Truth be told, I’m not much of a goal-setter. Don’t get me wrong: I’m ambitious as all get-out. Yes sirree, I have mighty BIG plans for myself. Plans and benchmarks and intentions, I have in spades. But when it comes to those five-year plans? Ugh. No thank you. An overwhelming sense of anxiety (and nausea) sweeps over me when I think of “getting from point A to point B,” or navigating through Excel. And don’t even get me started on spreadsheets. I’m more of a “follow your gut” kind-of-person. The kind of person who meditates with Oprah and Deepak Chopra. The kind of person who’s deep and introspective and who also feels a lot of feelings.
After a period of time of feeling stuck and not as “alive” as I wanted to feel, I thought it was time to take some action towards giving my life a little shake-up.
So when I started hearing (via Shailene Woodley’s shout out in the Daily Beast last spring) about Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map, a guide about goal-setting with soul, I had a funny feeling (FYI: I’m going to be talking about so many, many feelings in this article) that I had found my goal-mate.
In essence, The Desire Map is a program to help you approach your life, your goals/intentions/ambitions, your relationships, etc., in a totally different way than we’ve been instructed to by society/Big Brother/Mom and Dad. We often chase after the lover/the new job/the fancy city condo with the impression that once we attain them/it/that, we’ll FEEL a certain way: Loved. Accomplished. Successful. OK, granted, sometimes they do make us feel that. But, I also know from first-hand experience that, the new lover made me feel insecure, the job promotion made me feel empty and the new apartment caused me anxiety. All horrible feelings! Sure, the goals seemed good, but in the end, they produced bad feelings.
The Desire Map is all about the GOOD feelings. It guides us to chase after, and feel, the feelings that those goals will give you rather than going after the goal itself.
Let me put it this way: it’s like instead of ordering the new “fad” off the menu because everyone is trying it, you chose to eat something that made you feel comforted and happy. Or like that time you skipped the networking event and instead went your friend’s BBQ because doing so made you feel more alive and energetic.
The Desire Map asks us to plan our day, week, month, even year, based on how we want to feel. As LaPorte writes in her book, “Everything we do is driven by the desire to feel a certain way.”
But it’s getting to understand and recognize how we want to feel that’s the tricky part. In the book, LaPorte asks you to really dig deep—way deep to a clean, super focused, soulful level—on how you want to feel. She calls these feelings Core Desired Feelings (CDFs), and they’re not that simple to claim. You want to feel successful? Well, LaPorte asks: how does the word, “successful” make you feel? What does that mean/look/feel to you? Maybe, instead, “successful” means “safe” to you, or “secure” or “affluent.” I’m a wordsmith too, but LaPorte had me thinking about words in a totally different way. Usually, when I write, I like words that sound good, but I’ve never paid much attention to how a word makes me feel. But that’s the raison d’etre of the book: to uncover the truth behind what we want to feel and why.
Here’s a brief run-down on my journey with The Desire Map.
Book One is all about The Theory behind The Desire Map. I’ve never seen the word “desire” printed so many times in one book (or half of one) before. Initially, I’m a little uncomfortable. Then I realize that I’m uncomfortable with LaPorte’s call to examine my desire because I feel guilty that I’m not living my desires. I start to realize that, to an extent, I don’t even know what my true desires are. I mean, I have a general impression of what they are, but “general” doesn’t work here. LaPorte wants specificity. “Behind every desire, there is a feeling,” she writes. “And your feelings will lead you to your soul.” Holy shit, I think that maybe I don’t have a soul—like a fucking demon!—because I don’t know how I want to feel. But, I have to hold on, because that’s coming up in Book Two.
So, right now, all I’m concentrating on is the reminder that it’s good to feel good, and that feelings are magnetic. And it’s true. I wanted to feel shitty for a couple of days, so I felt shitty. When I started to feel anxious, the guy I was dating radiated that back to me. I also found myself saying “no” to things that didn’t feel good to me, and in turn, I ended up doing something that made me feel better. By the end of the week, I finish Book One. I understand what these CDFs are all about, and why they’re so important. My Core Desire Feelings will generate better feelings and better experiences , which can only help me see and understand how worthy I am of the richness of life. But choosing the right CDFs are stressing me out BIG TIME! What if I choose the “wrong” feelings? Then what?
Book Two is the Workbook. In a “rapid fire” test, among a number of questions, I’m asked what I crave (an Oscar, more multiple orgasms), what I want more of (peace, travel), what I need to give myself permission for (to fuck up), as well as what makes me light (laughing and writing) and what drags me down (debt). LaPorte asks us to look at five sections in our lives: Livelihood & Lifestyle, Body & Wellness, Creativity & Learning, Relationships & Society and Essence & Spirituality. I’m asked to “get real about what’s not working, so [I] can change it.” As I go through the “grateful” part, I realize that I do have a lot in my life—great friends, parents, writing gigs, cats. But, as I dug deeper, I discovered a lot of self-doubt and anxiety that was plaguing me and all of those BIG plans I have for myself.
I move onto the stream-of-consciousness section of choosing my CDFs. We only have to choose, like, seven of them and I’m a pretty indecisive person, so it was basically Sophie’s Choice. I feel confident about my final five (Bold, Flowing, Magical, Radiant, Divinely Favoured). But then I change it to six (Affluent), and that makes me feel much better. LaPorte advises to take a short break and let them stew. So, I do.
I’ve tried my feelings on for a week, and I didn’t like some of them. I changed Bold to Fearless (because it “felt” better—I’m getting the hang of this), Magical to Passion because, although I love the word, I don’t know how “magical” feels. I also changed “radiant” to “happy” because that’s the essence of how I want to feel. “Radiant” seemed too posh and esoteric. Now it’s time to go through all the aforementioned categories with my CDFs in mind, and decide what I need to do to feel feel Fearless, Flowing, Passion, Happy, Affluent, Divinely Favoured. Some things surprised me (tango lessons? A cooking class?), while others didn’t (travel more, have regular massages, finish my latest spec script).
Choosing how I want to feel is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. Maybe I am more cerebral or results-oriented than I thought, which is fine—it’s the self-discovery part that I love most about personal journeys—but I do enjoy the elimination process of “Oh, yeah – does this make me feel happy? Fearless? Passion? Then, nope. See ya!”
Sometimes I don’t think I’m “doing” it right, but then I have to remember that it’s about “feeling” right. The ego can be a fiddly mind-fuck.
Because my experience with The Desire Map is so new, I can’t really say if this works for me, but I will say that feeling drained, exhausted or unhappy are not feelings that I want to feel anymore. If I only chase goals that make me feel good, surround myself with people who make me feel good, wear things, do things, that make feel good, then that would be a desirous life, indeed.
I mean, who doesn’t want an Oscar and more multiple orgasms?