Have you noticed that most of our new year’s resolutions center around stated behaviors, action steps, goals? It certainly makes some sense – after all, we’re trying to engage in actions that are important to us.
But often times, we don’t ask the next set of questions. What is it we’re hoping those actions will help us feel? What do we truly want to feel as we go through our lives this year?
Stop and think about it. What you’re really wanting when you set a goal is a certain way of feeling. Right?
We choose to engage in certain actions and behaviors (we establish goals and intentions) because we really want to feel something specific and good. Underneath every goal is a desired feeling.
For example, one of my goals is to increase my public speaking engagements this year. Why? Just to do more speaking? I do get a lot of joy and fulfillment from public speaking! But there’s a deeper issue. Because I want to feel significant. I want to feel enthralled (which comes from using my strengths in a broader setting that puts me in my “zone,” my wheelhouse of abilities). I want to feel like I’m making an increasingly bigger difference in the world, in people’s lives.
And as it turns out, it’s our feelings that are actually the most powerful drivers behind our aspirations.
The Neuroscience Behind Feelings
Here’s how: the brain pathways for emotions make their way directly to the areas that generate attention (and vice versa). In other words, the way we feel – and our choices to feel certain emotions – can powerfully direct our attention. And where we direct our attention produces that outcome – our brains automatically begin developing a map (“motor maps/action plans”) for how to make that happen. Attention is what brings to life our intentions.
For example, people who are anxious are more prone to identifying anxiety-provoking or fearful things than people who are not. What’s the outcome?
“What I often tell people is that when they spend their lives in dread, they are writing an invitation to the feared outcome rather than preventing it.” (Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear, p. 55, by Dr. Srinivasan S. Pillay, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and executive coach)
The point is, the reverse holds equally true. When you choose to focus on positive feelings, you activate your attention which in turn activates your intention. Feelings are the most powerful drivers behind our aspirations.
My Practice of Focusing on Feeling Words
So here’s what I’ve been doing the last few years:
Step one: I look at a list of feeling words and allow any of those words to jump out at me. Which ones are speaking to me right now? Which ones seem to be calling out to me – feelings that I’m wanting to feel more deeply than others this year? I make a list of 3-5 feeling words. If your list is longer, go through that list and keep narrowing it down until you reach 3-5.
Here’s the list I use: Feeling Words
Step two: I write a one-two sentence definition of each word. By specifying a definition, I’m bringing greater clarity to why this feeling word is really resonating with me. And the more clarity I have, the more targeted and powerful my attention is and therefore the more possible my intention becomes.
Questions to ask: What does this word really mean to me? What does the word feel like? What are examples of this feeling word? Why is it valuable to me? Why do I want to feel this way this year? What is it about this word that is calling out to me?
Step three: I make a list of 3-5 accomplishments (intentions) for each feeling word that I believe if I engage in them will help me feel that way. And I like to break those intentions down like this (thanks to blogger Danielle LaPorte for this idea):
Three things I will do today to generate these feelings; Three things I will do this week to generate these feelings; Three things I will do this quarter to generate these feelings.
Step four: I share my list with several trusted people a) so I can stay focused – sharing deepens impact, and b) so I can have accountability with my process as the year goes by.
What I Want to Feel More Of in 2014
Here’s the way my list turned out for 2014 (in case some of this might stimulate your creativity): MY 2014 FEELING WORDS
Every time I read my list of words, my inner spirit jumps up, I feel real positive energy inside, and hope increases as I anticipate the year. It’s keeping me focused on what’s most important to me. And I can already tell these feelings, and my attention on them, are driving forward my intentions.
I challenge you to do this process, too. And let me know what your feeling words are for 2014.
Looking for a Speaker or Coach?
If you or someone you know in your organization is looking for a keynote speaker or workshop teacher for events in your company, congregation, or association gatherings, I would be happy to come speak on this theme or others like it. And interested in strengths coaching? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.