Use your feelings to set goals

When I talked to my coach about my goals, she always asked me, “How would it feel to achieve that?”

At first, I thought it’s just a way to motivate me by visualizing the reward of accomplishment. But it has a deeper sense. If you think about it, we often implicitly base our goals on how we imagine achieving them will make us feel.

For instance, some of the things I’m working on now are:

  • building a business and pursuing interesting projects, to feel more excitement
  • reaching financial independence, to have a sense of freedom and security
  • being more physically active, to feel good in my body
  • daily meditation, to stay calm

Feelings and emotions are the most visceral reason why we do anything. They evolved over millions of generations to reward behaviors that are good for our well-being and survival. So it makes perfect sense why we would do the things that make us feel good and avoid those that feel bad.

Unfortunately, too often we don’t do what’s good for us, be it through ignorance, unhelpful stories told by our minds, or by social expectations. Instead, we should aim to be more like children: content, playful, present in the moment and in our bodies.

boy in blue shirt in white bathtub
Don’t be so damn logical: take care of the kid who’s still inside you. Source: Zachary Kadolph, Unsplash

Material possessions and professional achievement bring only a temporary sense of satisfaction. If you get promoted or move into a bigger house, you’ll enjoy it for a while, but will soon feel as happy (or unhappy) as you previously were. The source of lasting happiness lies somewhere else.

Here are some feelings we may want to experience more often and more intensely:

  • joy
  • love, affection
  • flow
  • purpose, meaning
  • excitement
  • hope
  • awe, wonder
  • satisfaction
  • calm, peace of mind

And some that we may wish to avoid:

  • fear
  • anxiety
  • worry
  • sadness
  • depression
  • stress
  • anger

Avoiding them does not mean pretending they’re not there or distracting ourselves from feeling them. If they arise, feel them fully, and let them go. Don’t dwell on it and replay it in your head. That’s a crucial skill for developing which meditation is excellent.

It’s not possible to never feel sad, angry, or afraid ever again. Some of these emotions are the price you have to pay for positive feelings. Whenever we open ourselves up to love, we invite worry and grief.

But mainly, they are simply natural and automatic reactions to certain stimuli. Fortunately, through thoughtful design, you can often minimize the occurrence of these stimuli in your life.

If your life provides you with a constant source of stress that is completely avoidable, why not avoid it? My job was a source of stress and dread, so I quit it. And now I’m working on finding projects and developing daily routines that maximize the good feelings.

How would it feel?

My coach, every time I talked about my goals.

We sometimes set goals for misguided reasons. By asking yourself, what feeling you’re really seeking by pursuing a goal, you may realize that there’s a better way to fulfill that need.

Let’s say you want a new Tesla. Upon reflection, you realize that you want to feel excitement by interacting with a piece of cutting-edge technology and you want to feel pride when you brag to your friends.

Well, bragging rights is not really a valid reason to do anything. And we know that the initial excitement will wane, and after a few weeks your fancy car will seem commonplace. Instead of spending tens of thousands on a Tesla maybe it’s enough to have a test ride or rent it for a week? Both would allow you to have the experience while minimizing the downside.

Practice deconstructing your motivations, find out what you want to feel, and then decide what is the best way of feeling it.

2030cookie-checkUse your feelings to set goals

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