What if you all you really want is just to feel good? (Hint: that's what ambition and goal-chasing gets right down to.)
The term “goal" has many interpretations and elicits widely varied reactions — as you're about to see.
I polled the galaxy, Tell me, how do you feel about setting goals? And here's what came in:
Goals energize and invigorate me!
I love to set goals.
Goals confuse me.
I am constantly writing down my goals, but I'm not so great at fulfilling them.
I feel energized.
If I don't have goals I feel lost.
If I have goals I feel claustrophobic.
Glad I asked. Because here's the whole cosmic, life-liberating a-ha revelation:
You're not chasing the goal, you're chasing the feeling that you hope attaining the goal will give you.
So many of us have our relationship to success inside out. We come up with our to-do lists, our bucket lists, and our goals and we figure that when we “arrive" we'll feel amazing, and validated by the universe and then it'll be OK to ease up on our selves.
And sometimes that does happen. We cross the finish line and it's a true victory — our cells plump up with joy and we're heart-satisfied. Those victories aren't luck. They happen because we've been following the imperatives of our soul. This requires some courage of course.
Achievement Autopilot is a cultural default. We take on ambitions from The Jonses, our parents, or the imaginary “they" in our heads that we're always trying to impress. And then we crank. We endure our way to benchmarks. We suck it up for security-sake.
And on our ways to goals that don't really match the color of our spirit, we twist up our identities, and fry our adrenals. We burn out and we forget who we are – which is exactly opposite of how you most want to feel.
So what if, first, we get clear on how we actually want to feel, and then we design our goals — intentions that are in sync with who we truly are, achieved in ways that are actually life-affirming and nourishing instead of an endurance test.
Because every craving, aspiration or goal that you have – from what you want to eat, wear, and own, to all the great things you want to create in the world — is driven by an innate desire to feel a certain way. That's it. That's the bottom line. The essence of your desire is a feeling.
Subliminal message: Feeling good is the goal.
How do you want to feel when you look at your schedule for the week? When you get dressed in the morning? When you see your bank balance? When you fall in love? When you speak your peace? When you finish your big project? When you hit the dance floor? When you cross the finish line? When you go to bed tonight? When you wake up tomorrow?
Knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have. Generating those feelings is the most powerfully creative thing you can do with your life.
The promise & perils of goal-setting
Here's a commonly understood definition: "A goal is something you want in a certain way and by a certain time." Hmmm ... I can't actually think of much that I've gotten in the certain way, at the certain time that I wanted to.
I've created many things that I'm proud of. I feel deep joy on a regular basis. You could classify me as ambitious, but ... I've rarely reached my "goals." I've flat-out failed at a lot of them — did not even come close to my target numbers or that career-changing opportunity, or getting that particular relationship on track.
Or, along the way to my destination, I did a complete mid-course correction and traded in my original goal for something much more fulfilling. Changed my mind, I want that instead.
Sometimes, I reached a goal way later than planned, and even though I attained it, I felt like a loser for taking so long to make it happen. (I generally feel behind on my major life aspirations. Everything that I'm accomplishing now, well, I figure I should have nailed it five years ago. Anyone relate?)
And then there were those transcendent occasions where I managed to super exceed my goals, in which case I felt like an amateur for thinking so small in the first place. Should have asked for more.
After enough failure, re-routing, and bonafide success, I finally considered that maybe goal-chasing wasn't bringing out the best in me. It brought out the pushy broad in me — I call her Connie (say that with a Jersey girl accent.) And in extreme circumstances, I gotta pull out Connie to get shit done. She's effective in small doses.
But if you live your life in pushy broad mode you're going to miss out on the sweet side of creativity. You'll forget that life has got your back and it's a dance, not a race. If you're busy shouting your do-or-die goals at your self, you're going to drown out the signals that life is throwing you — critical signals from your instincts, your body, and from the people around you who can see more objectively.
Chasing meaningless goals will exhaust you. When we zealously go after dreams that don't nourish our spirits, we're headed for trouble. Anxiety disorders, betrayals, blindsiding break-ups. On the other hand, if your goal is rooted in your truth — if it's tied to your most desired feelings, then you're going to feel energized and supported on the journey, even when the going gets rough. And to cheer you on, life will keep throwing synchronicities your way.
The ego loves big goals like a food addict loves sugar. Lofty goals pump up our self-image. Big goals can make us feel bigger than or even superior to others. My goal is better than your goal. Goals can define the trajectory of your life, but they are not a reflection of your value as a human being. It doesn't matter what you want — just want what feels right to you.
Rigid goals are a win/lose equation. They're awesome when you win, they can devastate you when you lose. And strict goals can perpetuate over-planning — and over-planning kills magic and possibilities.
The benefit of clear desires
Feelings are magnetic. Each feeling is a beacon that attracts a reality. Love attracts love. Generosity creates a generous response. Anger creates more things that could make you angrier, if you let them. What we focus on expands. So choosing to focus on life-affirming feelings is the surest way to create the experience that you want.
Maybe you don't need to make a million bucks to feel abundant. Or be married with two kids by the time you're 35 to feel joyful. Maybe feeling creative or energized or sexy has nothing to do with getting the VP position, a new meditation practice, or firmer thighs. Or maybe those aspirations are exactly the things that you need to go after to generate your core desired feelings.
When you get clear on how you want to feel and let those feelings be your aim, you might surprise yourself with some new choices. You'll sign up for workshops you'd never considered. You'll quit stuff. You'll start the day differently. Planning your week will take on a liberating kind of simplicity. You'll say no to the obligations and should-do's that never felt very fun or freeing in the first place. You will feel much more integrated.
Subliminal message: Feeling good is the goal.
You need to have Soul-centered goals. You need to go about fulfilling those goals in life-affirming ways. Feeling good along the way to your goals doesn't mean you don't work your ass off to get what you want. It means you joyously work your ass off. You don't gripe about what it takes to make things happen. You do the work.
And sometimes that work is terrifying and trying and even grueling. Cycling in the pouring rain. Late night rewrites. Struggling to open your heart after you've slammed it shut. Honoring your word when it would be more convenient to change your mind. When you're connected to the inner purpose of a goal — not just proving yourself — there will be infinitely more pleasure in the process. And then whether you hit the target or not, the journey will have lit you up along the way.
When we want to feel courageous more than we want to check accomplishments off our list … When we want to feel free, more than we want to please other people ... When we want to feel beautiful more than we want to fit someone else's definition of beauty, then we become the desire mappers of our own lives. And the light of your true desires always leads back to home.
Create goals with soul for your life. Start here: DanielleLaPorte.com and immerse yourself in the world of The Desire Map. Then, connect and collaborate, jam on the process, chat with like-minds, and support one another in the #DesireMap community.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com