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What Do You Really, Really Want?

ou may have had an experience broadly like this: you buy a new car, then it seems as if the manufacturer is paying people to follow you around with the same model and colour as you bought.

What’s going on is a priming effect on your brain. Your brain has become more sensitive to an item and detects it more easily and quickly. We can use this natural brain process to our advantage in order to help you build a richer or a more rewarding life. When you see the same advert over and over, the advertisers are trying to engage the same process in your brain, so that when you buy something, their product is closer to mind.

Every day you are faced with opportunities, but only some of them will take you closer to what’s most important to you. Typically, the way people make decisions is to choose the option that seems to give them the best results right now – whichever object  is the ‘shiniest’.

There’s a saying that goes, “If you want to climb the ladder of success, make sure it’s leaning against the right wall.” Decades ago one of my early clients was at the top of their game in their field; they were an internationally-recognised figure. They had reached the top through a series of opportunities, but when they got there, they realised that it was not where they wanted to be.

If you engage the priming effect, so that you’re constantly in contact with what’s most important to you, then the decisions you make are more likely to be guided by that, and will ultimately take you to the place you want to be.

Here is a very simple activity that may help you make better decisions.

Take about an hour to craft one or two short sentences that summarise what it is that is most important to you – not just ‘the next promotion’ but specifically what is it that promotion does for you? What value does it bring to your life? Figure out what are the other major values that you hold?

Write it down on a small index card that you can carry with you and read every morning. It’s not about clever wording; it’s about writing something that is meaningful and powerful for you that you can read in less than 20 seconds.