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Three Tricks to Help You Prioritize What Matters

Simple ways to look at your life in a whole new light.

When you face a big decision or feel you’ve lost sight of what matters, it helps to get a little perspective on life.  

Whether you are trying to take stock of your relationships, your job, or your wardrobe, it can be hard to see the forest rather than the trees. After all, your daily life is mired in details.

So, what can you do?

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Three Tricks to Help You Prioritize What Matters

When we think about getting some perspective, we often use the phrase, “Take a step back.” As it turns out, that is good advice.

QUIZ: How Do You Feel Today?

There is a lot of research suggesting that when you have some psychological distance from an aspect of your life, you are able to think about it more generally. When you think generally, you are able to see your life’s direction as a whole rather than focusing on all of the specifics of what you have to do today.

Here are a few ways to get some distance:

Think about your life as if it was someone else’s. Pick the aspect of your life you want to think about and pretend you are giving advice to someone else. How would you describe the situation if it were a friend rather than you going through the same thing?  Would you take a different path?

Look back on yourself from the future. You can create distance by thinking about events that are far away in time. When you want some perspective, imagine looking back on your life as it is now 10 or 20 years in the future. Which aspects of your life are really important to you? An added advantage of looking back on your life from the future is that as people get older they tend to regret actions that they did not take. If something is holding you back from taking a risk, thinking about it from the perspective of the future can help. 

Take a trip. Another way to get some perspective is to actually travel somewhere. You don’t necessarily need to take a week-long blowout. Drive a few hours away to a secluded spot. That distance from your regular life can help you to think about things free of the details that can bog you down.

COLUMN: Learn To Accept What You Can't Change

It is useful to do an exercise like this about different facets of your life every few months. 

Don’t wait until your relationship is in trouble or your wardrobe is a mess to think about how things are going. If you look over your life on a regular basis, you can make mid-course corrections to solve little problems before they become big ones.

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