Core Concepts: Important To/Important For


A way to help describe both how someone wants to live and a reasonable balance between the components that make-up Important To and Important For. Forms the foundation of all of the other work. As the core concept this is at the center of planning and practice. All of the tools that follow are intended to be used to

  • Learn more and inform ourselves about Important To;
  • Find a better balance between “to” and “for”
  • Discover how to implement what is learned


We need to always ask what do we know before we ask what should we do? As people build their competency in thinking this way, all conversations about addressing issues begin with what do we know about what is Important To and what is Important For and the balance between them. Remember that Import To is learned through a discovery process. The tools we have found most useful are available here.

Stories and Examples

The following people and their stories have been chosen to illustrate examples of how the tools might be used with varying people and circumstances. Each person is introduced using one page profiles. Remember that one page profiles are developed using the discovery tools.

Management Skills: People Matching


To develop the information needed to match those who use services with staff or with other people who use services. A good match between those who provide the services and those who receive the services is one of the strongest determinants of quality of life. Where there is a good match community connecting becomes easier.


Think about the person you are supporting. Think about who has worked well with the person and who has not. Complete the four columns to identify the key supports wanted, skills needed, personality characteristics needed, and desired shared common interests. 

Management Skills: Donut


To create clear expectations regarding performance and encourage creativity.


Adapted from work by Charles Handy, clarity of expectations is created by dividing responsibilities into 3 categories:

  1. Core Responsibilities: Those things that are expected to be done as described.
  2. Judgment and creativity: Those things where there is an expectation to try things – to see what works and what doesn’t work. To learn by making an effort. If something is in this category it has to be OK to get it wrong.
  3. Not your responsibility: This defines the boundaries of responsibility for those who are paid.

When first using this tool begin with a specific situation or activity where expectations are clear. Examples of these are often Important For issues. (e.g. how someone is transferred; how to care for a gastrostomy tube; or what to do in situations that can trigger challenging behaviors.) Ask:

  • Where must we follow the instructions exactly (core responsibilities)?
  • Where can we try things and learn from the results – and it is OK if it doesn’t work (judgment and creativity)?
  • Are there aspects of the effort or the outcome of the effort that are not our responsibility?

Two graphics follow. The donut represented by concentric circles is very useful in explaining the concept but can trap people into thinking that when they are out of space for core responsibilities they are done describing what they are. The 2nd graphic – the donut in columns – is recommended for recording responsibilities.

Management Skills: Decision Tree – Yours, Mine, & Ours


To empower people and create clarity about how to support them in their decisions. Clearly identifying areas in the person’s life where decisions need to be made helps to build clarify and collaboration on a team when making decisions. Some decisions are for the person (mine), some are for those offering support (yours), and others are for both (ours). For example, are medical procedures decision that a person will make on their own, with family, or together? Is there an area where several people will share the responsibility, but not the full team? Remember to always include the individual who’s life is impacted by the decision.


With the person, think through the following three questions. If appropriate, ask those who best know and care about the person to also provide input. Make sure these added responses are recorded in addition, and do not take the place of recording the person’s own decisions. Where there is disagreement the working/not working tool may help clarify how to move forward.

Discovery Skills: Positive Rituals Survey


To identify rituals and routines that must be present in a person’s life to create and contribute to a feeling of contentment, comfort and satisfaction. This also helps to identify what parts of a routine to keep and/or change. These things typically identify or support what is ‘Important To’ the person.


Rituals often bring balance and structure to a person’s life and create a positive outlook. Pay particular attention to the beginning and end of the day rituals. Each of us have specific activities that we do every day. The more support the person needs, the more details are included in the tool. The more control the person has, the less you need to record and share about their rituals.

The morning ritual is often included as an example, and is only one specific ritual. Other rituals include night time (going to bed), transition, cultural, holiday, spiritual, comfort, birthday, celebration, and coping with illness. List the person’s major daily rituals. As a ritual is selected, as the person how their ritual starts. What are the “must haves” or “must do’s” to make this ritual a positive experience. Also ask “does the sequence matter,” “who else needs to be a part of it for you,” and what do you do next?”

After capturing/recording the routine or ritual, analyze and review the information with the person, asking “what does this reveal to us that is Important To the person?” Some answers will be very concrete and clear – such as sharing dinner with my family every day; wearing comfortable (not itchy or tight) clothes. Other answers may require more analysis and synthesis. Note that some people are not “allowed” to have a comfort ritual and others need help in finding a comfort ritual that reflects a balance between Important To and Important For.