Summer Series on Journaling: What Do You Want to Be, Do, and Have? Write it down.

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As we look at ways to “Live in the Now,” we asked author, blogger, and book coach Erin K. Casey to guide us through the benefits of journaling. Her summer series highlights some of the helpful aspects of personal writing. We look forward to hearing how journaling helps you live in the now.


My youngest son is headed to a new school this year. He’s halfway through his high school career and aware that he needs some sort of plan for what comes next. So it wasn’t a surprise when the guidance counselor at his new school asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

It’s a legitimate question, and one I still ask myself from time to time.

Some people never wrestle with wondering what they want to be, or better put, what they want to do with their time and resources. Some have a vision from childhood and pursue it nonstop. Others have no real direction; they simply react to opportunities, live day to day, and do whatever it takes to pay the bills. 

Others, like me—and perhaps you, too—struggle. We know we want “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” We have an inkling of the kind of life we want, but we don’t know where to start. 

That’s where I was mentally, just before my twentieth birthday, when I discovered that I was not cut out to be a teacher. I’d already made it about halfway through college, when suddenly, my career plans veered off course and into a ditch. While working at an after-school facility with elementary students, the realization hit me hard: I don’t want to do this. The trouble was, teaching was my only plan. 

Without a plan, I felt lost. And I stayed lost for a few years, taking random jobs that paid well enough even though they felt meaningless. 

Meaningless. Boring. Not even a little exciting. And that just wouldn’t do. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew what I was doing wasn’t it. Something had to change, which meant I had to change. 

With that realization, I began a lifelong self-discovery process. It started with reading books and listening to motivation and business experts on cassette tapes (because ebooks and podcasts weren’t a thing yet). Zig Ziglar’s material had a profound impact on my life. He taught me that I had to become the kind of person I wanted to be in order to do the things I wanted to do and have the life, possessions, and relationships that I wanted to have.

He also taught me how to set goals, which is different from any daydreaming or wishing I had done up to that point. His process was purposeful and organized—and he recommended writing everything down. I didn’t have a better plan, so I followed his instructions. I began by writing down my Be, Do, Have list in a spiral notebook. This was a list of everything I could think of that I wanted to either be, do, or have. When my list filled several pages, I picked out a couple of things that were most important to me at the time. From there, I set my goals and began working to achieve them.

After I wrote out my goals, I closed the notebook and put it away. A few years later, while packing to move, I found the forgotten spiral. Flipping through the list, I was surprised to see how many things I could mark off as accomplished. It was as if writing down what I wanted had etched the desires in my subconscious. I had intentionally worked on achieving the goals I had set, but I had also fulfilled a number of things that I had identified on the larger list.

Writing down what you want to be, do, and have isn’t magical. This isn’t about manifesting without working. You have to do the work. But writing down what you want helps you cast a vision for what your life could be like—and more importantly whom you could become in the process of creating that life. From there, you can devise a plan of action and get to work. 

Creating the deep and meaningful life you want takes intention and grit, but I’ve learned that every ounce of effort is worth it. 

If this time of international upheaval has left you without a job or a plan—or has made you reevaluate what really matters to you—get out your journal and start making your own Be, Do, Have list. When you’re done, circle a few things that interest you most right now. Then use Zig Ziglar’s goal-setting process to turn those desires into reality. 

  • Write down the objective—your goal or dream. 
  • Put a date on it. By when do you want to reach that goal?
  • Identify the obstacles. What (or who) has the potential to get in your way?
  • Write down the names of the organizations or people you need to work with or learn from to achieve it.
  • Devise a plan of action, and write it down.
  • Identify and write down the answer to the question, “What’s in it for me?”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some new goals to go after.

I hope you do, too.

Erin K. Casey is a B/CS native with a love for Tex-Mex and traveling. She is a book coach and loves helping authors bring their books to life. Her own books include “Get Personal: The Importance of Sharing Your Faith Story” and the “Zany Zia’s Hats to Where” series for middle-grade readers. Connect with her on Instagram or at TheRoamingTexan.com.

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