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Why It Matters to Know What Matters

August 24, 2017

Why It Matter to Know What Matters by Dave LaRue

As a coach and a business leader, I love to help people accomplish their goals, realize their vision, and get to their next place. 

As I’ve discussed many times, being mindful of your values and writing them down is an important first step to living the life you want. But as we progress along our individual journey, it’s a great idea to stop at milestones and moments of achievement to check in, reassess, and retell the stories of what we believe, value, and want to do. 

Why is it so important to decide what matters? And why do we need to do it more than once?

The short, two-part answer is: 1) because we can refine our answers as we learn more about ourselves and the world, and 2) these refinements make a big difference.  

What seem like the right choices depend on not just what we’re trying to accomplish, but which part of the goal is the part we really want. So refining your goals as you achieve them is a great thing to do.

For instance, many of us make it a goal to make more money, only to find once we do that what we actually wanted was the freedom it brings, or the ability to provide a certain lifestyle for our families. Does it change that we have to do the same job? Or even the dollar figure in question? Not necessarily. 

But when we’re clear on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, we can make better, more nuanced decisions. We can optimize our situation to deliver what we truly want and need from it. We find new areas for efficiency or compromise. We notice doors and windows in situations where we’d missed them before. The reason for this is a concept called intentionality.

Our brains are amazing, but they can’t show us everything at once. In fact, nowhere near it. They function within their limitations by filtering out what we don’t care about so we can pay attention to what matters. This is how intentionality works.

In small ways, this is how we focus on the task at hand, by tuning out distractions below the threshold of importance. In big ways, it’s why often the only way out of a rut is to stop and change our perspective: we truly can’t see the options in front of us when we’re programmed to look at the situation a certain way.

The fact that we are living a life based on information that passes through the filter of our intentions is key to understanding the real importance of being in solid contact with a deeply considered set of values, beliefs, and priorities. Because of how intentionality works, our values and beliefs directly dictate what what we perceive. 

So, by maintaining an awareness of what matters to you and why, you will approach every situation primed to act accordingly. This is also the reason why it’s good to revise the list from time to time.

Approaching your career with values of making the most impact will cause you to notice, react, and think differently than approaching it with the values of wanting to build long-term relationships and create mutual value. 

Approaching your family life wanting to spend more time together will lead to different decisions and attitudes than the intention to learn more about your spouse and children as people.

Approaching your spiritual life wanting to find peace will cause you to notice, act, and decide differently than an intention to be present in the moment with others.

These distinctions aren’t just word games. In a very real way, each of us can only see according to what we’re trying to do. Because of the filter of intentionality, to get different results, we have to approach a situation not just with a different strategy or set of tactics, but with a truly different outcome in mind.

Life is short, but spending a little of that time in preparation is important to living the life we want. How about 6 minutes? 

Here’s an exercise: Take out a big piece of paper and a pencil with an eraser (just in case you change your mind). Write down your beliefs and your highest values. You will have more and more clarity and a stronger and stronger connection to your purpose as you spend more time writing and thinking about what’s important to you. 6 minutes a day adds up to 3 hours of working on yourself each month. Remember, successful people have successful habits, and this is an amazing habit to have! Try it!