If you’re already cringing at your to-do list for this year, overwhelmed by the lofty goals you set mid-hangover on January 1st, you still have time to revise your goals. Look at your list, or vision board, or journal. Often we list all the things we want to achieve throughout the year—weightloss, income, a vacation—without considering why these things are so important to us. You may have many surface reasons, such as, “I deserve a raise, damn it!”, but likely there’s an emotion tied to your desires. How do you want to feel this year may be a more appropriate way to look at goal-setting than what do you want to do.

At a recent Vision Boarding Party I co-hosted with Quinn Abbey, Desire Map Facilitator, Yoga Instructor and soon-to-be guest on the Own Up Grown-Up podcast, we prompted attendees to consider using their vision boards to illustrate how they want to feel in 2017.

Last year around this time, I created my first-ever vision board. I always thought vision boards were silly, but I decided to give it a try. I was so desperate to make some big changes in my life that I was willing to try anything.

They work.

My vision board spent the year on my bedside table, where I saw it every day. Every day, it reminded me to keep at it. And you know what? While I didn’t achieve some of the loftier goals, I achieved all the ones that had to do with my emotional state.

In the middle of 2016’s vision board was the word “freedom”. At this time last year, I didn’t feel free. I felt like I had no control over my time, I had to have a smartphone on me at all times for work, I was trying to build a business while battling exhaustion in the evenings. Things weren’t terrible, but I didn’t feel free. And, as a rebellious, free-willed person (rules are not my friend) my life just felt wrong. The rat race was never for me.

By Christmas 2016—I spent the weekend with my husband snowboarding, hot tubbing, and drinking wine—it dawned on me that for the first time in years I felt free. I work from home now, my hours are flexible, and while I work a lot more, I can take a break when I want, sleep in when I need to, and take an extra day off when a family member shows up at my place mid-week. I’m considering spending at least a month in another country this year because I can (suggestions?).

Feeling this way has opened me up to all kinds of things, such as coming to terms with materialism and prioritizing time with family. While a vision board might not have been necessary, I credit it with motivating me while I sped through several learning curves last year. And, after a year of trying to figure all kinds of things out, it helped me come back to those core desires and tweak things even more.

You’ve probably heard of the Law of Attraction. The film “The Secret” made it seem like all you had to do was stick a photo of your dream home on your fridge in order to get it, but it’s not that simple.

John Assaraf, a behavioral and mindset expert, says that visualization works in two ways: you start to consciously recognize everything that will help you achieve your goal and it conditions your subconscious, which helps you attract and move you toward your goal.

Professional athletes use this practice all the time.

Dreaming means ‘rehearsing’ what you see, playing it over and over in your mind until it becomes as real to you as your life right now.”—Emmitt Smith, American football player.

In a study on everyday people, exercise psychologist Guang Yue found that people who visualized weight training actually increased their muscle strength by 13.5%—without going to the gym!

I’ve been skeptical of this stuff my whole life, but now I believe it works. When you understand the emotional reason behind what you want, you gain clarity. When you can see and feel your goals it becomes easier to attain them. You’re committed.

Knowing how you want to feel can act like a filter for choices. For example, where before I would take almost any work opportunity that came my way I now put these requests through my freedom filter. The same thing goes for event invitations, which I put through a wellness filter—if attending the event means I won’t be able to exercise or rest, or if it goes so late that I know I’ll end up feeling like crap the next day, I’ll often say no (and then work really hard on my FOMO). The result is that I feel great a lot more, because I’ve slept enough, eaten well, made the right social connections, and exercised outdoors without feeling rushed. I’m not immune to PMS or being emotionally triggered by an event, but I feel much more able to handle these things because I’m not constantly reacting to bad choices.

How would you like to feel this year?

At the Vision Boarding Party, participants said things like “light” and “connected”. Maybe you want to feel confident, loved, calmer, or curious. You probably want to experience a whole bunch of emotions that pertain to different areas in your life.

Now think about those desired feelings in the context of the things you want to achieve this year. One of my goals this year is to simplify my life, and the emotional reason behind that is that I want to feel free, connected, and energetic. To me, simplifying things will help me find more time and energy to find and be present for social and creative connections.

vision board own up grown-up

Vision Board 2017, almost finished!

I’d love to hear what the emotions are behind your goals this year. Share in the comments!

And, by the way, have you joined our private Facebook group yet? Get in on the epic discussions related to this project!