How many times have you made a great plan, set meaningful and thoughtful goals, or designed a new routine only to get off track before you even got started?

The phenomenon of starting off strong only to have nothing really change is real, and it happens to most of us at some time or another. Change isn’t easy – but it can be done.

Unfortunately, much of what we’ve learned about how to make changes in our lives doesn’t really move the needle in any meaningful way. There’s no hack, no planner, no secret recipe that can ensure the change you want to see in yourself will come to fruition.

There are ways to improve your chances at meaningful change, however. Ways to ensure that the goals you set today still resonate six weeks from now. Ways to create a plan that keeps you motivated long after its newness has worn off.

What are these secret ingredients? One of the most important is getting clear on what really matters to you – your priorities.

Priorities matter because no matter how great your plan is, you cannot do everything. We simply live in a time with too many opportunities, distractions, and resources to say yes to all the things around us.

So, for you to feel successful, to really move the needle, you have to be clear about what matters most to you. Unfortunately, getting that clarity isn’t always easy.

Our priorities aren’t always clear. It’s up to us to uncover them.

Most of us drop the ball right here, before we’ve even gotten started. Why? Because uncovering your priorities takes some time for focused, quiet reflection and our world doesn’t really make that easy. Meetings, notifications, jam-packed schedules all make finding the time to reflect seem impossible. But, if you want any of those things to ever change – if you want tomorrow to be different than today – you must set aside time for this work.

Even if we do manage to make time to think about what really matters to us, we can miss the mark because we’re overly influenced by other people’s opinions. There’s no shortage of “shoulds” that can invade your life and make it hard to hear your own voice. The expectations of your career, the desires of your friends and family, even the general expectations of society can leave us so consumed with other people’s opinions that we can hardly remember our own. Again, this is where time away from all those influences becomes key.

The final roadblock to uncovering our priorities is fear. Once we take the time to really consider our own why, many of us find ourselves face to face with our own fears. Maybe we need to make big changes to support what matters to us. Maybe we have big dreams or bold goals that we want to put out into the world. These things are exciting, but they can also be terrifying. So much so that many of us hit the brakes on our priorities and never really embrace them.

If you’re serious about really thriving, priorities are a must.

Despite the fact that uncovering what really matters to you can be a challenge, it is essential to your own sense success. There’s simply no short-cut around it. If you’re ready to face this challenge, you can get started by asking yourself some key questions.

When you’ve felt unfulfilled in the past, what was missing?

We’ve all had those times when we knew we weren’t thriving. Maybe we felt stressed, or stagnated, or just off somehow. Think back on those times and consider what was missing. Were you in a job that didn’t challenge you? Or maybe you found yourself working without the resources or direction that you needed to make progress. Maybe you were killing it professionally, but weren’t taking care of your body the way you wanted. These “missing pieces” are the first clues to your priorities.

What do you want more of in your life?

Push yourself to go beyond the obvious here. Everyone wants more time. Most people would like a little more money. But, this is a different inquiry. What pieces of your life, if magnified, could help you feel more successful? Maybe you crave more time outdoors, or time for professional development. Maybe you’d really like to find time to read or learn a new skill. Whatever the case, your answers will provide the clues to what really drives you.

What would you be willing to give up to get the things that matter most?

Figuring out what really matters to you is crucial, but it isn’t a magic wand. Life still requires that you make difficult choices – about how you spend your time, your energy, and your financial resources. As your sense of priorities come into focus, begin to ask yourself what things are falling away. What do you need to focus less on so that the things that matter most can rise to the surface?

These may be low value activities like watching mindless television or scrolling through social  media as a distraction. They may be habits you need to address like a chaotic morning routine or an overactive sweet tooth. Or, maybe you’ll realize that there are a few mental habits that are blocking your success like self-doubt or procrastination.

Almost all of us crave success in one way or another, but the vision of success means is very different for each of us. Before you set goals, build plans, and take on new habits, spend some time uncovering what success looks like for you.