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Another danger is mistaking what you want, which could lead you to spend your life chasing the wrong thing. Maybe you think you want to be rich, but when the dough starts coming in, you're left feeling empty because you haven't made the world a better place. Or you're sure it's fame you're after, so you head to Hollywood, but then find that you're lonely because you don't have the right companion. So it behooves you to do the hard work ahead of time by asking yourself, "Exactly why is this important to me, and what will my life be like once I have it?" You've got to drill down a couple of layers to get to the real truth.

I think this is an important exercise even if your life is going along just great—and it becomes more necessary when things are tough. Having an end in sight can pull you through the most challenging times. It reminds me of General George S. Patton's speech to the Third Army in 1944, when he was reported to have said: "There is one great thing that you men will be able to say when this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that 20 years from now, when you are sitting by the fireside with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you won't have to cough, shift him to the other knee, and say, 'Well, your granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.' No, sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, 'Son, your granddaddy rode with the great Third Army...." You may not be fighting a battle, but at every step of your life's journey, you will have decisions to make. How can you make the right ones if you haven't prioritized your goals?

The most you will ever get is what you ask for—so be bold enough to reach for what's truly important to you. You deserve more, and you can have more, but first you have to name it to claim it.

Dr. Phillip C. McGraw's daily talk show is in its 12th season. He has written seven best-selling books; his latest is Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World (Bird Street).

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