Not too many people these days pull out their trusty compass and use it to navigate direction. Instead, we all rely on the voice of our phone or car GPS navigating us from where we are to where we want to be, step-by-step, turn-by-turn.

Wouldn’t it be great if Siri or Alexa could simply tell us the next step to take on our career journey? Or even our life journey? 

Setting our own direction in life is a little more complicated than that, but we can all do it. It comes down to paying attention to your heart and defining your priorities. 

Knowing your priorities and using them as the points on your decision-making compass separates the leader who goes with the flow from the Heartbeat Leader who is going somewhere on purpose.

My Wakeup Call

I was in a place of stressed-out overwhelm when I heard about a seminar called The Corporate Athlete. During the seminar, I was forced to come face-to-face with my core values—those things I said were important. 

The speaker gave us an exercise that opened my eyes to what was missing. He made me write down my life mission and my values. No excuses, no procrastinating. On the spot. I had never done this so directly before. 

I knew I wanted to be a good wife and mom, a team player at work, and someone the organization could trust. Those were my priorities. But they were all outward focused.  

Once I started writing, the words gushed from my heart and soul in a flood of pain and frustration and excitement. Finally, I ran out of paper and I put my pen down. I took a deep, cleansing breath and embraced a turning point in my life. 

The presenter then spoke quietly, saying, “Okay, so you wrote down what’s important to you; now, open up your calendar and tell me if you see those things listed anywhere.” 

I didn’t even need to look at my calendar to know. I’d been carrying the guilt of my mismatched values for over two years.

That day, I faced a tough epiphany. I had told anyone who would listen that my values were faith first, family second, and career third. 

But the reality was my career was first, and it was killing me. It squeezed out everything else. 

I knew that I couldn’t continue to make life decisions based on my job. I had to decide what life I wanted and make my job part of that life, not all of it.

That day I vowed that I would no longer make decisions on the surface level. Things like job, money, and title dropped down my list of priorities. My job had to support what was important to me, not replace what was important to me.

I didn’t know the entire path forward, but I knew that by realigning my priorities, I’d given myself the gift of clarity. 

That activity, which forced me to get clear on my priorities, is why I’m an entrepreneur today. That moment is why I’m not still behind an executive desk at a job that could have supported me financially until I wanted to retire. 

By getting clarity on what I didn’t want, as well as what I wanted, I created options for my future. It’s one of my favorite things to teach my coaching clients because it causes them to have those a-ha! moments. 

Your Decision-Making Compass

Determining your priorities should be the first thing you do to make sure your ladder doesn’t lean on the wrong wall. 

To determine your priorities, you’ve got to start by looking to what I call The Decision-Making Compass. The four points on the compass address these four questions: 

  • Who am I? It’s very important to be self-aware. To get a clear understanding of your priorities, you must first discover who you are. 

The best way to do this is to examine your life so far. The highs and lows and successes and failures that make up your life often shape your priorities. 

Examine your history and think about what it tells you. As you learn what makes you tick, you’ll see some things grow in importance and some things fade away. 

  • What do I stand for? Talk is cheap. Actions are expensive. To discover your priorities, you first need to know what you are really standing for. 

Try to take an objective view of how you see yourself. What do your actions say about you as a spouse, parent, friend, teammate, employee, boss, or leader? 

For example, you may think you are standing for diversity, but have you surrounded yourself with people who look, think, act, and talk just like you? 

The point of this isn’t to make you feel bad. Rather, it’s to help you see how to align what you say you value with what you show you value.  

  • What do I want? It’s safe to say that everyone wants to be valued, loved, respected, paid a good wage, and able to make a difference in the world. Everyone wants their life to count. 

But beyond these universal desires, there is a vast mix of desires that fuel people’s motivations. They aren’t necessarily wrong or right, but they are unique to you. 

If you don’t figure out what you want, you’ll end up climbing someone else’s ladder of success and being disappointed when you get to the top. 

Growth happens when you admit that you can’t have it all. Insight happens when you admit that you don’t want it all. In the space between those two, you can get real about what you’ll pursue and what you’ll give up. 

Every choice comes with a cost. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to another. Only you can make that decision and live with the consequences. Getting clear on what you want helps you create the life that you want.  

  • Why do I want it? Knowing what you want is only half the battle. Knowing why you want it provides the motivation to fight. 

Think about this—few people love eating healthy, exercising all the time, and never eating sweets. But the desire to live a healthy life so you can be there for your kids and grandkids gives us the motivation to make the right choices. 

Your why is unique to you. I knew I didn’t want someone else raising my kids. That gave me the motivation to make a change and realign my values. Spend some time thinking about why you want what you want. It will quickly become apparent if your why is enough to push you forward. If the why isn’t strong enough, it probably wasn’t the right priority in the first place.

If you’re at a place where you know you don’t really want to be, it’s time to seek a change in direction. When you use the decision-making compass points to reorient yourself, you can step confidently into your future!  

If you’re at a place where you know you don’t really want to be, it’s time to seek a change in direction. Use this decision-making compass points to reorient yourself, and then step confidently into your future!

Download Your FREE Decision-Making Compass