The One Question You Should Ask Yourself If You Want to Be More Fulfilled in Every Area of Your Life

Photo: Danielle LaPorte
Ever notice how the things you think will make you happier—a new job, a raise, a date for Friday night—don't always change your life as much as you think they will? Sure, there's a momentary high that comes with having extra cash in the bank or a good make-out session. But when that fades, you might find you feel pretty much the same as you did prior to your big achievement.

A bummer, for sure—but it doesn't have to be this way, says Oprah-approved author and spiritual leader Danielle LaPorte. As she sees it, we're all conditioned to approach goal-setting in the wrong way, from our heads rather than from our hearts. "We’ve been taught that the winning game is with logic and strategy and thinking our way to success," she says. "But when you set a goal, you're not actually chasing that goal—you’re chasing a feeling. The power is in the heart, and we have to relearn how to create from that place."

The key to doing this, she says, is to ask yourself one question before you set any objective for yourself: How do I want to feel? By pinpointing your "core desired feelings"—a process outlined in LaPorte's new course, The Desire Map, available on the wellness education platform Commune—you can get clear on which of your dreams will lead to lasting happiness. It'll also make it really obvious which goals you're pursuing for the wrong reasons, like out of obligation or fear of leaving your comfort zone.

"When you set a goal, you're not actually chasing that goal—you’re chasing a feeling." —Danielle LaPorte, creator of The Desire Map

"Your core desired feelings are the way you want to feel most of the time," LaPorte explains. "They're your preferred states of being, and they move you in the direction of your higher self." She adds that everyone's core desired feelings are different—after all, there are hundreds of feelings a person can have, and in this process you uncover the ones that feel best to you based on a series of exercises—and that there's no set number you should be aiming for. Some people hone in on one or two, while LaPorte has a list of five. (So do I: Mine are "adventurous," "connected," "creative," "generous," and "magical.") But they tend to be feelings you've been drawn to long-term, maybe even throughout your whole life.

So how do you figure out what your core desired feelings are? First of all, says LaPorte, you should start with some type of gratitude practice, which will put you into the ideal headspace for choosing your core desired feelings. "You want to be choosing from a sense of wholeness, of fullness—not saying 'I'm broken and unworthy so I want to feel these things,'" she says. "Gratitude affects your brain chemistry, and when those happy chemicals get circulating, you see things differently."

The next step, LaPorte says, is to pull out your journal. The Desire Map course is filled with questions that'll help you uncover your core desired feelings (and exhaustive lists of example feelings, if you're stumped), but LaPorte says there are a few key prompts to start with. "The simplest thing is to think about all of the things you're tired of feeling—what's the opposite of that? Those are probably indicators of your core desired feelings." Another thought-starter, she says, is to ask your inner child what they need to feel; ask your superhero self how they intend to feel; and ask your future self how they already feel.

It'll probably take you a while to narrow down and refine your core desired feelings—maybe even a few weeks. But once you've locked them in, LaPorte suggests looking at your current life goals and seeing if they're in sync with how you want to feel. "You may double down on a goal because it's so aligned with a feeling, but you might find that what you've been chasing isn't going to generate that feeling for you," she says. For example, you could realize that getting a promotion at work actually isn't going to make you feel, say, more free or peaceful. If that's the case, you should stop striving for it and start brainstorming new ways to bring those feelings into your workday.

Then, it's up to you to make your core desired feelings a part of your daily life, applying them to everything: relationships, health, career, hobbies, and spiritual pursuits alike. "You use them like a mantra," says LaPorte, who recommends reciting them in the morning and before you go to bed. "Ask yourself every day—and when you're planning your quarterly or yearly objectives—what are you going to do to feel the way you want to feel? Use them to guide your big decisions." BRB, going to overhaul my entire five-year plan...

For more intel on how to boost your contentment, take this quiz to discover your happiness language and add this mood-boosting snack recipe to your meal-prep list.

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