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First. Second. Third. Where do you come into play when setting your priorities?
If you didn’t answer “first”… you should take a good look at yourself and rethink things.
Making yourself a priority, especially your physical and mental well-being, is the best way to put your best self out there for all the world to see. Nobody benefits from a tired or depressed version of yourself… especially not you.
Know that your needs matter… and commit to prioritizing them. Your best moments and acts in life will come when your basic needs are met.
So are you ready to live your best life?
It starts by putting your priorities first.
Why Make Yourself a Priority
A healthy life consists of engaging in activities meant to help you function at your best… activities like exercising, eating healthily, hydrating yourself and getting enough rest.
You won’t concentrate at work if you don’t get enough sleep. You’ll be low on energy during spin class if you don’t eat enough protein. If you don’t take the time to feel thankful, you’ll feel guilty around others. And if you’re barely active, well, sitting too much has been compared to smoking too many cigarettes.
You need to stay active to stay well. That means practicing self-care:
Your goal is to:
Do you know what these benefits mean? They mean a better, more complete you! Someone who’s focused on what matters, from your best friends to your loving parents, to your relationships with your colleagues.
An optimistic, pleasant you will better serve your interests and others. And that’s all thanks to the energy and improved mood… both of which come from practicing self-care.
So here’s the first question you should be asking yourself… what do I need and why? And the rest will fall into place.
13 Steps to Make Yourself a Priority
1. Define your needs
From keeping a roof over your head to making sure your family has food, nothing should stand in the way of you being healthy.
Start by writing down the basic aspects of your life (health, finances, mood, etc). A journaling habit will help you stay attentive to the changes you need to make.
Write a single, succinct sentence describing a specific need for each aspect of your life. List as many as there are and make sure to differentiate between what you need and what you merely want. When you’re done, you’ll have an overwhelming reason to believe your needs matter most.
2. Set boundaries around your time and space
There are some lines you just don’t cross. Knowing where other people’s boundaries lie will help you learn to respect your own.
Look at the people in your life. Learn what makes them uncomfortable regarding their time and space. Do they not want to be touched? Would they prefer someone ask before taking? Limit favors and loans? Pay back what’s borrowed? Of course, everyone hates it when someone interrupts them.
Figure out what other people’s boundaries are as you take a hard look at your own. You’ll see the similarities exist for one main reason: Everyone’s human. And we all have a breaking point.
When your goal is prioritizing yourself, you’re better off making sure others know where not to go.
Declare your boundaries. Then watch others’ respect for you grow.
3. Learn to forgive yourself
Forgiving yourself means accepting where you went wrong, why your actions were wrong, and how they affected another party.
In the short term, you’ll feel a great burden being lifted from your shoulders. You can’t make much progress when you’re always feeling guilty or ashamed.
By forgiving yourself, you earn improved relationships and better attitudes. The benefits of self-forgiveness include less guilt and less burden, plus more choices and opportunities to do well.
You need to feel free and without burdens to make yourself a priority. If you’re constantly beating yourself up, expect to put others first. It comes down to you believing you might deserve less when in reality, you deserve better.
4. Practice putting your priorities first
Your work never gets done. Your performance suffers. You end up with more tasks on your plate. And you’ll be left with unfinished tasks that you needed to get done, as well as finished tasks that should have been someone else’s responsibility.
Friends, family, and colleagues won’t feel bad if you suffered some unfortunate outcome because you didn’t prioritize yourself.
So, do your work first. Study your lessons now. Exercise before you pick up a friend from downtown. Then take a walk and have a cup of tea before you spend hours on the phone. The time you spend prioritizing yourself will give you time to focus on priorities concerning others.
For now, focus on you first.
5. Learn to say no
The next step to make yourself a priority is learning to say ‘no’. You also have to make sure you don’t feel guilty about it later.
Offering a ‘yes’ to every request will put you behind on your goals. You want the freedom to be able to say ‘no’ so you can make yourself a priority.
Wouldn’t you feel more in control if you could make a conscious decision?
Learning to say ‘no’ will help you in finding respect for yourself. That’s because giving in to everyone else will make you feel weak. But accepting you made a choice that benefits you is key to moving forward. Especially when others don’t get what they want.
If it’s you getting what you need first, then others may have to deal with a rebuttal. Start today by saying ‘no’ to something you know you can’t comply with. Then assess how you felt afterward before applying changes to how you react.
Maybe next time you want to provide a flat ‘no’ without any supporting information. Or, maybe you noticed your ‘no’ was a bit curt, and you could come across more politely to someone in need.
Assertiveness is almost always your best course of action. Saying no when called for is a good habit you’ll want to try and make stick.
6. Do more of what you love doing
For happiness. For fun. For laughs or to learn something. The more interests and you have, the more you should participate in those endeavors—before having someone else’s idea of fun. True happiness is part of putting yourself first.
How would you rather feel, happy or disappointed?
If the former is true, then make time for activities you struggle to enjoy. You need to feel positive in both your heart and mind, but you’ll never be happy if you’re always putting others first.
Make yourself a priority by remembering that you only get to live once. So, you might as well spend time doing what you love.
7. Start sticking to your values
Damaged relationships, unfortunate encounters, and acts out of your control will challenge your beliefs.
The negative experiences in life will force you to question who you are.
When you put your beliefs first, you don’t risk changing your personality to fit someone else’s way of living. To make yourself a priority, you need time and space to express your feelings.
The answers to these questions will help you understand your values. You cannot put your priorities first without knowing why your beliefs influence your actions.
8. Indulge yourself when you can
Eating, vacationing, or having a couple of glasses of wine are fun ways to feel happy.
They’re also ways to reward yourself for good work.
At the end of every week, focus on one or more accomplishments. What is one way you can reward yourself that will be extra special? Create a memorable moment for hard work done. Then remind yourself that hard work pays off.
Pro tip: Indulge in yourself when you can and you won’t feel the urge to indulge when you shouldn’t.
9. Try new things
Schedule time to try things you never tried before. Whether it’s a new course at a restaurant or an exercise that’ll push your muscles, you’ll long for the thrill of trying new experiences.
Success is within your grasp, so, start by:
You’re more than likely to find these opportunities when you open your mind. You can even create a morning routine where you plan one activity each day you want to try something new.
10. Take care of your body
Your body and your health should be one of your top priorities.
There is something about being healthy that makes you feel organized, in control, and focused on self-improvement.
Conversely, letting your body go to waste is a sign you’re not invested in your future.
After all, the steps you take toward being healthy today will influence the kind of life you live later.
All you should focus on is:
Like you learned earlier, much of taking care of your body involves taking care of your basic needs. If your body breaks down, your work performance will suffer. You’ll feel less motivated and focused, and have less time on your hands to make positive changes to your life.
Your life is precious. So, track your progress. At some point, head back to your journal or use your head. What changes can you make to make your body healthy? What unfortunate scenarios might result if you don’t make those changes?
11. Learn to challenge yourself alone
Once you’ve gotten into the habit of taking care of your body, you can embrace personal and professional challenges alone. That way, when you’re successful, you have reason to feel proud. But when you fail, you take responsibility for your mistakes, applying insight from your experiences to make changes going forward.
You learn more about yourself when you face challenges alone. Doing so places you first, as you know you’ll need energy and strength to fight the battles ahead. Rather than rely on others, you embrace your positive traits, gathering the courage to take risks for better rewards.
Why not experience those rewards by yourself? You earned them right?
12. Spend more time to yourself
Solitude gives you time to breathe easily and escape stress. You can reflect on your progress and adjust your goals.
Ask yourself if you’re taking time to yourself. If you are, you’ll know you’re recharging your batteries. Alone time gives you space to create goals meant to keep you going forward.
Imagine if you could spend a week in a cabin. You’d be able to set goals that are realistic and attainable. Those you could accomplish in a reasonable timeframe.
SMART goals are results-oriented. They’re manageable. So, when you embrace time alone, you can be sure you have a plan for life. Ultimately, if you want to make time for you, then you need to recognize how spending time alone makes you feel better as a person.
From there, you’ll see solitude as an opportunity to grow and improve. Going forward, it’ll be much easier to take that time you need to yourself.
After all, who wants to feel exhausted and overwhelmed?
13. Spend more time with others
If you’re there for others, you have the right to be there for yourself.
It might seem counterintuitive, but making yourself a priority means carving out time for others. When you invest energy into movie nights, late-night suppers, and family pizza nights… your days become brighter and more pleasant because social interaction stimulates chemicals in your brain that make you feel happy.
Not only that, but you also get better brain health and reduced chances of getting Alzheimer’s. So, it’s worth finding time to socialize.
Are you more introverted lately? Spending less time hanging out? Then, you can benefit from incorporating more contacts and appointments into your weekly schedule.
Time spent socializing now gives you the right to claim time for yourself later.
So, add an extra few hours to routine meetings.
Compromise with friends and family. Think, “How can we make sure both of our needs are being met?”
Express more interest in your interactions with others. Afterward, you’ll find it’s easy to embrace the solitude you need to prioritize yourself.
Final Thoughts on Making Yourself a Priority
The day you decide to put yourself first is the day you will start making real progress towards your goals in life. The values and beliefs that matter most will propel you to make the changes you need in order to prioritize yourself.
Whether your self-improvement goals are changing by the day, or stern and steadfast… putting your needs, goals, and priorities ahead of others is a challenge you'll have to accept if you want to live your best and most happy life. If being a better you is your goal, then read the article How to Build New Habits That Stick: The Ultimate Guide to help you on your journey.