5. PARENTS: Reproducing asexually is a load of work. It is also very difficult to introduce beneficial mutations into a population if every offspring only inherits from a single genetic line. Unless you have a perfectly-set genome and a nutrient-rich stable environment, it's probably a good idea to reproduce sexually. Ideally with a mate you can trust. Someone with a matching genome. Someone who has also shown great survival traits. Someone who is willing to partake in a genetic exchange with you in which one of your gametes becomes fertilized by the others'. If your partner isn't willing to provide EVERY chromosome - e.g. bilateral symmetry, further reproductive ability, the ability to take in nutrients and excrete waste products - for you, chances are the organism in control of your future lineage (yes, survival is based on the ability to procreate further) may not have the best intentions for you or your species. Remember, everyone is looking to carve out an ecological niche and propagate their genes, too. Know who handles your genitalia, how they're handled (stimulated, bitten off after copulation, etc.), and how this partner plans to share the child-raising duties.
4. PARASITIC ATTACHMENT: What does this mean? The organism you're about to pair with is going to attach themselves to your body and make use of your own biological processes. Usually, this means there will be some up-front stimulation effect, but in the long run you're going to be doing extra work to sustain two lifeforms while only the attached one will benefit. Eat an apple. Parasite gets a cut. Eat a fermented soybean. Parasite gets a cut. Feeling heroic and want to burrow in a river bank. The parasite lives right there with you. Essentially, you do the work, parasite gets the benefits. That's the price you pay for an initial surge of dopamine. Even your excretory system is used to spread their eggs. Literally. Understand the tradeoffs and how your food intake is shared. A parasitic attachment only makes sense if there is a symbiotic relationship (e.g.the production of an enzyme which allows you to digest wood pulp or complex sugars) without having an ongoing drain on the resources you would otherwise be able to process through normal digestive mechanisms.
3. SURVIVAL INSTINCT: Normally, I'd put survival instinct before food intake, but since survival instinct is often less important due to herd strength or more advanced societal evolution, survival instinct falls just shy of food intake in order of importance. But survival instinct = your ability to survive. OK, think of survival instinct this way: You have a chance to become directly subservient to your hive queen and be responsible for protecting the safety of the colony. 92.3% Guaranteed. But you must attach your...uh, weapon directly to your entrails, and harming any interloper will mean certain death. There's no way you'd sacrifice your survival ability for a bit of pollen. Right? That's survival instinct. Don't compromise it. Ever. Why? Let's say you do compromise your survival instinct, 'cause those things that looked like berries tasted REALLY GOOD, or your tendril extended over an unfortunately placed barb, etc. You have ONE eye stalk that gets invaded by a foreign entity and a bird (it's possible!) thinks your eye is a tasty worm. The bird eats your eye and spreads the contained eggs aerially, 12 million infestations in 1 year. Everyone's getting infected by it. Awesome! Guess how much personal benefit you get from it? Zip! True, you may've regrown your infected eye stalk a few times and had it eaten by more birds, but the entity that infected your eye stalk gets the lion's share of the procreation. They get to continue in their large ecological niche throughout the rainforest, while no female will mate with you because of your missing eye stalk. Own your eye stalk. After eating (great) detritus, it's all you really have.
2. FOOD INTAKE: Eat the fucking food! Don't ignore food. Don't gloss over entire sources of nutrition to get to the "Highly fermented sucrose" cache. Yeah, you want to know if you'll have enough food to construct a nice nest, but understand that food is scarce for a reason. And it's not for your benefit. Look to see what others of your species are eating; don't assume you know whether something is edible or not. Also, get an immune system. One you can trust. This is your biome and you don't want Cordyceps Bassiana - the brain-invading fungus you saw infect those beetles over there - inducing you to climb up to the top of a tree, only to leave your head swollen with spore sacs shortly before it explodes and spreads itself everywhere. The food chain is complicated. Species are protectionist, usually in favor of the species providing their own intake (i.e., silk worms -> tea leaves). For every species that says "We got fucked!", "Oxygen-producing phytoplankton made the waters unsurvivable outside of oceanic vents!", "Fuck those anglerfish... I was promised a tasty snack!", or "That cuckoo bird engaged in brood parasitism!", I wonder if they learned to gather their own food properly. Food scarcity and niche encroach create planet-shattering havoc. Always know where you eat before offering your nutrition to a competing genus. Always.
1. REPRODUCTION: OK, if survival instinct = your ability to live, what is reproduction then? Everything else. Without reproduction - you know, the kind that allows your offspring to continue your positive traits - you got nothing. You can't cell divide forever. Egg sacs for a creature without a penis won't ever get filled (though maybe there's a reproduction idea, but it'd only work for certain species of lizards and insects who reproduce via parthenogenesis via lesbian stimulation). A female won't accept your sperm without a delivery mechanism. Really, focus (like a spherical lensed eye, like a mammal, like an avian) on reproduction. Yeah, I know. You're excited, you want to stimulate yourself orally, get a dopamine response, ejaculate, make burrows, eat slime molds every night... the works! But if your reproductive ability isn't good (mom's sexual proclivity doesn't count), then forget it. I'm not talking about "long-term hibernating" your reproduction cycle. We all know the seventeen-year cicada story. But without solid reproduction, confidence (not attitude!) in your abilities at mating, and the physical stamina to back it all up, well, what's the point in going through with points 5, 4, 3, 2? Because you want to? Seriously, go get an RNA retrovirus instead. There's nothing wrong with being a pond goldfish or a colony of diatoms that clump together. 99.9% of biodiversity is made this way. But want it out in the public as a successful documented species then make sure the reproduction rates are better than a cryptozoology study.