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The Single Question That is Changing the Way I Plan and Set Goals

The Single Question That is Changing the Way I Plan and Set Goals

For most of my adult life, I have been a time management, goal achieving, and planning machine. In the world of Myers-Briggs, I would call myself an “off-the-chart J” – I planned my work and worked my plan. My life was driven by my calendar. If it was on the calendar – it happened. If it wasn’t on the calendar – it didn’t happen. My family learned how to work within this little organizational system of fitting in work, school schedules, holidays, vacations, etc.

And yet… I was always exhausted. There never seemed to be time to relax or even to imagine possibilities that were outside of all the demands of my life.

As a small business owner, I’m preparing for my 2017 planning process. I’m asking the usual questions of myself: “What do I want to accomplish?” “How can I best serve my clients?” “How much money do I need/want to make?” But every time I start going down this list, I notice a pit in my stomach. I feel like I’m dragging myself into this process and haven’t been sure what this low energy meant. Did it mean I’d lost passion for what I do?

[Related: How to Manage Changes and Transitions Successfully]

Then, one of my sons and I were talking about a challenge I was facing. His response was both admiration and enlightenment. “Mom, you are a master at turning lemons into lemonade. Your whole life you have taken situations where you could have lost hope or inspiration and turned them into something remarkable.” A part of me was so appreciative to be seen this way through my son’s eyes and to know that for him to admire this quality, he also had integrated it.

Then another part of me went “ugh.” Again? I immediately connected to the feelings when I’m ‘turning lemons into lemonade.’ I’m worried. I’m stressed. I’m racking my brain. I dream about the issue and I wake up thinking about the issue. Eventually, things work out, and I’m depleted. And then the next challenge comes.

And then I asked myself the question that is almost never spoken in business: “How would I like to feel?”

So I tried it on. How would I like to feel about challenges in my life? How would I like to feel when working with clients? How would I like to feel about my contribution in the world? How would I like feel during this new phase of my life? The “how would I like to feel” questions kept flowing.

At first, I answered with ‘not’ words — not tired, not worried — and then I caught myself. “No Terri – reframe these into positive statements of how you do want to feel!” 

[Related: On Missed Opportunities and the Power of Staying Positive in Your Career]

I want to feel peaceful and financially secure. I want to feel joyful and purposeful from doing my life’s work. I want to feel surprised by living spontaneously. I want to feel awe when experiencing the beauty of our planet. I want to feel moved and connected by the creative force. I want to feel “enough” and trust in myself. I want to feel safe. I want to feel loved and connected with my husband, children, friends, and clients. I want to feel present. I want to movability in all my joints.

From this place of how I want to feel, new things are coming onto my 2017 list… and some things are falling off. This new question is anchoring me into what matters most in all aspects of my life. Now, this isn’t to say that I won’t move into the right-brained planning approach that I began using last year (yes, I have given up planning with a spreadsheet!) Nor that my planning tools are going out the window. My calendar will still be the tool that keeps me on track. But my orientation to the old question of what I want to accomplish is now shifting significantly.

Try it for yourself. You’ll need to relax a bit to feel your way into this. Give yourself 15 minutes. Grab a cup of tea and sit in your favorite chair. Breathe. Notice how you feel right in this moment. Where is there tension in your body? What kind of thoughts are you having? Is your mind racing? Maybe you’re worried about what’s ahead for our country. Just keep breathing through these thoughts. When you feel your mind quieting and some settling in, ask yourself, “How do I want to feel next year?” And let it flow!

Share what comes up for you in the comments section below. How does this compare to when you ask yourself “What do I want to achieve?”.

[Related: 5 Steps to Achieve Fulfillment]

(This article was originally published on 11/14/16 on


Terri Altschul is the CEO and founder Follow her on Twitter or contact Terri online at

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