Focus on What Matters with This Exercise


This is the perfect time of year to reflect by looking back on 2022 and looking ahead to 2023. I often do this exercise at the new year, though it is helpful to do this any time you feel stuck, unfulfilled, lost, or stagnant.

Focus on what matters

The “More and Less” Exercise

Fold a piece of paper in half long ways, and label the top of one column “More” and the other “Less.” Make as long of a list as you would like with what you want more of in your life and what you’d like less of. 

There is no right or wrong way to do this so don’t overthink it.

But, for those of you who are stuck: maybe you’d like more ease, laughter, or time with loved ones and maybe you’d like less stress, fear, or time commuting. Write until you feel like you’re done and remember you can always add to your lists later. 

Take a look at your lists with a sense of kind curiosity—what do you notice? Does anything stand out to you? What thoughts or feelings bubble up as you look at what you’ve written? 

Focusing on Living a More Meaningful Life

Pick two to three things from the More list to focus on for the time being. If that feels like too much, just choose one.


Peace could be experienced by: being in nature, praying or meditating, or doing a hobby. Health could be experienced by: drinking more water, getting enough sleep, or taking medications. 

Helpful Tip

Avoid trying to do everything at once.

Pick a couple of small things that feel doable or manageable for you and add those in gradually.  

Taking Note of Subtle Shifts

As you start being intentional with moving your feet in the direction that matters to you; and as you start seeking out and creating opportunities to bring what matters to you into your life, you will notice shifts. You may notice that as a byproduct, you’re experiencing increases in other things on your More list. You may also notice that without any direct effort, you’re experiencing decreases in some of the things on your Less list.   

There is nothing we can do to make the Less list go away completely.

We will always have frustration, grief, or illness. When we try to push these away, we are unable to focus on or enjoy the other aspects of life because we’ve given this all our time, effort, and attention. When we learn to shift our focus to what matters to us, to what we’d like more of, and to what brings meaning to our lives we are better situated to live that way. 

About Beth

I value authenticity, courage, growth, and connection. I am the Director of Clinical Training at SouthLight and use my values on a daily basis as I work alongside others to ensure we are providing the best care possible. I recently completed yoga teacher training and am now a certified yoga teacher. I look forward to being able to more fully incorporate yoga into my work with the people I serve. 

About SouthLight

Founded in 1970, SouthLight Healthcare is one of the area’s largest nonprofit providers of substance use treatment and mental health services. SouthLight partners with individuals and communities to provide innovative treatment solutions delivered with compassion and dignity. With outpatient and community-based programs, SouthLight provides prevention, education, and treatment services in the Triangle and beyond. Call 919-787-6131 for help or more information or visit