By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
All goals aren’t created equally. Have you ever started out exploding from the seams with the motivation to accomplish something only to end up feeling disappointed once you reached the finish line? Have you noticed how some goals fill you with enough passion to feel as if you could run through walls, while with others you can barely muster the strength to get out of bed in the morning? While goals, in general, serve as an amazing GPS to give us direction, choosing the wrong goals may land you in a destination far, far away from your heart’s desire. As a society, we have a habit of choosing goals, doing all of the heavy liftings, and then expecting fulfillment to be granted. Often, we even set goals and then beat ourselves up for not following through or for changing course. There’s a better way to look at this. Goals that you dread aren’t worth chasing. By tapping into our feelings and aligning our existence with the people, places, and things that light our souls on fire, we can truly live a life of purpose. It all starts with examining your feelings, instead of looking to the outside world for guidance.
Desire is defined as a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. Following your feelings usually gets a bad rap, but when we desire something deeply, we move mountains to make it happen. We take massive action to feel a certain way. When you strip back the curtains and realize that it’s really about how you want to feel and not about the goal in particular, then the whole game changes.
I was introduced to the concept of “Soul Setting” by the amazing thought leader Danielle LaPorte in her book “The Desire Map,” and it completely changed my life. I used to be a serial goal setter who experienced chronic dissatisfaction after setting intentions that were more about proving myself to other people than making myself happy. Instead of doing what I thought was “right,” I began making choices in the different areas of my life that spoke to me. As Danielle says in her book, our feelings are subjective facts. They are indicators of our realities and they matter just as much, if not more than the objective “facts” that society has told us should be our North Star.
When you set goals and intentions that speak to you, then life feels much simpler and more effortless. “The Desire Map” divides life into five areas: Livelihood & Lifestyle (i.e: career, money, work, travel, etc.), Body & Wellness (i.e., fitness motivation, food, mental health, rest, etc.), Creativity & Learning (i.e., self-expression, education, hobbies, etc.), Relationships & Society (i.e- romance, friendship, family, community, etc.) and Essence & Spirituality (i.e., soul, faith, practices, truth, etc.). With these in mind, here are four steps to set goals by using your feelings.
The first step to setting goals with the soul is to ask yourself one question: How do you want to feel?
There are no right or wrong answers here. Get abstract or niche. The most important thing to remember is to refrain from censoring yourself here. Write down whatever comes to your mind.
Lockdown a quiet place where you are free from distractions, and just tune into your thoughts. For each of the categories above, start with the sentence, “I want to feel…” and then just rift. If you want to feel like a robe-wearing, bubble-bath-taking while phone-conference-having boss, then write that down. If you want to feel like a creative genius or you want your relationships to feel like a Will-Smith-Jada-Pinkett-love, then write that down. Speak in your voice and don’t worry about translating to mass consumption.
The second step is to go through your current patterns of feelings and ask yourself another question: What do I want to get rid of?
Across all of the categories above, what experiences/understandings are holding you back from living your happiest and most fulfilled life? What times do you remember feeling at your worst and what were the places/things/people associated with these moments? When did life feel like an uphill battle rather than a warm walk on a sunny beach?
Write all of your thoughts down. In life, there are trade-offs. To make more room for the good, we need to be ready to let go of the dead weight that doesn’t serve us.
Step three is to narrow down your findings and declare what your three to five Core Desired Feelings are. Take your time here and do some research. Write down words, look up their definitions, and just let the information sit with you for a while. When you read these words aloud, they should move you deeply. This process is about becoming an intentional creator of your life. These are the feelings that imbue you with an atmosphere of alignment and are an accurate indicator of the things that light up your reality. Refrain from choosing the feelings that sound good to others. I can’t overstate this enough. When choosing your words, you want to veer away from big audacious ones like “confidence” and “success.” Instead, aim to ask “why?” until you get to the deep feeling that is rooted beneath these broad concepts. On the other hand, if you believe a big word like confidence is one of your feelings and it’s true to YOU, then go for it! This is more of an aim to get you to come up with feelings organically than a clear cut rule.
The fourth and final step is to choose your goals. With this newfound understanding of the core desired feelings that empower you, choose one to three goals—“big” goals. Visualize your goals and how they will make you feel. Ask yourself what you need to acquire, what you need to accomplish, and/or where you need to go to experience these feelings. Besides these set goals, you must get up and live your life by your core desired feelings. Achieving your goals is a journey and it’s important to not just focus on the destination but to focus on loving the process as well.
In this life, we can’t control anyone or anything else but ourselves. We can only determine our actions and how we receive the things that happen to us. We gain the upper hand in life the moment we realize that it isn’t up to the outside world to bring us happiness. That responsibility is ours alone. By using your feelings to create your goals, it becomes much easier to accomplish them (staying motivated to workout especially becomes more effortless). By choosing this goal-setting method, you put the power in your own hands, and take a big step toward living your most fulfilled life.