I love structure. I’m all about checklists, project plans, spreadsheets and course syllabi. They give me a sense order amidst a world of chaos and uncertainty. Hitting incremental milestones give me a sense of achievement and self-efficacy. At school and at work, this has been quite effective for me over the past three decades.
Every December, I would write down my New Year’s resolutions – bullet points of creative projects, classes and professional goals. By February, I was overwhelmed. By March, I felt like a “bad student” and a failure.
Now, I take a different approach. I identify my “core desired feelings” – three words that describe how I want to feel. The logic behind this: everything we do is based on how we want to feel. For example, “I want to buy a house… to feel secure” or “I want to make art...to feel radiant.”
Over the past two years, my desire to feel Radiant, Capable and Aligned inspired me in big ways and small: to meditate for 10 minutes each morning, to make art while working full-time and to go on the inner journey I’ve been on this past year.
Why this works
This approach is structured, yet flexible and not attached to outcomes. I also feel good in the process of pursuing my desires, not just when I’ve completed a milestone. When faced with a decision, I can factor in how each option brings me closer or further away from how I want to feel.
Little daily optimizations go a long way. For example, I want to feel Fresh, so I add a few mint leaves to my water. I filled a bowl with fresh fruit. I bought a little bottle of citrus scented room spray. For under $20, my regular day got a lot more Fresh.
I’m changing and growing, so this makes space for my core desired feelings to change along with me. My first set led me through these past two years, but I needed a refresh, so I repeated the process with a friend for 2017.
Here’s a 1-minute version
1) How do you want to feel? Pick 3 words.
Here's a list to choose from. For example, I want to feel Expansive, Connected and Fresh.
2) For each feeling, write a few actions that help you feel that way.
For example, I want to feel Expansive. I can move towards that by taking a few stretch breaks throughout the day, doing yoga once a week, doing one task at a time, taking an art class on the weekends and sharing my experiences with others.
To go deeper, check out Danielle Laporte’s book The Desire Map.
"As is your desire, so is your will. As is your will, so is your deed. As is your deed, so is your destiny." – The Upanishads