How do you want to feel?

The gentleman next to me leans over.

“Are you a law student?”

I pull my battered copy out of the sagging seat pocket and turn it over. Getting to Yes - Principled Negotiation: Negotiate over the issues, not specific positions.

“No, a designer. I'm just revisiting a few chapters because I'll be negotiating something soon.”

“Oh. Well, I teach law, and the class I teach on that book is my favorite. Everyone should read it.”

The ideas in it are essential for everyone. Here’s the gist: Figure out what the parties in the negotiation really want before negotiating the exact terms of the agreement. Not the things they want to get, but below the “things” level, down into the issues and structure and feelings. And then make a big list of options for creative ways to meet those needs.

I'm headed to my hometown for a visit. Will my sister and I get annoyed with each other about some silly thing, reverting back to childhood patterns?

My position: “I won't be happy unless I get to sit in the front seat.”

Her position: “Well, you always get it. I want it this time.”

What if we stepped back and looked a layer down, at the issues, at what we really wanted to feel by sitting in the front seat:

My issue: “I don't want to feel carsick.”

Her issue: “I want legroom, and also to feel like my older sister respects me as an adult now.”

Negotiating on issues makes easier to see other ways that we might get what we want without so much effort. I can sit in the front seat, but scoot way up so she has a lot of leg room. And she can choose where we go to lunch.

In my mind, The Firestarter Sessions is a parallel, though Danielle LaPorte has written a book as sassy as Getting to Yes is serious, with a bit of hippy radical tone that is just over the top enough that it works.

All through it:

"Want what you want."

and (these are in four-lines-to-a-page big type):

"Knowing how you want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have."

The premise: everything you want to achieve/acquire/buy, everything on your to-do list, on your life list, everything - "all of those aspirations are being driven by an innate desire to feel a certain way." What if you first get clarity on how you want to feel, then you design your to-do list?

What if we apply these insights to money? This question: "How do you want to feel?" and this process: “Come up with many options, before you choose a resolution”?

You've been thinking you need to get a shiny new condo in the city. But wait - don't take out the mortgage before think about how you want to feel. Think of a variety of other options to achieve the same feeling; then decide how to use your money to get you there.

Maybe you don't really need a new condo - what you are looking for is the feeling of excitement that you think the new condo will give you. Feeling: excitement. Then list ways to spend money to achieve that feeling. Exciting things I could try: dance lessons; two weeks climbing in Mexico;  researching and writing a guide to the best places in my city. Condo ownership is on the list, but now you can consider many options - and some that might require considerably less money.

What if you inspected your desire for said spiffy new condo and found that it was coming from wanting to feel rooted. Feeling: rooted. Other ways to spend money to feel like you belong in this place: do some upgrades to your current apartment (tear out the ugly kitchen cabinets and replace with tiled backsplash and open shelving; add reading lamps and side tables); get a plot at the community garden; start attending a meetup group and make new connections. Maybe you realize you want to live in your city forever, and you’re ready to commit financially to a mortgage - and you also join that meetup group.

First identify your desired feelings, then figure out options for how to spend money (or not spend money) on what you need to get there.

LaPorte's list, stuck to the front page of her Moleskine, says: "Connected. Affluent. Divinely Feminine. Innovative."

What are your feeling words? In terms of today, in terms of the here and now, what would make you feel that way? Explore a multitude of options before you decide on the exact way to spend money to get that feeling.