely translates to “Walls have hidden many secrets”.
You know they say that, “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.” We realize that maybe our problems are manageable. Maybe our problems are unique to us because we’ve got the tool to handle them. Maybe we’re the only ones who can make turn a difficulty into a triumph.
And finally, take a lesson from the page of that poor, barefoot, five-year-old African boy in the dirty tattered clothes who, even though he doesn’t have much, he’s still got a reason to wear a sonrisa on his face…maybe because as long as the sun rises, he still got a reason to smile.
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P.S. Image used for illustrative purposes only

What To Do With Rejection Slips?

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So someone I know is waiting for a response from some place, and they said that if it came back with “Rejected” stamped all over it, they’ll laminate it for the future. I found the idea amusing and remembered a piece I read where the writer kept a “Failure Journal”. They wrote in it whenever they got a rejection with a “Wuhooo! I got rejected again!” Maybe they consider each rejection as a hurdle to jump over as they sprint towards their goal, so the more rejections they get, the closer they are to achieving their goal.

Rejection may come in many forms; termination letters, divorce papers, “I’m sorry to inform you” written on legal paper or drafted in an email. But what if these papers do not signify the end of something but also the beginning of someone new. Because we are human beings, rejection stumps us. How can those people refuse us when we are so “supposedly” so great? But as much as it stumps us, it humbles us, makes us rethink of what we are doing, and helps us take inventory of what we have.

The problem with us is when we look at successful people, we see the end results and may think that they’ve got it easy. However, we are not always privy to the hurdles they had to jump over, to the blood, sweat and tears their successes cost. We don’t usually see the hurdles they’ve had to jump over, let alone the stumbling, off-balance landing and other mishaps.

I am more poetic when it comes to rejection slips. I personally imagine every rejection letter to represent a seam between two square patches so that the more rejections you get, the bigger the imaginary patchwork cloth. I think if I could sew I would actually like to physically make something like that to have a physical canvas of my own failures.

In his memoir, On Writing, Stephen King wrote, “By the time I was fourteen … the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”

Michael Jordon said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

So don’t be stumped. Just keep on working!