I don’t usually make a big deal out of the new year (I’ve always thought if you want to make changes in your life, why not do it any time of year?), but at the end of 2016 I found myself realizing I needed to make some major changes in terms of lifestyle and goals.
To help me decide what changes I want to make in 2017, I read The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte (order it from Amazon here) and went through the book’s exercises. They were immensely helpful. LaPorte argues that often, the goals we set aren’t best for us and don’t fulfill us. They are the goals we think we should have rather than goals that will actually make us happy.
LaPorte walks the reader through identifying their “core desired feelings”–three to five words that best define how you want to feel. The idea is that focusing on how you want to feel and then using those desired feelings to guide your actions can help provide clarity and lead to a more fulfilling life than setting goals the more traditional way.
It is a bottom-up rather than top-down process. For example, instead of “go to the gym x times per week,” you might choose “healthy” as a core desired feeling. Each day, you’d try to stay mindful of what choices you could make that would help you feel healthy. You might find that your original goal of going to the gym stresses you out, and that eating fruit and going on bike rides are what actually make you feel healthy.
The core desired feelings I came up with were centered, aroused, flowing, and playful. I’ve been using them for a month so far, and already they’ve led me to make decisions that surprise me, decisions that leave me feeling how I want to feel, but are quite different from what I very recently thought I wanted.
I definitely suggest buying the book and trying this process out for yourself, especially if you feel at all stuck or uncertain about what you should do next in life. (Note: this is not a sponsored post–I just really liked the book that much.)
Here is a little more information about why I picked each of my desired feelings, and what each means to me:
2017 is going to be a year of great change for me. I graduate this year and must find a new job. I’m interested in finding a new community to live in (maybe even a new state!) and a romantic partner. Knowing that almost everything that is part of my daily life right now will change this year has led to deep feelings of uncertainty and with that, a desire to feel centered.
I considered “connected,” “certain,” “relaxed,” “calm,” “rooted,” “self-possessed” and other related terms, but settled on “centered” because it seemed to best capture how I most want to feel while being most realistic (people cannot always feel certain, relaxed, or calm). Anxiety is something I deal with on a daily basis. I realize that it is a natural part of life that will never go away, but I believe I can still feel centered even when I’m in the midst of uncertainty or anxiety. Feeling centered will not only help my anxiety seem more manageable, it will lead to better, more confident decision-making. When I’m centered, I, not my transient emotions, am making the decisions.
In addition to dealing with anxiety, I also often deal with “fibro fog,” meaning my memory is sometimes poor and my attention sometimes fragmented and scattered. I am someone with many interests, perfectionist tendencies, and a tendency to be self-critical, which means the fibro fog is difficult for me to accept. I’ve allowed it to de-center me many times. Again, I know I cannot rid myself of fibro fog completely, but I can choose to deal with it in ways that make me feel more centered.
I chose “aroused” for a few reasons. First, I have fibromyalgia and often suffer from fatigue and fibro fog, so I want to feel more mentally alert and physically energized rather than in pain or sluggish and tired.
Second, I am currently uncertain about some very fundamental things in my life–what career I want to pursue, where I want to live, who I want to date–but I know I want to feel interested and engaged in my career, community, and romantic life. I will most likely obtain a full-time job this year, and that comes with some fears that I will get stuck in something boring. That fear is also part of why I chose the word “aroused”–you can’t feel aroused and bored at the same time.
Finally, I chose “aroused” rather than the other similar words I considered (alert, energized, interested, engaged) because I like that it can have a sexual connotation. I want to explore my sexuality and generally feel sexy and like a sexual person. I’m looking for a committed partner right now, and that’s terrifying! Our society does a great job of equating monogamy with monotony, which is part of why I want to focus on being aroused as I am dating to find a partner. You cannot be both aroused and tired of your lover at the same time.
Earlier in 2016, I was creating a collage when I came up with the phrase “to flow like water.” I know I’m not the first person to use this phrase, but at the time it felt unique to me and perfectly mine. It perfectly described what I desired to feel then and continue to desire to feel now–flexible, beautiful, part of nature, ever moving rather than stuck, stopped up, dry, etc.
2017 will be a year of great change for me, and I’d like to handle it well and “go with the flow.” I also don’t want to make the wrong decisions (i.e. pick the wrong job, city to live in, person to date) because of my desire to play it safe and have certainty. “Flowing” is the ultimate acceptance of uncertainty, almost a celebration and enjoyment of it.
I also considered the words “connected” and “flexible,” but chose “flowing” because of the water connotation. I love water and would like to move closer to a beach this year if possible. Flowing also seemed fitting in many other ways: with fibromyalgia, my muscles are often tense and sore but I’d prefer they be soft and pliable. Mentally, I want to be able to quickly let go of hurt, anger, and pain, and keep moving forward easily.
Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow” is the final reason I chose the word “flowing.” To be in flow is essentially to be “in the zone” or fully present–it is the state people reach when they are completely absorbed by the task at hand. In flow, time feels like it stops and everything else ceases to exist. I want to be “flowing” because I want to be in flow when I write, paint, and go about my daily life.
I am currently pursuing a creative career. My hobbies are also creative. I love to write, paint, photograph, and just come up with ideas. There’s a certain feeling when you’re in the zone–it contains arousal, it contains flowing, but there’s more. I almost chose the word “creative,” but when I thought of “playful,” that felt more right because it applies to more situations.
A conversation can be playful. A walk around the block can be playful. I don’t want to be one of those adults whose life gets more boring with each year. I want to feel like I’m having fun! That doesn’t necessarily going out and doing something wild, but approaching as many situations as possible with a playful mindset. I want to be playful not only in my creative endeavors, but in my friendships, and my romantic relationships, and my overall approach to life.