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A Perfectionist’s Guide to Letting Go

A perfectionist's guide to letting go

Gretchen Diehl
Gretchen is a visual artist and mother of 2, who loves to create.
10 January 2018  |  20 minute read

Breathe. You are already perfect.

Each January, I write a list of objectives or goals for the coming year in an effort to motivate myself to be ambitious and/or do the most good in my life for the next 365 days. Over the last decade, these lists have helped me to apply to (and appear in) numerous art exhibitions, complete the illustrations for my tarot deck, read more, write more, donate more to charity, and learn the fundamentals of cooking. Since the birth of my first child a little over 3 years ago, however, that annual list-making tradition has fallen to the wayside.

In 2017 I found myself composing my list in early March, and really not looking at it again until… well, until I was thinking of writing this article to share my so-called wisdom with all of you. This unintentional loosening of the reins has given me a little perspective about perfectionism, ambition, and the counter-intuitive satisfaction of letting go.

The Backstory

Throughout my life, people (teachers, friends… my poor, exhausted mother) have referred to me as a perfectionist. I wanted straight A’s in my classes, I wanted to be the most skilled artist in my school, the most thoughtful friend and daughter, the best dancer in the studio… and I put in the work, for the most part, but I had a ton of interests, and there were only so many hours in the day. I began to equate success not only with proficiency, but with my own notion of best-ness.

Drawing something really well and being pleased with the image I made only felt good until I saw something that someone else had drawn that was better, more beautiful, or more inspiring. It could be someone in my art class, or a painting hanging in the freaking Met. It didn’t matter. If it was better than what I had made, I could enjoy its beauty for about 5 seconds before feeling a nauseating pang of jealously and a sinking disappointment in my own abilities. I drove myself crazy.

And I expected this level of accomplishment in many areas of my life, not just one. I expected to be “gifted” with an ability to create images, move my body, and compile words better than anyone else I knew. On top of that, I expected myself to be the most thoughtful friend with the most interesting stories, who tells them at the right time, never puts her foot in her mouth, and always manages to bring a handmade gift when someone is feeling down.

At this time in my life, whenever I felt exhausted and frustrated and overworked (which was often) I found myself defaulting to the phrase, "I can't work any harder." It was both an excuse and a cry of defeat. It was everything a bad mantra can be; coddling and disempowering. Saying it to myself simply made me more upset, and helped me to remain stuck in the feeling that I was experiencing.

In the years following high school, I found myself moving away from these feelings as they pertained to my professional interests (maturing, I guess), while still putting pressure on my social persona. I was becoming more ok with being mediocre, as I would have described it at the time, but still needed to be “everything to everyone” socially.

I was learning how to be a part of the world instead of my own deity, and the growing pains were real. It felt like letting go of everything because of how far “perfectionism” had pervaded my life. I had to let go of trying to be the best, but each area of my life was a new revelation, so it felt like a new disappointment every few months when I realized I had dropped another ball.

Walking around Barnes & Noble one day in Philly, I came across a weird little book that cracked me up. It was called The Underachiever’s Manifesto, and the text on the cover was hyphenated because “Underachiever’s” didn’t quite fit on the center line. It was cheeky and charming and I bought it for $3 or something. Then it sat on my shelf collecting dust for 5 years.

When I was 26 I started teaching college courses on the topic of Fashion Marketing (mostly retail math as well as how to manage a store or buy for customers) and I immediately loved the atmosphere. I felt like an expert (which I love), and often, students would ask questions that I didn’t know the answers to, and I would have to research and bring that information back the next week. I was surprised at the natural softening of my ego that happened at that time. Looking back at who I was in the past, it seemed like calling out my lack of knowledge would have been a hard hit for me to take, but I quickly took to saying, “you know, I’m not sure, but I will find out and get back to you,” and it was surprisingly empowering.

I befriended another instructor at the college who was known by the student population as a slacker. I didn’t immediately respect her approach, but I was drawn to her. I knew there were different ways that instructors gleaned results from their students, and my approach (motherly and high-energy), combined with this low-energy colleague's approach as well as some of the other Devil-Wears-Prada professors, created a well-rounded education where students gained experience that could be translated into working for a ball-buster or having to direct your own learning to train for a new field.

It wasn't that I couldn't see the value in the instruction that she provided, it's that I didn’t understand how her career could be satisfying to her. I felt like I could finally exhale when I received my “Teaching Excellence Award” in my 12th quarter. I was chosen out of all of the instructors at the school to receive it, and she laughed and told me she had never gotten one in her 25 years of teaching. I wasn’t appalled, but I was super confused.

After sitting in on her final project critiques a few times, we realized we lived in the same part of the city, and she took to offering me a ride because she knew I walked everywhere and didn’t have a car. We would chat during our 20 minute drives together, and I learned a few things about her; she was single and had a lot of free time, she smiled an awful lot, she adopted a lot of pets from a shelter where she did a lot of volunteer work, and she was just as confused by my level of anxiety toward achievement as I was confused by her comfort and complacency… and all of those things together started to look like freedom.

On one of our rides she described herself as an underachiever and laughed. I told her about the book I owned and never read, and she said, “that sounds like something I would have written if I cared to take the time to do it,” and laughed harder. Her calm was infectious.

That same night I dug up the book and read it from cover to cover (it took less than an hour), and felt oddly comforted. Most of the advice would sound obvious to a well-adjusted person:

“if you don’t want to do something, don’t do it”

“if you can’t get to something, don’t worry about it”

While others were a little more tongue-in-cheek:

“why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?”

When I was done, I felt the odd sense of comfort that comes from getting to know a part of myself really well. There is a lot that I like about creating checklists to keep myself on task and accomplishing the small parts of larger goals. I have a multifaceted personality that really benefits from that kind of mental organization. If it isn’t in a list, or on my calendar, there is a good chance it will be forgotten in the shuffle of the 43 other things that need to get done by the end of the week. But there has to be a healthy balance.

Because the lists and the goals and the finish lines were such a part of my life for so long, I started to wear blinders for the journey. I wasn’t enjoying the small things, the everyday beauty. I could never have described myself if I had ever tried online dating. I thought of myself as a list of accomplishments instead of a pile of complex and contradictory personality characteristics, even though I would describe my friends otherwise. These expectations were not the same for other people, only myself. I did associate MY achievements with MY worthiness, and every year that passed with a New Years Checklist that was only 50% complete, was a year of opportunities half-lost.

But time is never lost, it is spent in other ways.

I found, in the back of my mind, that horrible little mantra creeping back into my consciousness; "I can't work any harder," but this time I did something new. I laughed at it.

The truth is that I CAN work harder than I currently am, but is that the goal? This terrible mantra did not serve me well in the past and was not going to be helpful now. I needed to come up with a more conscious dialogue. Something that complements the way that my brain works. Its default expressions. I spent time getting to know my own mental habits through journaling. I found that, like most people, I am pretty rude to myself.

I was putting these mental vagaries into concrete terms as I was experiencing my first pregnancy (with my son, who is now 3), which brings its own emotional challenges. I found this to be an empowering time to try to tackle many of my negative self-talk habits, as I didn't want any chemical changes to affect my baby, nor did I want him emulating my self-deprecating humor when he became old enough to repeat everything I say (which is now, as it were).

One of my biggest issues is my expectation of social perfection. The need to be loved and admired by everyone and not make any embarrassing mistakes. My need to be the one that everyone comes to with their problems, and, when that works, my exhaustion from empathizing and absorbing the major and minor decisions and disappointments of all of the people I love.

The first part of addressing this involved identifying the existing narrative, or what I was feeling about this expectation I imposed on myself. It felt like a responsibility. Having been this person to many people in my life for much of my life started to feel like an expectation not only of mine, but of theirs.

Feeling that expectation from other people started to morph into guilt, and then exhausted resentment. So I needed to come up with something to counteract that cycle of expectation-responsibility-guilt, and the mantra that felt the best was, "I am not responsible for anyone else's happiness." Saying it was freeing, and in time, became calming. It is something I am still working to fully believe, but saying it at certain moments 'defuses the bomb,' so to speak.

This past spring, when I started living with my parents (and older brother), I realized that I needed to adjust my mantra... "I am not responsible for anyone else's happiness" was a helpful beginning, but there were times that I felt deflated and defeated by the negative emotions of people around me. The energy that it took to keep 2 very young kids entertained and stimulated left me with a very low tolerance for much of anything else.

I tried very hard to be accommodating in the meals I would cook, the chores I would take on, and the schedule I would keep. I would be the sounding board for everyone individually (which had been my role when I was young, and therefore was difficult to distance myself from when I moved back in to my family home). When I would do things in an effort to please people, MY actions were not exhausting me, but when my actions did not result in someone else's happiness, I felt like a failure. As if time was wasted, or I was just not getting it 'right enough.' Saying "I am not responsible for anyone else's happiness," should have worked, but I had to realize that there was another layer to it. I had to add, "and no one owes me their happiness." I can do all the nice things in the world, but at the end of the day, their happiness is not owed to me, and is no judgment on me. After realizing how self-absorbed that perspective was, it was relatively easy to let go.

I am not responsible for anyone else's happiness.

No one owes me their happiness.

and I am enough for myself...

Perfectionism is only helpful as a motivator until it isn't. Perfectionism sets expectations, creates a list of goals, demands quantity AND quality, and does not accept the fact that I am just plain tired. Perfectionism has helped me to accomplish a lot in the early part of my life, and I appreciate that. It was synonymous with my identity. As my family grows and my role in this world changes, I become more and more aware of the stress that perfectionism caused me, and how upsetting it would be to see my children accomplishing big things, only to feel less-than a few moments later when the high of achieving wears off.

Going forward, it is my aim to treat myself the way that I would want my children to be treated. It's a high bar to set, but worth reaching for. To look at myself with as much objectivity as possible, but also with a crap-ton of love and excitement for what is to come in the future.

Now it's your turn. What do you think? Comment below. 

About the Author Gretchen Diehl

Gretchen Diehl is a visual artist training to be a tattoo artist in the Poconos.  She lives with her husband and their 2 quirky little kids.  Her previous works include an illustrated tarot deck and a variety of wearable and textile goods created under the pseudonym 'BirdQueen.'  Gretchen is passionate about health, fitness, and food, making beautiful images, and living in love, and writes "often" about all of these topics.    

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goals dead end

Most Goals are Useless. Do This Instead.

Most Goals are useless.
Do This Instead.

David Papa
I teach people how to reach into their shadow and pull out their freedom, find goals with soul, and bake vegan brownies. Founder of Love and Profit.
8 January 2018  |  14 minute read 

This is a long-form post designed to challenge our thinking around goals, because many people really struggle with goals. It goes through my problems with goal setting, what I want to keep about goals, what's missing from goals that will make them better, and a process that puts this all together. Grab a hot drink and settle in because this is a whole framework and I would love your thoughts on this. If you're not interested in the thinking part and just want the concluding process, that's cool, skip to here.

"The Tao is always at ease. It overcomes without competing, answers without speaking a word, arrives without being summoned, accomplishes without a plan." - Lao Tzu

I’ve always had an adversarial relationship with goals.

I’m supposed to have goals. Supposedly without goals I am going nowhere and nothing good can happen to me ever. I will die alone and penniless in a gutter bemoaning my worthless life. But goals will save me. With goals alone I can build my dreams! Right? 

That's a nice story. But I've never liked having goals. Every time I've tried to have them I have felt worse and nothing extra got done. They have always felt constricting in some way. I've never enjoyed creating goals or mapping them out or planning them or thinking about them in any way. They always feel like unnecessary pressure leading no where. I'm already doing plenty of work that I "need" or want to do and things are moving just fine. What do goals add to this whole equation? I never got it.

Now, before you throw all kinds of quotes at me, like, "if you don't know where you want to go, you could end up anywhere", or "someone else will decide for you", let me tell you something. I have worked for myself successfully for 4.5 years without having any traditional goals. 

I am constantly checking in with what feels right for me in the moment. I am constantly evaluating what I want to work on next and asking myself if the next task or project is aligned with my values and my energy and who I want to become. So I always feel like I am working on the right thing based on the best information I have. 

You could maybe make the argument that I would be "farther along" if I had some goals that I was always working and striving and struggling toward. But guess what, I don't believe in "farther along." There is no where to get to. We don't take any of this with us when we die. We have no idea if our legacy is going to mean anything. The point of life is to have fun and find love in our experiences. We can do that no matter what our experiences are. I'm not sure how traditional goals add to that. 

"Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time." - Jon Kabat-Zinn

Here's the other thing: the future is entirely unpredictable and the world is changing faster than ever before. Why the hell would I create goals that will be outdated in a month? 

What if I die? Or someone close to me does? At any second, any unforeseen event could change our lives in an instant, forever. We can't predict our future. It will look so different than we think. What the hell is the point of having goals that are dependent on a future that doesn't even exist? 

In the face of these thoughts, all goals seem like useless mental projections that have nothing to do with reality. I love this saying: 

"No business plan survives first contact with customers." Same with goals. 

We can easily see this play out in ourselves and the people around us. Sometimes we are 100% wrong about our goals. We set a goal for ourselves and then we get there and it feels nothing like we thought. We get there and feel nothing, or unfulfilled, or even totally miserable. 

Think about that new job you were so excited to get only to find it sucks just as much as your old one. Think about all the millionaires who are "totally crushing it" yet are completely stressed, taking pills just to sleep, and feel like they never have enough. They achieved their goals. Ooops. 

Are you done with goals yet? 

Are there good things about goals that help us? 

There are so many people that claim to love goals. Including one of my most influential mentors, who recently released a series of posts about why goals are so useful. He specifically mentions how he hates the anti-goals philosophy. Ooops. I'm willing to consider there might be something good in goals.

You could make the argument, like my mentor does, that achieving goals is not the point of goals. The point is to make a vision and to have focus and direction and work toward something and make progress. Even "falling short" of a goal is a victory because of how far you've gone forward in reaching for it.

Okay, that sounds alright. But how can we know this progress is "right" for our life? How do we avoid the trap of making progress down a road we later realize we desperately don't want to be on? 

Like people who spend 20 years in a career because it's their "goal" and they want to be "successful", then they suddenly wake up to a void of emptiness in their "accomplishments", and they have a life breakdown. I meet these people. I want to find a better system.

Traditional goal setting, and "SMART" goals have no answer. There is no letter in the SMART acronym that speaks to the spiritual expansion, purpose, and fulfillment that we all seek.

However, as my mentor points out, goals do provide some benefits, and any new system we create needs to include those.

As far as I can tell, here are the positives of goals [with caveats]: 

  1. They provide direction and that's nice. We feel like we are on a path. [But we are still pretending to know an unknowable future.]
  2. Moving toward something feels like progress.  [But by having only a "looking ahead" orientation we are constantly noticing how far we still have to go. This brings in the energy of lack which weakens us.]
  3. They provide focus, a channel for our energy, so we can feel less scattered and more directive. [No caveat. I like this.]
  4. With direction and focus we end up creating something new over time. [I like this aspect. But that thing we build might not be what we really want, or it might end up completely differently than our plan, and this means we did not achieve our physical goal. Even if we love what we created we "failed" in traditional goals terms.]
  5. They can build self-efficacy, which is an extremely important skill. Achieving a goal feels good and shows us our capability. This builds belief in ourselves, which leads to more accomplishment. [But the reverse is also true. When we set a big goal that we don't achieve our self-efficacy takes a hit and reduces our belief in all our other endeavors. This is a subconscious process that is very difficult to consciously halt.]. 

Even the positive aspects of goals come with all kinds of caveats in traditional goal setting. But I think we can all agree that if these positives can be accessed, that adds great power to our lives.  

So here's my big question, can we take the powerful parts of these positive aspects, and get them without the caveats? 

I think we can.

The missing piece of powerful goal-driven work.  

"It’s very difficult to focus on what is important with one’s rational mind alone, because what your conscious mind thinks is important may not be what your subconscious mind thinks is important." - Mark Forster

This post has been a long time coming. I've been digging into this idea and experimenting with this for a few years. Here is what traditional goal setting completely misses, and what we need to bring back in to make them work: 

Everything we do in life we are trying to get is because of how we think we will feel when we get it.

Think about it. Why do you want a better job? You think it will feel better than your current job. And you come up with all kinds of rational reasons for what this might look like. Better salary, better boss, whatever. All those are justifications for you just wanting to feel better in your life.

Why do we want a big house? Comfort and status. Those are feelings. Why do we want a fast car? Fun and coolness. Those are feelings.

Why do we argue with people? Because what they say causes discomfort in us and we think it will feel better if we express it or if they change.

Why do we want a relationship? Or why do we want to get our of our current one? Because we imagine a different situation will feel better than right now.  

Truth: feelings are why we do anything. Some part of us wants to feel happier or safer, or some extension of one of those feelings. And that part of us is deep inside tells our brain what to do. Our brain then has thoughts that match this impulse. 95% percent of our thinking is subconscious and directed by our internal impulses just like I describe. This is science. Look it up. Here's a video where I explain this mechanism more.

We are not really chasing physical items or circumstances in our lives. We are chasing feelings that we think are better than our current feelings. That is the internal motivation for everything.

If you don't believe me, try this. Think of some physical goal you have, something you are working toward. Like "a successful business." Whatever it is, get it in your mind. Now answer this question - how will it feel when you get that goal? Let the feelings come. Example: "Accomplishment or Fun or Freedom.' Okay, cool. Now imagine that your life was full of that feeling all the time. Imagine these feelings were just your default state right now and flowing out of you and nothing could change that. Everything you do is just imbued with that great feeling and you just go through life feeling that way. Let the feelings flood your body because this is how you feel all the time. Now ask yourself, if you felt that way, do you still need your physical goal? 

Once we get honest and mindful enough to notice these mechanisms inside ourselves, traditional goals are revealed for what they truly are - mental approximations of what we think our desired feelings will look like in the physical world.

We really want the feelings, but our brain so quickly translates this into a specific physical image, we think the physical image is what we want.

That's not true. Underneath the image is a feeling. That's what we want. We want to feel good. That is our only motivation. That's were we get our energy and our movement, and that's how we actually live a happy life. We don't feel good by getting stuff. That never lasts. We feel good by accessing the good feelings inside us. The physical circumstances that we think we need are just props. 

Here's the key to using this and making goals better - cut out all the unnecessary mental projection that happens when you start with physical goals. Instead, stay with the feelings, that is the energetic source material that creates in our lives. 

Let's see if we can use feelings to get what we want in our lives. 

How to best use feeling states. 

Let's review. Why are we chasing a goal? Because we want to feel better than now. We think that getting a goal will bring us this better feeling in the future. 

Even in accepting this we face another "problem" - we only feel things in the present moment. If we always think now sucks and I need to get a thing to feel better, I can never feel good right now. Do you see the trap I have created for myself?

Even we get the thing we were chasing to feel better, we notice it only feels better for about 5 minutes, until we are already chasing a new thing. This pattern exists because our brains operate on the false assumption that we can never feel good enough right now. 

So when can we feel happy? There is only one answer. We can only feel happiness in the present moment. The only place we can feel anything is in the present moment.

This is not just some trick of words. There is a huge meaning to this: the only way to have a happy life is to have a series of happy present moments.

You don't get a happy life by doing a bunch of crappy stuff that feels horrible and somehow, pop!, you are happy at the end. No, you will look back and think, why the eff did I choose to be so unhappy for so long?

We are trained from birth to believe that everything we want is in the future, and that is why so few of us ever get what we want.  

Happiness only happens in the present. If we want to experience happiness we need to make choices that make us happy right now. 

If I applied this truth to goal setting, what would happen? 

Putting feelings and goals together in a usable, practical, productive system. 

In summary, we need our new process to do several things:

  • Focus on the feeling states we are really looking for and that are truly motivating us
  • Focus on the present moment where our actually feelings happen and our control and power to do something really is
  • At the same time, allow us to work toward the future we really want to create because even though we can't control it, we do expect to be alive in it
  • Preserve the good stuff of goals: direction, focus, building something over time, self-efficacy
  • Bonus: This process needs to be easy to use and fun. So that we actually do it and it helps us live awesomely!  

These items may seem contradictory, but they are not. 

We just need to add in one important idea for all this criteria to come together: the process is more important than the outcome. 

When we use traditional goal setting we acknowledge that there is a process and set of steps to getting our goal. We call this our plan. Most of just see the plan as the way to get from A to B. We'd be willing to take virtually any plan that gets us to B, because we worship the goal. This is a giant mistake. 

Why? Because the process is actually what you experience!

99% of what you experience trying to get somewhere is the process of getting there. The goal is like being at the top of the mountain, and the process is the packing, the planning, getting the team, going on the hike, journeying together. The process is everything. The goals is just an end result of a process that happened. 

We look back and we say, "We did it!" And what did we do? We spent a couple hours at the top of a mountain and six months in the process to get there. 

We have a goal to write a book. Okay! You are going to spend thousands of hours researching and writing. Your experience of creating a book is 99% the process of researching and writing. You better enjoy that, or writing your book is going to suck.

And then you write your book and what happened? You are happy for the rest of your life? No. You might celebrate for a bit and then immediately you are thinking about what is next. Already onto the next thing you "need" to do.

We experience our goals for a blip in time compared to the hours, days, weeks, and months we spend in our process. The process is where we need to focus. 

If we want to enjoy our lives and have great feeling states, they need to happen in our processes, the things we are doing right now. 

If you want to build a business that feels happy, you have to adopt a process for building it that feels happy along the way. If you want to experience financial freedom then you have to do it with a process that makes you feel free along the way. If you don't do this you will be like those rich people who never feel like they have enough, and are in a permanent state of anxiety despite their physical circumstances.  

Here's the other great thing about process. Unlike some distant goal in the unpredictable future that I can't control, the process is completely controllable right now.

The processes is the habits and the daily, weekly, or monthly step by step elements that build up over time. I can choose exactly how I want to interact with the process in my life right now, from where I am, with what I have. That is so much more empowering and gives me so much more agency compared to working with a traditional future-oriented goal. 

Here we go. Let's put this all together. Here is what I propose for a new system of conscious working and life creation: 

Purposeful Progress Mastery in 4 Steps: 

  1. Feeling states. Define your ideal feeling states. This is what you are really after. There are whole books on this process, but you can start by just picking 3 - 5 feeling words that describe your ideal personal experience. [Feeling states, check.] 
  2. Feeling Process. Now we need a daily process that incorporates these feeling states. This could be a morning routine. A set of mini-commitments, or daily or weekly habits.

    In the beginning, these habits don't need to be related to any project or goal. You are just playing with life and feeling states and building the circumstances that match those feelings with daily progress.

    Let's say one of your desired feeling states is joy. Then the next step is adding daily joy to your life, in the form of experiences that resonate with that pure joy feeling. Whatever brings you joy, do them. These don't even have to be attached to anything "productive" in a traditional sense just yet. These activities don't have to be attached to any physical thing you are building. If they add joy to your life they are fulfilling their most important purpose.

    And then, very often, after following joy for some time, all of a sudden an idea appears that lets you use your joy for a traditionally "productive" project. And because you are good at following your joy you have all you need to dive into that opportunity.

    You don't need to know where these habits are going to take you when you start them. Let's say you want peace. A daily process that feels truly peaceful will build more peace in your life, even if you don't know what that will look like at some point in the future. You will start to feel like you have what you really want in your life, right now.

    Do you see why most goals are backward? We think we need to see and latch onto an exact path to take to get somewhere in the future. But really we want feelings and if we follow those, we get much more of what we really want in the short term and in the long term, even if we don't know in advance what it will look like.

    So you can stop here, at step two. But if you want to get more of your envisioning and mental power involved, add step 3.

    [Feeling states, the present moment, and focus using a daily process. Check]
  3. Feeling Vision. If all this following the actions of your feelings is too unstructured, then bring in that mental picture of something in the future you are working toward, sort of like a goal, that's cool. But we are not going to create this picture from our thoughts and fall into the traps we outlined at the beginning of this piece. We are going to paint our vision based on what we really want - our feelings.

    Start with one feeling state and ask, what would it look like for this feeling state to be fully activated in my life? Draw or write out that picture.

    This gives us the direction we wanted from goals. It gives us an idea of something that we want to build over time. As far as you know in this moment. But because you started with feeling states, this vision is actually something you want in your heart and have the energy to create. You can access that energy any time you want by bringing in this feeling. This is a soul goal. 

    Don't let your thinking about what you "should" do or what things "should" look like control this exercise. In fact, think as little as possible. Our thinking is rooted in the past (another problem with traditional goals), but the future has all kinds of possibilities that did not exist in the past. To access this, we let our feelings paint the picture.

    The picture doesn't need to look like anything we have seen before. 
    You will know if you are imagining a real vision that you want to work toward because you will actually start to feel the feeling state you want in your body right now. That's how you know it's right. 

    Once you have a great feeling vision, just take a look at your process, and choose the process that matches those feelings that you believe best walks you into your feel good vision. Now we have created a true-heart centered path for ourselves.

    [Direction and the idea of something we are working toward, check. All while being anchored in the present moment, check.]
  4. Feeling Check-in / Progress. This is the last step. Change is the only constant in life. This includes our feeling states. So every week, you want to check in to see if you are on track, but unlike traditional goal work, we don't check how far we are from the goal, and we don't even need to see how much progress we made, we check to see that our feeling-based process is working how we want.

    Here is how we check in:

    Part I: ​Did we do what we set out to do?
    "Did I complete my process?" Yes! Self-efficacy!

    "Did my process create the feeling states I wanted in my life?" Yes! You have actually more of what you want already. 

    "Did my process take me steps toward my vision?" Yes! It's still a match for your bigger feeling picture.  

    PART II: Double-check our course or correct course:
    "What are my key core ideal feeling states? Would I describe them differently than in the past?" 

    "Does my process still match my ideal feeling states?"

    "Does my vision still match my ideal feeling states?"

    "Is there a way to modify this process to bring in even more of my ideal feeling states?"

    "Is there a way to modify this process so that it even better moves me toward my ideal vision each time I do it?"  

    This check in is about celebrating and focusing on the part of your experience you actually have control over - the process. You have chosen a process that feels good and builds your vision. You don't need to think about the vision much after that. The vision is a result of the process. The process is what you can do now.

    Make the process a match for you and you will be able to do it easily. When you feel stagnant in your process feel free to change it. One day, after focusing on your feeling state process for some time, you will look back and see how much closer your life looks to what you actually want.

    [Focus, check. Self-efficacy, check.]

There it is. That's a system that satisfies all our criteria. Except one: fun and easy. 

You'll have to decide that for yourself. I happen to think this process is far more fun and easy than traditional goal setting. Because this is not about mentally crunching out goals and plans. 

This is about feeling from the heart how we would love to experience life, imagining what that could be in our future and our present, and then running a process experiment to see what happens. This system bakes in energy management, manifesting potential, and constant learning. 

That sounds way more fun! You're welcome.  

bask in the feeling states

What does this look like in practice? 

I use this process every day. 

This blogazine you are reading right now is a result. 

Some time ago I wiped my blog because I was not enjoying it. Then one day I saw this idea for a magazine-like blog. This idea immediately felt playful. Play is one of my core ideal feeling states. So I knew I was onto something. One of my key processes around Play is to always have a collaborator whenever I start a new project. So I immediately started sharing the idea.

This article you are reading right now is in the first issue of this blogazine, next to amazing articles from other great people. I don't have a goal for this. Yet doing this is a match for what I want to feel and who I want to be. Very satisfying no matter what happens. And who knows what positivity will come that I can't even anticipate? 

All my current projects are like this. Even personal ones. 

By focusing on the feelings and process that creates those feelings right now I've made such incredible progress that my life looks and feels completely different than it did even a couple of years ago. What happens in my projects is everything I could have wanted from a traditional goal using a much more direct, aligned, efficient, and empowering route. 

But I'll keep evaluating because the only constant is change. 

Now it's your turn. 

If you read this far, you deserve a medal. I commend you, however, you're only 20% done.

80% of everything we learn comes from actually doing things in the world. 

Take this system or a piece of it, and try it out. No huge commitments needed. Just experiment. See what happens. That's how you will actually see something new happen and learn something new. 

If you don't like it, fine, you've also learned that you don't like it, which brings you closer to something you do like. You can't lose. 


If you want some further reading or an outside resource on this, I highly recommend Danielle LaPorte. She has a book called the Desire Map, and an associated day planner that helps you build "goals with soul." I love her work and it is the most similar thing out there I have seen to what I am talking about here. 

What do you think about all this? 

Maybe you can think of a better way to say all this in just a few sentences. Brevity has never been my strong suit.

What's your relationship with goals like?
Do you have a better system than this? 
How do you use feeling states to empower you? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below so we can all learn. 

About the Author David Papa

I teach people how to reach into their shadow and pull out their freedom. I teach people how to use their body as a lightning rod for their own spiritual messages and create from the heart. Find your Inner Guru. He, or she, or it, is hilarious.

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