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Figuring Out What Is Really Important in Your Goals

by Ashley Miller, studioD

Establishing goals can help you feel more productive and in control of your career. Figuring out what is really important in your goals can help you achieve increased clarity, focus, motivation and direction. Taking the first steps in determining what your main focus should be or how to make your goals more specific can be challenging, but it can be well worth the effort.

Write Down Your Goals

Writing down your goals makes them more concrete, tangible and specific. If you just think about a goal, it's easy to be vague and broad, but when you write your goals down, it makes them real and helps you focus on the big picture, says registered financial advisor Cynthia V. Taradash. Make a list of both short-term and long-term goals, then examine your list to see if there's a common theme. Figuring out what's really important in your goals sometimes requires a bit of detective work. Perhaps you want more financial freedom or greater independence at work. A goal list can help you more easily identify your preferred areas of focus.

Prioritize Your List

After you've identified your major short- and long-term goals, examine your list again to determine your priorities. In a worksheet for LifeWorks, an employee resource program, licensed social worker Alexandra Mezey suggests listing your top five goals in order of importance. This can help you figure out what's really important to you and what areas deserve most of your effort and attention. Make sure your goals aren't contradictory. If it's important to you to have free time in the evenings to spend with your kids, this conflicts with a goal to put in overtime to earn a promotion.

Visualize Your Ideal Life

Visualizing your ideal life can help you paint a clearer picture of your priorities and determine what's truly important. Visualization moves an idea from your conscious mind to your subconscious mind, which can ultimately help you achieve your goals, says brain researcher John Assaraf in an article for his website. It also helps you tease out the goals that are truly important from those that play a supporting role. On the surface, you might think you want a promotion, but you find other goals take precedence in your visualization. It's not important that your visualization is completely realistic -- just set aside some time for imagination and daydreaming. Think about where you want to be in five or 10 years. Imagine what you want to accomplish by the time you retire.

Create a Vision Board

A vision board is a tool you can use to identify what's truly important in your goals. It can be as elaborate or simple as you like, created either on the computer or by using a large piece of cardboard and cutouts of images, pictures, words and key phrases that remind you of your goals. The trick is to find pictures, images and phrases that appeal to your essential self, says life coach Martha Beck in an article for "O" magazine. A crucial step in creating a vision board is to make sure that the images and phrases resonate with you -- they shouldn't be generic or based on what you "think" should be important. Identifying what's really important to you requires you to be completely honest and true to your deepest desires and needs.

About the Author

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images