The Desire Map: Goal-Setting From the Inside-Out

It's taken me a solid 3 months, but I've finally finished Desire Mapping. Let me explain.

You may have noticed me murmuring small musings on this half-workbook, half-book I've been delving into since Christmas. It's called The Desire Map and it's by motivational speaker and author Danielle LaPorte. The book is basically LaPorte's personalized system for turning your to-do list on its head and working backwards through the standard goal-setting process. I've never considered myself a Type-A personality. I don't need everything to be just-so, and I'm not always put together or on top of my shit. But damnit I love a good to-do list (and any excuse to read a self-help book). I inherited a predisposition towards to-do lists and goal setting from my father. As a kid, I recall scraps of paper floating around the kitchen table, in the office, wedged between notebooks, all scribbled in green, felt-tip pen. Like my dad, my apartment consists of many scraps of paper; paper that holds plans and goals and lots of things I need or want to do. However, like most people, I don't always follow through with every.single.thing that I write down, and sometimes the act of setting goals that are too lofty creates added stress in my life.

Which is why I was inspired and pleasantly surprised by the philosophies found in LaPorte's manifesto. Within the first few pages of The Desire Map I was introduced to the work I'd be doing with LaPorte: figuring out how I want to feel before deciding what to do. Usually, when you set a goal, you say "I want to run 5 miles every day" (ha!). You do this because ultimately you think it will make you feel _____, yes? LaPorte claims this is kind of a bullshit way to go about life, as our goals are often rooted in societal expectations and what we think we "should" go after. We think these things will make us feel good, but because we haven't done the work to identify what feeling good looks like to us, (and why), we end up setting goals we don't actually want to complete. LaPorte's message is all about learning another way to set goals, manage your to-dos and get what you want out of life. She just asks that you first figure out how you want to feel....which is a bit more difficult than you might think. 

The Desire Map asks that you identify how you want to feel in five main areas of your life: lifestyle, wellness, creativity, relationships, and spirituality. This stuff isn't necessarily easy, but it can be enlightening. I found some previously-unknown recurring themes in what I ultimately want to feel across all areas. (LaPorte calls these recurring desired feelings "core desired feelings.") My desire for security and stability, for example, is overwhelmingly present across every area of my life. Once you've identified these general wants, you hammer out exactly what words describe your desired feelings. For someone who is a sensitive wordsmith, this is some sexy shit. I literally sat in my bed with a dictionary and drummed through word after word of possibilities until landing on some surprising ones that really resonated with me. A core desired feeling can be anything from a state of mind/adjective: "secure" to an idea or noun: "gratitude." You can use words that are as whimsical or as general as you like--there are no rules, just lots of guidelines and motivation along the way.

LaPorte's claim is that once you identify a core desired feeling, you start to live your life more in alignment with feeling that positive vibration. If I crave stability, for example, and I identify it as a core desired feeling, I will naturally seek out activities and behavior that cultivate stability. This is what the book promises. When it came time to the actual goal-setting part, when you're supposed to put all this feeling-work into place, I was a bit overwhelmed. Identifying feelings was one thing (I've been doing that my whole life, thanks) but when it came time for the pinnacle of the process--using those feelings to finally set some goals--I was a bit lost. I felt like my goals weren't lofty at all; in fact, they were pretty basic. Maybe this was the point all along, to get out of our heads and throw away the preconceived notion that we have to be over-achieving go-getters. 

After completing the work, I can't say it's changed my life, but I can say I feel a noticeable shift--or the humble beginnings of one--in how I structure my time. Since I posted my eight words by my fridge and look at them constantly, they have become more innate to me when I make plans. I now have some pretty solid concepts, desires and feelings I can check back into whenever I need to be reminded of what feeling good means to me. And as LaPorte asserts throughout the entire journey, feeling good is what life's all about. Not checking things off a list, receiving awards, or impressing someone. 

For the small bit of clarity its given to my life and the seeds its planted in my subconscious, I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves self-help, is a word nerd, or simply wants to get clearer about what they want.