Here’s a question: if I came up to you right now and asked “what matters most to you?” how would you answer?

If you think you’d have a ready response, then great! Write it down. Come back to it in a month and see if it still holds true…

You might be spot on! But the problem a lot of us face is that social desirability can blind us to what is really, truly most important to us. When asked what matters most we give the answer we think we should give, based on our context - whether family context, educational context, cultural context etc.

We are constantly bombarded with messaging, telling us what we should think, or feel, or do with our lives. It’s so easy to get caught up in the opinions and choices of our friends, family, peers, classmates, people we follow on social media… and completely lose sight of who we are, at our core.

Getting a more accurate picture of what matters to you is critical to living a fulfilling life. You need to know where your energy comes from, or you might inadvertently lead yourself into situations you can’t sustain, and might struggle to escape from.

Here’s an exercise to get you thinking about what truly matters to you:

Is the jar full?

First: you might have heard a story (told by Stephen Covey) about a Professor who comes before his class with a jar, which he proceeds to fill with large rocks.

“Is the jar full?” he asks. When the class replies in the affirmative, he pours large gravel into the jar and shakes it down in the gaps between the big rocks.

“Is it full now?” Most say yes, but some are starting to doubt it.

He repeats this with sand and finally water. At the end he asks what the meaning of the illustration was.

“You are never so busy that you can’t fit more in?” suggests one student.

“No,” says the Professor. “Unless you put the big rocks in first, you’ll never fit them in at all.”

What are your big rocks?

What are the things that matter so much to you that they really need to be part of your life plan and goals. Make a list - you might need to spend some time on this: keep adding to it and crossing items off as you think of different things and realise which ‘rocks’ are not as important to you as you first thought!

Your absolute best day?

Second: think about your absolute best day in the past 12 months, the day when you felt most alive and engaged. Make notes, analysing that day in these terms: what were you doing, where and with whom?

How much overlap is there?

Third: how much overlap is there between your list of big rocks and your analysis of your best day?

If the answer is “quite a lot”, then good job - looks like you know yourself pretty well! (Which doesn’t mean you don’t have more to learn!)

If, like most people, your answer is “not a lot” or even “no overlap”, then it’s likely your list of big rocks is more about what you think ought to matter to you, than what actually does. Don’t feel down about it though! The more you reflect on those days when you feel most alive, the more you will understand what really matters to you.

Try rewriting the ‘big rocks’ list, focusing this time on the aspects you recognise from your best day.

Your Interest Scores

Finally: take a look at your hoozyu report, focusing on your highest and lowest Interest scores.

How much do these scores match up with your best day? It’s likely that your best day involved one or more of your highest scores, and none of your lowest scores! This should give you an even clearer picture of what you do (and don’t!) want to engage with on a daily basis.

Leverage that knowledge

So how can this knowledge help you?

Well, it should go without saying, that the clearer you are on the things that matter most to you, the easier it will be for you to make good, sustainable choices when it comes to deciding on a course or career to pursue.

But on top of that, this increased self-knowledge can help you to recognise when you are getting off track, or heading down a route that is based less on who you are, and more on who other people tell you you are. It can be helpful to keep a reminder of your ‘big rocks’ and top Interest scores, somewhere where you’ll see it on a daily basis - whether it’s a post-it on your mirror or a note on your phone, keep reminding yourself of the things that matter most to you!

Based on an earlier Explain Yourself blog post by Jon