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Making What Matters Most, Matter Most

If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority


By Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe

Many of us are feeling such a deep depletion because we are not doing enough of the things that strengthen and recharge us. We need time to live within our values to feel like our most authentic and wholehearted selves. If you value adventure but you have not traveled in years, this will start to erode your sense of self. If you want to be a present parent, but you have no energy for your child at the end of the day, you feel disconnected from what matters most. The current work/life landscape of competing demands and roles does not readily lend itself to value-based living. Burnout is not always about the work; it is about the time we spend outside of our values or what matters most to us, that erodes the quality of our lives.


We need to get clear on what matters most. We need to know what our true priorities are. From here, we can create systems that support us in making sure our priorities are being met every day. Living wholeheartedly in every domain of our life is the most powerful defense to combat the celebrated norm of hustling, the praise of exhaustion, and the disease of pleasing others. Interestingly, our values are how we can change behavior. We have to change our beliefs to change the behavior.

Recognition of the importance of values has emerged recently in new-wave psychotherapies including Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). These evidence-based approaches encourage values exploration and suggest that living a life that aligns with values makes emotional stress more tolerable. Knowledge of our values can help us prioritize and make decisions in ways that feel okay to us. When we act in accordance with our core values, we find meaning, fulfillment, and even joy!

Here are some examples of core values:

  • Justice

  • Generosity

  • Respect

  • Balance

  • Independence

  • Kindness

  • Love

  • Adventure

  • Loyalty

  • Integrity

  • Faith

  • Harmony

  • Creativity

  • Power

  • Security

  • Innovation

  • Wealth

  • Honesty

  • Connection


Please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list. I encourage you to do some research on core values to help you identify yours. List them somewhere you can revisit them regularly.

To start exploring your priorities and values, ask yourself:

  • What are my non-negotiables?

  • What is most important to me in my life?

  • If someone were to look at my life, would they be able to tell what my true priorities are?

  • What kind of changes do I need to make to put my priorities first?


Our values make up who we are and what we are all about. What we value denotes the degree of importance we assign to the priorities in our lives. While time spent outside of our values hurts us both physically and psychologically, living within our values is how we stay aligned with our truest version of ourselves and achieve lasting success.


Our values can elevate every aspect of our lives as they help us focus on what’s important to us and can be our guide in difficult times. Once we have clarity around what we value, it’s going to take some concerted and explicit effort to shape and structure our lives in a way that works for us.

What’s one small step you could take that would help you to lean into your values each day? Set the intention to do ONE thing that connects you to your values every day. It can be simple, like reading your child a story, supporting a local business, or even planning a future trip. Keeping what matters most to you top of mind helps maintain perspective.

Boundaries – What are your top 3 non-negotiables? For example: One day of the week is sacred and will not have work of any kind, I will not break a promise or commitment to my family, and I will not read email in bed. Or I answer the phone call of my child’s school even if I am in a meeting.

Schedule It – Schedule time for the things that align with your values and keep it in your calendar as if you are meeting with the most important person in the world. Even 15-minute blocks can change your life. It is 1% of your day, as the brilliant Dr. Greg Wells says. Make the things that matter most a priority in your calendar and guard it as you would any other important meeting.


I appreciate that getting your priorities straight is no easy feat as we are constantly being pulled in all different directions, personally and professionally. As a high-achieving professional myself, I am constantly juggling the demands of being an entrepreneur, scholar, speaker, teacher, and parent. I am still on the journey to figure out how to live my values daily. And I know that when I am living within my values, I feel a deeper sense of fulfillment, and there is a richer quality to my days. I am able to maintain perspective. I can unapologetically protect my peace.

When we live a value-aligned life and make what matters most, matter most, we absolutely feel better, and we are giving others permission to live within their values too. All too often, people seem to learn this lesson all too late. They get that phone call that changes their world. They lose their job and realize they were replaceable despite giving that company so many years. Or they lose someone who genuinely was irreplaceable in their life and there are no do-overs.  Reality can bring ruthless clarity. Coping with the inevitable stressors that are inherent to our lives is easier when we know we choose to show up fully present and make what matters most, matter most, each and every day.



Described as one of the most sought-after, engaging, thought-provoking, and truly transformative international speakers and scholars in her field, Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe is a multi-award-winning education and psychology instructor, author, and resiliency expert. She specializes in resiliency, navigating stress and change, personal wellness in the workplace, and optimal performance - both personal and organizational. With over 18 years of university teaching and research experience, and as a two-time TEDx Talk speaker, Dr. Robyne continues to create accessible and relatable materials while offering practical strategies that are realistic and sustainable. 

Dr. Robyne and her team have developed innovative programming and open educational resources that are readily shared across a multitude of industries. While working alongside some of the most influential organizations across the world, since March of 2020, she has delivered over 750 keynotes and workshops. Dr. Robyne expands upon this work in her online community Anchor Labs, where leaders can learn strategies for resilience.

Dr. Robyne recently joined a group of highly esteemed authors from around the globe as a 2022 Nautilus Award recipient with her debut book, Calm Within The Storm: A Pathway to Everyday Resiliency.

Her newest book, Stress Wisely: How to Be Well in an Unwell World will be released June 20, 2023. 

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