How to Get Up Close and Personal With Your Goals

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Goal-setting should be as easy and free as breathing. But normally, in the pursuit of something greater, you hold your breath and tuck your chin and ram ahead. What if I told you that that's not the only way to do it? What if I told you it might be entirely the wrong way?

Danielle LaPorte breaks goal-setting down to the personal level in The Desire Map with the simple mantra "Feeling good is the primary intention." This is not some hippie hedonist advice. When you feel good, everything is better around you. Goals don't need to break you down and feeling good doesn't mean you have to settle to be lazy, or nothing at all.

The problem is goals often become an endless list of tasks to prove something to someone else. We box up what is uniquely us and instead use cookie-cutter versions of personal development. It is not easy to disengage the guilt that there is an unquestionable check-list of success that features six figures, six-pack abs, and a supermodel significant other, but where does feeling good fit in? We deceive ourselves that this is all good, but what about the dirty days of college life? They were fun. Where do they fit? I really like fail videos on YouTube and walking around bookstores. And what about the simple pleasure of bodega coffee? Am I just supposed to dump all the things that make me uniquely me on to the framework of sex, money and power?

LaPorte doesn't buy it. In The Desire Map, LaPorte is a guide through a series of stream of consciousness exercises, asking you to remember the times in your life where you felt most yourself - most turned on, most accomplished, most happy. Surprise, surprise, those times usually aren't always and only when you had the bod, the bank and the babe. What the unique moments of your own self-revelation reveal is your core-desired feelings. And once you're clear on how you want to feel, setting your goals is so much easier.

Blogger/author Mark Manson frames it similarly in the endless and ironic search for happiness: "And this is the reason that trying to be happy inevitably will make you unhappy. Because to try to be happy implies that you are not already inhabiting your ideal self, you are not aligned with the qualities of who you wish to be. After all, if you were acting out your ideal self, then you wouldn’t feel the need to try to be happy."

It is that simple. Align with the qualities you wish to be. Find your core-desired feelings then define your goals. You might think you want to be a homeowner but what you really want is to feel safe. You might think you want to wear fancy clothes but what you really want is to feel respectable. Look inside yourself and find what you really want. Then you can feel good every day, seeking out and discovering new ways to express your core-desire feelings.

On New Years' Eve I set my sights on earning my purple belt in jiu-jitsu within the next year. I thought I really wanted it, but somehow what I wanted and what I did crossed paths. I didn't want to wake up every morning to train. I didn't want to pay for more classes. It's not necessarily about abandoning any personal development to achieve something new, it is being honest with yourself about feeling good while you're working to be better. And when I meditated on my own core-desired feelings, I found what I really wanted was a commitment to feeling strong and healthy. A purple belt could represent that but so could lifting weights every day. Or eating more vegetables. Or riding a bike when spring arrives. 

This is a personal journey. You need to find out what feeling good means for you. No one else, nothing else. Author of Daring Greatly, Brené Brown said it simply in a Washington Post interview: "Healthy striving is about striving for internal goals, and wanting to be our best selves. Perfectionism is not motivated internally. Perfectionism is about what people will think.

Now, be honest. Untuck your chin and breathe a little. What does feeling good mean to you?