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Sometimes an idea just sticks. That was the case for Danielle LaPorte. When she sat down to write her goals for the year nearly a decade ago, she had every intention of achieving them. “New kitchen table. Pay off credit card. Lose 10 pounds,” she recalls in her best-selling book The Desire Map. But her list read more like a collection of ho-hum to-dos than cherished dreams.

“It didn’t matter if I wanted to write a book or if I wanted to pay off my credit card; I might have been moti-vated, but I wasn’t inspired,” she says. “I’d rather live my life on inspiration.”

So LaPorte ditched traditional goal-setting methods and instead scribbled some energizing feelings: freedom, abundance, sexy, connected, creative. Rather than focusing on practical goals, she envisioned a more engaging year: Have a dinner party once a month. Take a two-week canoe trip. Self-publish.

“That was my epiphany moment, when I wrote out my goals. They were really innocent questions: How do I want to feel? What am I going to do this year to feel that way?” she says. “I threw out a lot of goals because they actually had nothing to do with supporting me in feeling the way I’ve always wanted to feel.”

She winnowed her list down to four key feelings — feminine, connected, innovative, affluent — and wrote them on the “sticky note that would change everything,” she writes. She kept the note in her planner to reference daily, and those four feelings guided her.

In 2010 that sticky note helped her survive a coup d’état, as she calls it, when she was ousted from the lifestyle media company she cofounded (she says now it was the best thing that could have happened to her). It later inspired her to write her first book, The Fire Starter Sessions, and then The Desire Map, which grew into a multimedia franchise: a planner, an app, and licensed workshops nationwide.

And it continues to guide her as she inspires people to create their own sticky notes, so they can also invest in feeling their most satisfied and reaching their full potential.

Q&A With Danielle LaPorte

Experience Life | You eschew traditional goal setting to create what you call “goals with soul.” How is your approach different?

Danielle LaPorte | After hundreds of conversations with people about “success” — and I always put “success” in quotes, because it’s a relative term — I’ve learned that people aren’t really going after just the goal. What they’re after is feeling certain way. We are feeling-driven creatures. When you get clear on how you want to feel, then you have a conscious relationship with your goals.

EL | Why do you think it’s so crucial for us to connect more deeply with our feelings?

DL | How you feel matters. For so many people, that is a revelation. How you feel when your boss talks to you, how you feel when you get dressed, how you feel when you worship — these things matter more than your obligations. They matter more than your goals, actually. If you have enough self-love and self-respect to let your feelings matter and make them a priority, you’re going to make choices that are healthy for your whole being.

EL | Connecting with these feelings and truths can be scary. How can we get more comfortable with this kind of honesty?

DL | I’m not saying any of this is easy — I’m saying it’s worth it. It’s heavy for a lot of people, but you’re going to fall madly in love with the rewards of being your true self. The rewards will eclipse the discomfort. Setting yourself free takes some tension, some resistance, and some grind. Mostly, it takes some devotion.

EL | What if that truth leads us to realize we’ve been living a lie or makes us feel like an impostor? Where do we go from there?

DL | Some of us feel like we’re faking it because we are. We just need to fess up to that: I really don’t love what I’m doing. I don’t want to be wearing this suit. I really don’t like you people. We are afraid we are going to get found out because we are hiding something.

Getting real about what you are hiding, without any self-judgment, gives you the chance to choose whether you want to come out or whether you have to change course. The biggest hurdle is honestly answering Who am I? It’s also breaking through the lingering messages or stigmas from previous situations or from family.

EL | How do we tap into our bravery to overcome that fear?

DL | There’s a heavy way and there’s a lighter way. Most people make change when they’re in enough pain, or they’re getting the same hard lessons again and again and just can’t do it anymore.

The other way is to get clear on how you want to feel. Invest in doing whatever it takes to feel that way. Commit yourself, because it is black and white: Are you in? Do you want to live fully? It’s not necessarily about accomplishing more. It’s about accomplishing the right thing that makes you feel good. You might decide to accomplish way less.

EL | What if we decide to accomplish less and spend all our free time binge-watching TV?

DL | Sometimes the healthy choice will be to sit on the couch and watch TV, because that’s going to create happiness chemicals in your body. Then you may shift into taking a walk or joining a running club. The point is, you’ll be making choices that are really based on self-love, which usually leads to a healthy outcome.

If you enjoy your food choices and your exercise, you’ll get better results. You can feel your way to results because you have less resistance. There’s less punishing, negative energy coursing through your psyche and body. Everything works better if you enjoy it — sex, earning money, food. It all works better if it feels good.

EL | What healthy behaviors do you practice that feel like sound investments in yourself?

DL | I don’t do anything out of obligation. I feel free about all my choices. Listening to my heart, to the cues of my body — that’s the ultimate self-respect.

One of my core desired feelings right now is radiance, so I created a wellness plan that makes me feel radiant. It has to do with sweat. It has to do with music and movement. It has to do with something feminine. For me, it means clean eating — I committed to organic a long time ago. I have finally learned that sleep is magic, so I get enough sleep. I have a regular contemplation practice that’s a huge part of my life, because meditating allows me to make better choices. I work a lot with light, and I hang out with fun people. I live a low-preservative, high-light lifestyle. I’m a big fan of investing in time. My health, my son, and my friends are my priorities. I invest in my joy. My joy always leads to prosperity.

Photography by Kwaku Alston

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