How Travel Changed the Way I Set Goals

(Or: on getting and staying gutsy)

2013, for me, was a lot of things.  One thing it was not?  It was not boring.  Not even in the slightest.

After several post-college years of feeling complacent and stuck, of doing what was easiest or staying put in situations that my gut was telling me to get out of — 2013 was an (overdue) year of bravery.  That bravery led to some of my highest highs: true freedom, new possibilities, confidence, traveling to sixteen countries and generally loving life — and to some of my lowest lows, such as anxiety, self-doubt, unemployment and heartbreak.

(Note: Prior to 2013, I don’t think I even had the bravery to write this post!)

Seeing as it was such an eventful year, I feel more compelled than ever to evaluate how I got to where I am now–and where I want to go next.

Hiking in Lake Como, Italy.

Looking forward in Lake Como, Italy.

I am not generally one to make New Year’s resolutions.  It wasn’t until I felt the weight of NOT moving forward that I discovered the power of setting intentions (and experienced the beauty of reaching them.)  This was a roundabout process, and that’s only the beginning.

If, prior to 2013, I gave you a list of my accolades, accomplishments, and a copy of my resume, I’d be willing to bet you’d conclude: I’m doing just fine at setting and reaching goals.

Yet through my quarter-life struggles, I have ended up with an entirely different, deeper understanding of what “goals” really mean, really are.  Of course, it was setting goals for travel last year that really solidified this for me.

I realized this only after sitting down to somehow process all the change I went through in the last year.  I found myself focusing on the negativity that came out of the end of 2013.  Life just didn’t look the way I had hoped it would when I returned home from my travels.  Yet why was I still allowing residual feelings of the last few months overshadow all the good that came before (and during) it?

I decided to do what I do best…I made a list.  I wrote out the months of the year and left blank space under each. I went through and revisited each month, where I was, what I did, what I had accomplished.

I was already feeling better when the list began to look like this:

  • Motorcycled through the Vietnamese countryside
  • Ate street food, took cooking classes across Asia, the Middle East, and Europe
  • Saw the Pyramids, Petra, Angkor Wat, the Acropolis, and the Taj Mahal (again.)
  • Went back to India
  • Hot air ballooned in Turkey
  • Went wreck diving in the Red Sea
  • Chatted with monks in Laos and Burma
  • Explored the ruins of not just ancient Egypt, but Greece and Rome too
  • Saw Venice, finally made it to Greek Islands, hiked Cinque Terre
  • Went brunette (yikes)
  • Lived in Paris by myself in a pied-à-terre
  • Finally quit the job that I knew wasn’t for me

 

Then I went back and wrote next to all the “things.”  I added how I felt as a result.  The list began to look like this:

  • Restored my faith in humanity
  • Fulfilled childhood dreams
  • Overcame fears
  • Stopped holding limiting beliefs
  • Got in touch with my authentic self
  • Escaped a life I wasn’t feeling
  • Pursued my passions
  • Found and nurtured lifelong friendships
  • Opened my mind to new cultures, new ways of life
  • Fulfilled dreams I didn’t even know I had
  • Embraced adventure and uncertainty
  • Fell in love with life again

This was revolutionary to me!  Too often we are all guilty of setting our sights on a particular job, place, person, or even trip.  We envision and pursue the steps it will take to get there.   I’m not knocking this process.  But if that hasn’t been working for you, or if you obtain said sights only to desire new ones…perhaps a new approach is in order.

The obvious problem with focusing on any specific “thing” in your goals is that we are never satisfied.  Once we “get it,” there’s always something new to chase.  The other is that we may be so hyper-focused on achieving that we miss out on other, perhaps better avenues to the feeling we ultimately want.

Then it hit me: it is not so much the specific person, place, title, or thing we want… it is the feeling we think we will have once we get it.  

Wine and laughter in Santorini, Greece

Life doesn’t always look/feel like this…but isn’t it great when it does?

Typical New Year Resolutions tend to sound like this: once I get the new car, once I fall in love, once I get the promotion…then I’ll be happy.  Or, even worse…once I stop this habit, get away from that, etc.  THEN I’ll be happy/confident/accomplished, right?

What if instead of willingly stepping onto the novelty treadmill–in which what you want ends up always just out of reach–you simply decided how you want to feel?  After all, that is what we truly desire when we set goals.

Danielle LaPorte calls this identifying your “core-desired feelings.”  This New Year’s Eve my girlfriends and I called it “setting your intentions.”  For 2014, instead of listing goals that read: quit my job, travel the world, find direction (that was SO 2013 :) ) — I’m going to set out to feel connected, challenged, and focused.

So go ahead, make some lists.  Don’t forget to include how you felt, how you want to feel.  Your chances of success just went up.  

I feel better about this year (and the last) already.  Don’t you?

Was 2013 all you hoped it would be? Did you step outside your comfort zone to do things you once never thought possible? Have big plans for 2014? Bright, shiny, big goals you want to crush in the New Year?

Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals. I’m participating in Jessica Lawlor’s #GetGutsy Essay Series. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for details.


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6 Comments

  1. Anne,

    The second I landed on your site; I felt energized. Your site challenges us to live; and do so without fear. Looking at your photos, reading your words, makes me feel that I am on an adventure.

    Thank you so much. You are a divine being.

    Sincerely,
    Linda

    • Hi Linda,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and write such kind words. It is people like you that make all the time spent and yes, fear…of putting myself out there worth it. I can’t tell you what your response means to me.

      I wish you all the best in this adventure we call life. Thank you for inspiring me to continue on mine.

      Gratefully,
      Anne

  2. Ahhhhhhhhh. That is the sound of my exhalation after reading this beauty of a post from you. You are WELL on your way, in a fabulous no-holds-barred kind of way. Can’t wait to see what 2014 is for you!

    • Thank you, Naomi. Trying to live by “let your faith be bigger than your fear” this year (as I now see I somewhat did last year without intending to!) You are a huge source of inspiration and support to me and I am grateful for that.

  3. Whoa, Anne. This is the smartest way of looking at goals that I’ve seen in a long, long time.

    It’s so simple, but powerful to think about how you want to FEEL. I definitely want to incorporate more of that thinking into my every day life.

    I can’t wait to get to know you better and continue reading your blog. I absolutely love it so far!

    Thanks for participating in the contest <3

    • Hi Jessica – thank you for the kind comment. Most of all I want to thank you for creating a space for others to reflect and share the pursuit of “getting gutsy.” I just love it!
      I intended to write this post to help others, and I ended up helping myself quite a bit in the process. I’m so happy I stumbled upon your blog and look forward to reading more, as well.
      Thank you for the inspiration and support!

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