The power of aligning feeling + action

DesireMap_DanielleLaPorte_RGB A year ago, I embarked on the Desire Map process, nestled into a comfy chair with tea and the worksheet pages spread out, around me. I scribbled away in the silence of my home office, excited for the new year to come.

I arrived at these core desired feelings:

  • Sacred connection
  • Freedom
  • Powerful
  • Sensuous Delight
  • Affluent

The process of Desire Mapping is about using your feelings to guide your decisions, rather than setting an arbitrary list of goals that would might look good to accomplish but ultimately leave you feeling empty. Part of the delight of this process was realizing just how many things I was already doing in my life that supported all of these feelings–which had me excited about how I could up the ante.

If you had asked me in late 2012 which of these feelings was most important to me, I probably would have said, “Freedom.” Whether we’re talking Core Desired Feelings or personal values, freedom always makes the list and I’ve typically thought of freedom as my highest value.

To my surprise, what I’ve found in 2013 is that the feeling that actually brings me the most happiness, the greatest sense of ease, and the feeling that really ends up influencing the others, is the CDF of sensuous delight.

I wrote about living in the world of sensuous delight here, and with CDFs, it’s all about how you use them.

When I need a five-minute breather, and I don’t want to zone out with Facebook? It’s off to my sensuous delight board on Pinterest, which contains everything from nubby sweaters to photographs of ocean spray to bold hues of color to chubby babies to photo stills from the movie Marie Antoinette.

When I notice that I keep ruminating on something and need to get out of my head? It’s time to make soup. Chopping carrots, sautéing the onions until they caramelize, the smell of fresh cilantro, or even the trip to the grocery store beforehand where I consider five different kinds of olive oil–all a delight to the senses.

Just honoring this one CDF of “sensuous delight” is an honor to the others. I feel affluent as I chop the vegetables that are splayed abundantly across the counter. I feel powerful when I consciously choose to take a moment to breathe and feel the breath move through my body. I feel sacred connection–to myself and others and the world–when my senses are engaged and I’m noticing the unique sky that never will be, again, at 3:00 in the afternoon on a Wednesday.

What I love best about the process is the simplicity of it. There aren’t fifteen things to do; there’s one: honor that one Core Desired Feeling. Things start arranging themselves with more ease, from there.

What I see happening in 2014:

My business is growing by leaps and bounds. I looked at my year-to-date PayPal sales records the other day and went, “Holy Shmoley–made more money this year, and worked about half as much, including taking the summer months off of work, entirely. Wow.”

The big vision is to bring the world of sensuous delight into my business’s growth and daily operations. Writing is love, and I love to write, but other than that, I don’t want to be attached to an electronic device–computer, phone, email, ipad, whatever. My preferred writing space is the white-on-white design of my home office, with its coziness and silence–so I’ve got that covered.

The challenge: Needing to respond to emails or deadlines leaves me feeling distant from “sensuous delight,” and I’m still working out how I want to have a different relationship to both. I constantly debate about whether or not I want to hire someone, weighing the pros and cons of training, working styles, and time needed to communicate back and forth (does this add to, or detract from, a feeling of sensuous delight? Does this augment feelings of being free, or create more obligations?).

I share this little window into both the vision and the challenge of it all to bring transparency to the fact that this is such an active process. When Danielle calls these your Core Desired Feelings, it’s truly that–they’re feelings. When we feel, we’re conscious, we’re present, we’re engaged.

I love planning and action steps–my own Courageous Living Planner is coming out on December 12th–but it’s got to be paired with the feeling. In fact, the feeling needs to be in the driver’s seat (they’re what are driving things, anyway, whether we’re aware of it, or not). Feelings and actions in communion create something revolutionary.

“Small, deliberate actions inspired by your true desires create a life you love.” –Danielle LaPorte, The Desire Map

The truth about being smart

In my mid-20s, I had an unexpectedly profound experience that changed me: I saw a documentary on people living in Appalachia. The documentary profiled a family of “hillbillies,” including their kinship networks, how they survived financially at the bottom of the financial food chain, how they made their way in the world with limited education and in some cases illiteracy, and their struggles and their triumphs.

They had an ease and understanding with each other, a familiarity. They had loyalty, willing to share their already limited resources with one another for the survival of all.

What was striking was this: despite being poor and uneducated, these people had something that I didn’t have, despite all of my smarts.

* * *

A decade ago, all I thought I wanted in life was a tenure-track professorship. I spent the weekends scouring the clearance aisle at Banana Republic to find suits; I joined eight different academic committees (most full-time professors are on maybe 2 or 3); I signed up for time in the campus tutoring labs.

I was working so hard so that I could get the job so that I could have the things so that I could validate the accomplishments so that I could live a good life–and to do that, I thought, you needed to be smart.

Everyone adopts certain “identities” and uses those identity systems to navigate the world. In my case, “Smart” had become the armor and shield to protect me from life’s failures (If I was just smart enough about things, I wouldn’t make mistakes–or feel pain).

“Smart Person” had become an identity–one that I needed to maintain at all costs. I feared looking like a fool if I made a mistake in front of the classroom. I wanted to read all of the right books, so that my faculty cohort wouldn’t know that I had never studied “the canon.” I sought out friendships with other like-minded people who would also make high-minded conversation at dinner parties. I wanted the intellectual debate and discourse.

Because I was so attached to the “Smart Person” identity, I wanted to surround myself with really smart people. In those communities, as Dr. Brene Brown puts it, I “hustled for my worthiness.”

Ugh–the arrogance! I feel compassion for the woman I was, who didn’t know that it was okay for her to be herself without striving to appear so smart, in the hopes that that would bring her connection.

As you can imagine, it was empty. I could make conversation at a party, but I couldn’t get truly vulnerable. The comparisons and one-upmanship were mentally exhausting. Sometimes, the dark side of the ego that was driving me to protect and maintain my “Smart Person” identity did so at all costs, making me judgmental of someone else’s conversational faux-pas or their mispronunciation of a word.

The thing is, “smart” doesn’t get you anywhere, if where you’re trying to go is being smarter than everyone else. (Click here to tweet that).

It’s like trying to be forever youthful and gorgeous. Eventually, the mind fades–and eventually, the skin sags. Eventually, someone else has the new and innovative idea, or inevitably, you’ll arrive at the party tired and unable to keep up with the conversation.

Furthermore, everyone can see someone with that “Smart Person” identity as they are hustling. Everyone. The more they hustle, the less anyone wants to be around them. Few people like being corrected, or having someone bring up a devil’s advocate position purely for the debate. Few people like sharing what they know about a topic and having someone contradict them to get their own point of view in.

The very thing that someone’s using their “Smart Person” identity to get, ends up being the very thing that drives people away. I wanted connection more than anything, yet for all of my smarts, I couldn’t “figure out” why people distanced themselves. Yet, the people in that documentary with 1/5 the education that I’d had, already had that connection, with ease.

* * *

I had to learn a few things, to release my attachment to the identity of “Smart Person” and all the behaviors that went along with it.

One, I’m not nearly as smart as I used to think I was. Sure, I’ve got smarts–I’ve just stopped over-inflating my capacity in comparison to others, stopped using it as the “Smart Person” identity that justifies all of my choices or how I’m better or what they should be doing, differently.

I feared releasing this identity–I’d built an entire existence around it–and yet now, this is a relief. It’s far less work to just be in a conversation, fully, than it is to be thinking of the next witty thing to say in the hopes that it will be impressive and thus have me be liked, and it’s far less pressure to admit when I don’t know or don’t understand than it is to keep nodding and pretending as if I do.

Two, I’ve found that if you observe others who are using their “Smart Person” identity to navigate the world, you’ll find that it’s the same for them. They aren’t nearly as smart as they think they are. I don’t say that unkindly or as a put-down. I say it to share that if you feel intimidated around them, there’s no reason to. When someone clings to any identity system, they’re going to do what they can to defend it because “that’s who I am.” We all have identity systems that we cling to. Part of the “Smart Person” identity system is maintained through intimidation and perfectionism. Instead of finding that intimidating, find compassion in your heart. It’s a painful place to live.

Three, I actually don’t care about intellect as much as I thought I did. Once the “Smart Person” identity started to fall away, I realized that part of the fallacy of the “Smart Person” identity is that what you know is the prized position, and what you know is your only limited currency.

When I meet someone who desperately needs everyone to know that she’s smart because she clings to the “Smart Person” identity, I immediately understand that I may learn fascinating things in my conversations with her, but unless she’s willing to drop deeper than the intellect, there will be limits to the connection in that relationship.


What you know is far less important than who you choose to be. (Click to tweet).

It’s far less important that someone is smart, than it is that they are kind. (Click to tweet).

Your intelligence drops drastically in value, when it’s used to serve internal mental dysfunction (comparisons, “better than” mentalities, hierarchies, “putting people in their place”), rather than creating internal peace and external connection.

The truly brilliant minds of this world are the ones that use their brilliance to contribute, not the ones that need to be right in a conversation. (Click to tweet).

The measure of someone’s true intellect is in how she uses it to create good in the world, starting with the world that begins in her home, at her dinner table, in her job, with her family, in her community.

That’s the kind of intelligence that matters.


the “secret” to rocking out: do your thing, and that’s that

I was working with a client during a Blueprint Session and asked how she wants her business to feel.

She said, “I want it to feel…easy. I look at what you’ve created, and it’s like you’re part of this online group of friends, and if you put it out there that you need help promoting your new offering, people just step in to help. Or you decide that you want to work on a book proposal or that you’re going to start a training program or a new whatever, and then you just do that, and it works.”

I had to take a brief moment then to share with her that while it might appear this way, this is only about half true.

I make plenty of requests where people say yes, or they respond kindly to say that they appreciate being asked, but that right now, it’s not a match.

I also make requests, and people tell me “no.” Or they ignore my email. Or they tell me they’ll participate and then totally flake. (Uh, and haven’t we all? These aren’t bad people. They’re people who do or don’t respond–and sometimes, that’s me.)

I meet people from the online world and it seems as if we’d get along really well, and we do become friends.

I also meet people from the online world and it seems as if we’d get along really well, and I extend myself in friendship, and they don’t reciprocate. (Yep, I’ve been the one not inclined to reciprocate, too–these aren’t bad people. These are people making choices about what’s best for their lives).

I’ve created programs and offerings that are wildly successful (like this and this). I also create programs that, while I felt they had a ton of value, never really picked up traction.

“You should tell everyone that,” she said. “I think most of us doing the online business thing think that whatever someone else is up to, they’re just rocking out at it.”

So after getting her permission to write about this dialogue, I want to add: Despite the “no” responses that I get roughly half the time, I do feel that I’m rocking out at it. Here’s the secret to rocking out your life (air quotes around “secret” of course):

Yes, I feel excitement and elation when someone gives me their “yes” or when I get an invite to be part of a celebration with great people.

I also feel disappointment when things don’t work out, when I get the no, or the ignored email, or when I initiate a friendship and it doesn’t go anywhere.

Yet I’d still say I’m rocking out because I’ve discovered the “secret” (which is not really a secret, though it feels like one until you figure it out) to rocking out:

You do your thing, and that’s that.

Don’t reach out to people with requests and make it about whether or not they say “yes.” Do your thing, whether they say yes, or not. Make the request because it’s important to you and your personal evolution, not because they are your gatekeeper.

Don’t extend yourself in friendship only when you’re guaranteed to have a spark with someone. Do your thing, extending yourself, because it’s what you want to do, and how you want to live.

Don’t decide to put your program or offering or course out there only when you have some kind of “evidence” that it’ll be a hit. Put yourself out there because you do your thing, and your thing in that moment is putting yourself out there. Create the offering because you can’t NOT create the offering.

There is no exact recipe for success, but I know that I’ll always feel successful in my life if the next program that I create is created because I genuinely wanted to create it–because, frankly, I couldn’t stop thinking about creating it. In an interview, I once described the feeling I have when I’m creating a new course or digital program as being very much like pulling together a surprise gift for someone.

The fun is in the surprising and the scheming and the plotting. There’s zero fun in the space of “Will they like me/it?”

And, of course, don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that at some point when you’re somehow “better,” you’ll stop hearing “no.”

Plenty of people with huge platforms and all the connections in the world still get passed over, or hear “no” or just have their emails ignored. Plenty of people who are the most charming, interesting, engaging people reach out to connect with someone, and it just doesn’t quite gel.

The success lies not in whether or not you get the external “yes.” The success lies in whether you did it because you wanted to.

Click to tweet: “The success lies in whether you did it because you wanted to.”