How to Define Your Own Priorities For Real

author/source: Melissa Harrison

The older I get, the more I live, the more I recognize that it’s crucial to define my own life priorities and not allow someone else’s priorities to define my life for me.

It’s an easy enough trap to get into.  We see the glamour shots version of most people.  But it’s rare for others to let us into their weird little worlds, showing us their insecurities and whatever they’re worried about.  Or what’s actually important to them, for fear of being judged. (Really they’re judging themselves, but that’s another story. We don’t actually know if they’re happy with the life they’re living, or if they’re just showing off.

Originally I was taught to come up with a list of what’s important to me (my priorities), create an ideal day based around those, and then stick with it, man.  Stick with it, man!  Adjust as needed, sure. But basically, this is the formula. 

Now I totally agree that as a collective, we humans have certain needs and priorities in common. Tony Robbins does a great job defining those: certainty, variety, significance, love and connection, growth, and contribution.  There are endless ways those can be played out, right?  The differences will be in line with who we are as individuals.

Or are they? What if, just what if, our ideas of what we really want, what our needs truly are, come from what we think everyone else is doing? And that we should be doing the same?  What if it takes a really rock-bottom moment (or month or year) to shake us from the collective mindset?  Think about it. When you’re in a rock-bottom moment, the expression of your needs is much different than if you are comfortable and feeling safe.  And what if you’ve never actually felt comfortable or safe? At least not the way you imagine others do. (I’m very deliberately saying “imagine” because we can never actually know what’s going on in someone else’s head, or heart, or life even).

Your idea of how your life priorities should be played out is going to be completely different.  And then you’re comparing what you feel isn’t enough to what looks like someone’s more than enough.  And they may be feeling not enough, too!  So what's the remedy for this, you ask?  I can tell you this: the remedy is not action.

You’re a human being, not a human doing.

So here’s how you begin to circumvent this crazy name-your-priority game:

1. Decide how you want to FEEL

Here’s a link to a list of feelings (the top half is positive feelings - focus on those).

I’m not going to limit you here and say come up with 3 - 5 feelings. If you resonate with 20 feelings, rock on with your bad self and list them all.

Also to be clear, I’m not advocating sitting in a yoga pose all day and focusing on one feeling without taking any action. Well, I mean, unless that’s your thing - then, no judgment. But most of us want to be actively engaged in our lives. The key is to decide how you want to feel FIRST, and then take action from that place.

2. Recall and list times you’ve felt those feelings before

Get yourself into the feeling place of each of them. You’ll start to recall times you’ve felt them before AND what you were doing when you felt them.

Caveat: that doesn’t mean you have to recreate those experiences to feel those feelings again. You’re a different person now. Be open to new and different experiences creating those feeling within you.

3. Allow your mind to wander

Now that you’re in a positive feeling place, allow your mind to wander. You’ll start to imagine other things that might create those feelings within you.

And this is how it works.

This is the power of perspective and focus.

Also, of intuition.

When you tap into who you truly are, devoid of worries of judgment or of not being good enough, your true self can shine through.

4. Take an action

And there it is. You’ve gotta take action. Whatever you imagine yourself doing that brings about those positive feelings, try one of them.

Even if you’re afraid. The fear will dissipate as you focus more on the good feeling you associate with the action you desire to take.

5. Question yourself

Make it a point to question whether you’re doing something because you think someone else will approve or it might look good to others.

If those come into play, pause.

Get back in touch with your core feelings and decide whether you want to shift your action a bit.

Your new list of priorities is feelings. They don’t have to be things or actions you believe you should take.

From those feelings, your life will unfold, and you will be in control of it, rather than someone else’s glamour shot life ruling your world.


Melissa is a Mom to three precocious children, ages 18, 13, and 7. She has survived and successfully navigated divorcing a toxic husband and some of the trickiest parenting scenarios (including learning disabilities, deciding to unschool one of my children, and raising a transgender child).
I’ve gone from living in my own personal hell to creating a life I thoroughly adore experiencing. And it just keeps getting better.
I use the same principles I used to be successful and get what I truly want with my clients, and their transformations are insanely powerful.
I love to dance, sing super crazy loud (alone in the car only because people I love can hear), bake cookies, run half-marathons, lift weights, and laugh with my kids.
I know what it’s like to question my own strength … and then to show myself how strong I really am. I’m passionate about helping others recognize their own amazing power.
If you want to stop experiencing toxic relationships, toxic situations, toxic thought patterns,
you have to heal the relationship closest to you: the one you have with yourself.
You’re ready to create your most fabulous life, yes? Work with me now!
Melissa holds a B.A. in English and Sociology, an M.S. in Psychology with a specialty in Leadership Development and Coaching, and an M.S. in Marketing. Melissa has also been a paralegal and a public school educator. She has worked at one of the top New Hampshire law firms and was on the Board of Trustees at an innovative charter school in Massachusetts. In addition to her coaching, she also works as a Behavior Interventionist. Melissa has been published on several well-known websites, including Elephant Journal and Positively Positive, is a contributor to The Huffington Post, is a columnist for The Good Men Project and was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible.