I think one of the biggest reasons people are ineffective or unsuccessful is that they never clearly declare what they want. It sounds so simple, but ask yourself, "Do I know what is most important to me?" You've got to have a goal in mind, or you will never have the opportunity to claim it. Once you have an idea of your true priorities, you can catch yourself before you do anything that doesn't move you toward that target. And that's a key word here—target. If you don't have one, then you're like an unguided missile, and who knows where you're going to land.

Many people confuse activity with productivity. They may be busy, but they're not making measurable progress. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, months turn into years, and years turn into a lifetime. If you sat them down and said, "Tell me what success is for you," they wouldn't be able to answer—or they might say something like, "I want to be happy." My dog wants to be happy, too, but what the heck does that really mean? Your task is to define what "happy" means to you, and you need to be specific.

Say you're offered a great job. If it doesn't give you what you're looking for in a career, then it's not the right move for you, no matter how good it looks on a résumé. Or think about a relationship: If everything seems 100 percent perfect but isn't going to fulfill your deepest needs, then it's a waste of time. When I began dating my wife, Robin, her priorities were very well defined: She knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that she was put on this earth to be a mother—and she made sure I knew it, too. I still remember the time she told me, "That's who I want to be and what I want to do." I could have been the most dashing guy in the world, but if I hadn't wanted to have children, she was not going to spend another minute by my side. Robin is a woman who knows what she wants, and obviously I'm proud of her. (I'm also very much the beneficiary of her clear-cut goals, because we've got two sons and two grandchildren whom I adore.)

The First Step to Living Your Best Life


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