The First Question To Ask Yourself Before Making New Year’s Resolutions Or Other Goals

Alex James Wellness dot com New Years Resolutions

[Note: This post has nothing to do with food or nutrition specifically. Rather, it’s some thoughts of mine as the year comes to a close. Consider this my loving invitation to you, to get up close and personal with your feelings as you set about creating goals and intentions for the coming year. Enjoy.]

Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution that you kept throughout the whole year? Many of us make grand statements and plans with the best of intentions, but by mid-February we feel so far from our goals that we barely remember what they were in the first place. Have you been there? I know I have.

Here’s something different to try this year: a process that may very well comfort and challenge you at the same time, turn your desires inside out, and give you a different mindset – not just for the coming year, but for all of the years, months, and days ahead. I can sum it up in two simple statements:

Forget about what you want.

Focus on how you want to feel.

This process will change your relationship with goal-setting and resolution-making. Danielle LaPorte (my fave personal development guru/hero/goddess) calls it “desire mapping”. I highly recommend her book, The Desire Map. It’s beautifully poetic and practical at the same time.

So what’s it all about? It’s all about feelings. It’s about first having a deep awareness of how you want to feel (your “core desired feelings”, as Danielle calls them), and then creating your plans and goals based on those feelings. Not the other way around.

Let’s back up. When most people set goals for themselves, they think about what they want to have/be/do. Examples might include things like:

I want to lose 20 pounds and get back in shape by the spring.
This year, I will go on that trip to France I’ve been dreaming about.
I envision my sales doubling this year.
I am going to join that bird-watching club, and make new friends who also like bird-watching.
I will attract the woman/man of my dreams into my life very soon.
I am going to run that half marathon in the fall.

There’s nothing wrong with these goals. There’s nothing wrong with your goals. It’s a healthy practice to think about and visualize the things that you want to have/be/do. But look at each of your goals more closely, and you’ll realize that behind each one lies a feeling (or two, or three).

It’s not really the external goal that matters to us – say, completing a marathon or losing 10 pounds. What we really care about is the feeling – we want to feel fit, or healthy, or strong, for example.

“You’re not chasing the goal itself, you’re actually chasing a feeling.” –Danielle LaPorte

You may want to buy your first home, to learn to paint, to practice yoga, to double or triple your income, to fall in love – but why? What deeply desired feelings are fueling each of your goals?

Let’s look at that list of goals again. I’ve thought of some feelings that might be motivating each one:

I want to lose 20 pounds and get back in shape by the spring. (I want to feel: healthy, radiant, beautiful, sexy, etc)
This year, I will go on that trip to France I’ve been dreaming about. (I want to feel: free, inspired, open, excited, etc)
I envision my sales doubling this year. (I want to feel: prosperous, abundant, rich, creative, etc)
I am going to join that bird-watching club, and make new friends who also like bird-watching. (I want to feel: joyful, peaceful, adventurous, connected, etc)
I will attract the woman/man of my dreams into my life very soon. (I want to feel: in love, blessed, happy, exuberant, etc)
I am going to run that half marathon in the fall. (I want to feel: powerful, fit, strong, energized, etc)

The idea behind this whole desire mapping process is to create “goals with soul” – goals that stem from your core desired feelings, goals that are aligned with how you truly want to feel in different areas of your life.

So, how do we put this into practice?

1. First, think of how you want to feel.

“I want to feel ____________.”

There could be many words that come to your mind, and they don’t have to necessarily be feeling words like happy, peaceful, etc. You might be drawn to other non-feeling words like sunshine, circle, golden, etc. Get out a piece of paper and brainstorm a huge list. Look at a thesaurus for inspiration. Try to pinpoint a few key words that represent how you want to feel. These are your core desired feelings.

2. Then ask yourself, what could I do to bring about these feelings in my life?

The answers may surprise you. Your goals, activities, plans, and priorities may change when you embark upon this process, as your core desired feelings start to become more clear to you.

Having clarity about how you want to feel in your life – at home, at work, during leisure time – is a powerful awareness. Having a list of your core desired feelings is like a secret weapon, something that can guide you on a moment-to-moment basis, even. Start making decisions based on how you truly want to feel, and watch your life change.

(I must note that Danielle explains this all much more eloquently in The Desire Map – if any of this is resonating with you, I invite you to grab a copy and cozy up with it.)

New Year’s Resolutions can sometimes end up feeling like another to-do list, a source of pressure and stress – something I’m not really a fan of, but I know I’m quite susceptible to. Goal-setting, resolution-making, and general life-planning should be a creative and joyful process, fueled by your feelings. Having plans and goals is a good thing (I love getting organized with list-making), but getting clear about how you want to feel is foundational. Getting clear about how you want to feel is the first step if you want to create real change in any area of your life, be it health, business, personal relationships, or any other area.

“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.” –Danielle LaPorte

This year, don’t just make a list of all the things you want to have, be, or do. Go deeper. Ask yourself how you want to feel, and create resolutions using those feelings as your guide.

It’s a more compassionate, loving process, to allow yourself to be guided by your core desired feelings. Also, you may find that your feelings are a more authentic/genuine source of motivation in your life, when you’re working on important projects and plans.

Thoughts, anyone? Please share in the comments below.

I wish you the happiest of days in 2015, full of love, friendship, good health, happiness, and whatever feelings you truly desire.

Alex James Wellness dot com Feel Rocks
A message in the rocks on my path, along the Camino de Santiago (2011).


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Alex is a Holistic Nutritionist with a passion for helping people realize their full potential. After experiencing ill-effects from vegetarianism, Alex reclaimed her love of meat and adopted an omnivorous, yet truly holistic way of eating and living. She believes healing and balance can be found not just through the foods we eat, but the thoughts we think. Alex has a special interest in the areas of mental health, digestion & gut healing, and weight loss. She is based in Toronto, Canada, but also works with clients internationally via Skype.

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