A Fresh Approach to Goal Setting

Having written about the top 10 mistakes we make when launching self-improvement initiatives, it occurs to me that I ignored the biggest one of all: Choosing the wrong objective/goal/resolution in the first place. I confess that I’ve been guilty of this error in judgment quite often. I’ve committed to what could and should be good for me rather than what I really want.

feel goodI was introduced to a book by Danielle LaPorte a couple of years ago – The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul. With that auspicious title, I opted to take a leap of faith and work through the exercises to see what they might reveal.

Danielle’s basic thesis: “Knowing how you want to feel is the most potent clarity you can have. Generating those feelings is the most powerful thing you can do with your life.” To that end, she walks readers through an exploration of the five major areas of life:

LIVELIHOOD & LIFESTYLE Career, money, work, home, space, style, possessions, fashion, travel, gifts, sustainability, resources
BODY & WELLNESS Healing, fitness, food, rest & relaxation, mental health, sensuality, movement
CREATIVITY & LEARNING Artistic and self-expression, interests, education, hobbies
RELATIONSHIPS & SOCIETY Romance, friendships, family, collaboration, community, causes
ESSENCE & SPIRITUALITY Soul, inner self, truth, intuition, faith, practices

She asks readers to turn off their analytical (and ofttimes judgmental) brains and explore the answers to four foundational questions:

  • In every area of my life, what am I grateful for? What’s not working?
  • What are my core desired feelings?
  • To generate my core desired feelings, what do I want to do, experience, or have?
  • What three or four intentions and goals will I focus on this year?

I’ll confess that I rolled my eyes a bit when reading about core desired feelings. I thought, “How do I know what my core desired feelings are?” Yet clear patterns emerged when working  systematically through the exercises. I could identify circumstances where I activated desirable feelings and those where I decidedly did not. I came up with words to describe how I’d like to feel in each area of my life, and then settled on four adjectives that best capture my desired state:


Knowing that’s how I’d like to feel, it’s much easier to consider opportunities and assess the degree to which they are likely to evoke those feelings. They also provide the litmus test on whether or not to keep doing some of the things on my plate. And, of course, I can challenge myself to make a daily, weekly, and monthly plan to increase the core desired feelings in each area of my life. (I’m reminding myself of that commitment with a sticky note on my computer stand!)

One final piece of advice from Danielle’s book:

Set out to do three or four things this year with gusto and excellence, rather than doing a dozen things just sufficiently. The momentum and satisfaction you’ll gain from pulling off just a few amazing endeavors will far outweigh anything you could gain from doing a bunch of things halfway. Trust your inner guidance and don’t worry so much about getting it right.”