Finally, set some goals that you can achieve this year with the process in this book.
These are my notes and highlights from the book Your Best Year Ever - Michael Hyatt (affiliate link).
This book about how to set goals for the new year that you are actually going to be able to keep.
It goes through analysing your life and working out the areas you want to improve, setting the right goals, so they are achievable but still challenging and then tips for how to ensure success.
This book is quite a short read, I finished over the course of half a day. As with all of these types of books, you get the most benefit by doing the exercises.
This book is for anyone who has tried setting goals in the past and has never been able to keep them. I am not saying it is going to put an end to your failed New Year’s Resolutions, but it will certainly give you a fighting chance.
This book is broken down into 5 main steps that guide you through overcoming your limiting beliefs, completing the past and designing your future.
The book recommends that you do a LifeScore which is a free online survey to determine which areas of your life need your most attention. I don’t think this is a necessity but if you don’t know where to start this could help.
The survey breaks your life into 10 interrelated domains:
Another major reason goals fail is that we’re not motivated enough to attain them. Without a compelling reason to persist, we lose interest, get distracted, or forget what we purposed to do.
Step 1 is all about overcoming limiting beliefs. If you have read any books about self-improvement this comes up quite a lot. What are the stories that we have told ourselves that we believe to be true but in fact aren’t. Are any of these stories holding us back?
Because our expectations shape what we believe is possible, they shape our perceptions and actions. That means they also shape the outcomes. And that means they shape our reality.
Older people tend to fail at achieving their goals because they have many years of limiting beliefs holding them back.
Polls show the percentage of people in their twenties who achieve their New Year’s resolutions is far greater than those over fifty.
Arthur C. Clarke said: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” As Clarke said, it’s a “failure of imagination.”
I stopped watching and reading the news. If something important has happened I usually end up hearing about it from others anyway. Not only is the news depressing a lot of it is made up as well.
As J. R. R. Tolkien quipped, it’s mostly murders and football scores. “Studies have shown that an overabundance of news can make you depressed, anxious, and, for the most part, doesn’t usually provide you with the ability to actually change or influence anything being reported,” says Michael Grothaus-and he’s a professional journalist.
“The undeniable reality is that how well you do in life and business depends not only on what you do and how you do it… but also on who is doing it with you or to you,” says psychologist Henry Cloud in The Power of the Other.
As we begin to think about designing our best year ever, we need to recognize that most of the barriers we face are imaginary. There are a million thoughts running through our heads, but we alone get to choose what we’re going to believe. And the best way to overcome limiting beliefs is to replace them with liberating truths. It’s possible to upgrade our beliefs.
Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. MUHAMMAD ALI
“Common sense” is simply another way of saying “widely held misunderstanding.” A limiting belief is a misunderstanding of the present that short changes our future.
We start to believe the words we tell ourselves so why not change what you tell yourself for the better.
Instead of “I don’t feel like doing that right now. I’m exhausted”. Change it to “I have more than enough energy to accomplish the tasks I undertake.”.
Eventually reality will catch up with our words.
Four properties that can help us achieve our goals:
“There is no deficit in human resources, the deficit is in human will.”
- Martin Luther King
The 6 R’s for overcoming limiting beliefs.
Examples of limiting beliefs that we tell ourselves:
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to write down your limiting beliefs. Draw a line down a page. On one side place your limiting beliefs. On the other write corresponding liberating truths. Consider the side with your liberating truths your new personal manifesto for achieving your goals.
The After-Action Review - After an event, the goal is to understand what happened, why it happened, and how they can improve.
1. Recognize the Power of Your Beliefs
“Our thoughts determine our lives” - Serbian monk Thaddeus of Vitovnica.
Both positively and negatively, your beliefs have tremendous impact on your experience of life. Recognizing that fact is the first stage in experiencing your best year ever.
2. Confront Your Limiting Beliefs
We all have limiting beliefs about the world, others, and ourselves. Four indicators you’re trapped in a limiting belief are whether your opinion is formed by:
3. Upgrade Your Beliefs Write down your limiting beliefs in a notebook and go through this 6-step process for turning them into liberating truths.
Sometimes we hold on to things that have happened to us in the past, and they prevent us from moving forward.
“Reasoning flows not only forward,” as psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Dale T. Miller say, “but also backward, from the experience to what it reminds us of or makes us think about.” They call this “the power of backward thinking.”
If you have had any negative experiences in the past that you are holding on to it can help to write them out.
According to a study by University of California researchers Sonja Lyubomirsky, Lorie Sousa, and Rene Dickerhoof, “Participants who processed a negative experience through writing or talking reported improved life satisfaction and enhanced mental and physical health relative to those who [merely] thought about it.”
Stage 1: State What You Wanted to Happen
Start by asking yourself how you saw the year going. What were your plans, your dreams, your concrete goals if you had any? Don’t focus on just one or two areas.
Remember, our lives consist of ten interrelated domains: spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical, marital, parental, social, vocational, avocational, and financial.
Stage 2: Acknowledge What Actually Happened Then list out what actually happened over this last year.
Once you have done that list out what you did manage to accomplish. What went well?
Completing the past is not just about processing failures and disappointments. It’s also about acknowledging and celebrating your wins. It’s important to observe not only what went wrong but also what went right and how your beliefs and behaviors contributed to that outcome. We often downplay this or never think to do it.
Stage 3: Learn from the experience
What were the major life lessons you learned this past year? Unless we learn from our experiences, we can’t grow.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” - George Santayana
Distill the lessons from your experiences so you don’t lose them and so they can serve as tools moving forward.
Stage 4: Adjust Your Behavior
If something in your beliefs and behaviors contributed to the gap between what you wanted to happen and what actually happened, something has to change. In fact, that gap will only widen and worsen unless you pivot. It’s not enough to acknowledge the gap. It’s not even enough to learn from the experience. If you don’t change your beliefs and how you act on them, you’re actually worse than when you started.
“The delta between I am a screwup and I screwed up may look small,” says Brown, “but in fact it’s huge.” When we focus on ourselves instead of our performance, we make it harder to address improving next time around for the simple reason that improvement isn’t the focus.
Regrets don’t necessarily need to be a bad thing. If you take the time to learn from your regrets then they can guide you in the future. This relates to Regret Minimisation.
Family, finances, and health all made the list, but the six biggest regrets people expressed were about education, career, romance, parenting, self-improvement, and leisure. Notice how these high-regret areas correlate closely to the ten life domains I outlined at the start of the book.
It is not just about looking at what went wrong, but it is important to look at what is going well in your life and take the time to be grateful for them.
They had participants keep a gratitude journal, as well as provide a list of goals they hoped to reach over a two-month period. Ten weeks later Emmons and Mishra checked back and found the grateful participants were significantly closer than others to achieving their goals. Gratitude doesn’t make us complacent, they said. Instead, “gratitude enhances effortful goal striving.”
Being grateful for what we have can also help us make better financial decisions.
“On average, we increased people’s financial patience by about 12 percent,” said DeSteno. “Imagine if you could increase people’s savings by that much.”
“I set myself up for a great year by writing down fifty things I’m grateful for. I find that taking time to count my blessings keeps my mind focused on helping others and achieving even more than last year”
The truth is that you will never have more of what you want until you become thankful for what you have. Ingratitude creates instant victims in our culture of scarcity. But giving thanks for outrageous abundance inoculates us from the sense of fear, failure, and discontent we sometimes experience and instead creates a path toward success, joy, and fulfillment.
1. Conduct an After-Action Review
To conduct an After-Action Review, work through these four stages: first, state what you wanted to happen; second, acknowledge what actually happened; third, learn from the experience; and fourth, adjust your behavior. I find it’s effective to work through these stages by answering these seven questions:
- How did you see the past year going?
- What were your plans, your dreams, your concrete goals if you had any?
- What disappointments or regrets did you experience this past year?
- What did you feel you should have been acknowledged for but weren’t?
- What did you accomplish this past year that you were most proud of?
- What were two or three specific themes that kept recurring?
- What were the major life lessons you learned this past year?
2. Find the Opportunity Hidden in Regret We often feel the sharpest regret when we have the greatest chance for a positive remedy. So, ask yourself what opportunities your regrets reveal.
These three exercises can help you get started:
- Begin and end the day with prayer.
- Practice thankfulness by expressing gratitude for the gifts you have.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
If you struggle making headway with these, try the George Bailey technique. Think of something good in your life, and imagine what your life would be like without it.
Do not think or do anything without having some aim in sight; the person who journeys aimlessly will have labored in vain. - MARK THE MONK, On the Spiritual Law
Matthews discovered, among other things, the mere act of writing one’s goals boosted achievement by 42 percent.
Writing down your goals can help for five reasons:
You have probably heard of SMART goals before. SMART generally stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timeboxed.
Michael’s version is slightly different and also has a couple of extra letters too.
To formulate a SMARTER goal, you’ve got to identify exactly what you want to accomplish. For example, I could “Write a book,” but that’s too vague. What’s the specific book that you want to write?
Here’s another example: “Learn photography.” Is that specific? No. What aspect of photography do you want to learn? A better goal would be “Complete Lynda .com’s Photography 101 course.”
Saying you want to exercise more often doesn’t do much. It’s not objective. Saying you plan to go to the gym four days a week is different. When the goal is measurable, we know the criteria for success.
“Be more consistent in blogging.” Is that actionable? No. That’s a state of being verb. But something like “Write two blog posts a week,” that’s actionable. It starts with the verb write, and it’s clear and directive about the action.
Here’s another example: “Be more health conscious.” Is that actionable? Not really. Instead you could say something like “Walk for thirty minutes five times a week.”
Normally we talk about setting goals that are realistic. That’s usually what the R in SMART refers to. But if we start by asking what’s realistic, we’re likely to set the bar too low.
“There is a linear relationship between the degree of goal difficulty and performance,” as goal theorists Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham say.
As you’re thinking about assigning deadlines, don’t make them all December 31. Distant deadlines discourage action. You’ll think, “I have so much time. It’s not due for another ten or twelve months.” Effort dissipates to fill time.
The main thing to watch is your bandwidth. I recommend setting seven to ten goals per year-but only two or three major deadlines per quarter. Any more than that and your focus will suffer along with your results.
Saying “Exercise more this year” is a recipe for inaction. But saying “Run for thirty minutes at the park every weekday morning at 7 a.m.” sets you up to win.
Ayelet Fishbach and Kaitlin Woolley of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business researched New Year’s resolutions. They first asked people to rate how much they enjoyed the resolutions they had set and then followed up a couple months later. Enjoyment turned out to be a key predictor of success.
It is important to set goals that are important to you and that you actually have time to achieve without it having an impact on other areas of your life.
Pursuing a new weekend-gobbling hobby might put unwanted strain on your family. You need to set goals that are relevant to your actual circumstances and true interests. You also need goals that align with your values. This should be obvious, but sometimes we feel outside pressure to set goals that go against the core of who we are.
Finally, you need goals that align amongst themselves. They must have harmony together as a whole. Setting multiple conflicting goals will only create friction and frustration. If we’re working against ourselves, we’ll experience more heartburn than progress.
These are some examples that can be used from each of the main life domains.
There are 2 types of goals:
It is important that your goals are a little bit of a stretch. Michael mentions 3 zones when it comes to goals:
By reaching for what appears to be impossible, we often actually do the impossible; and even when we don’t quite make it, we inevitably wind up doing much better than we would have done. - JACK WELCH
“Western culture has things a little backwards right now,” Karnazes once told Outside magazine. “We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure.”
The Chicago architect Daniel Burnham said it this way in 1907: “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized. Make big plans, aim high in hope and work.”
1. Set Your Goals Set seven to ten goals you want to achieve for the year. Make them SMARTER:
Make sure you focus on the Life Domains where you need to see improvement. List just a few per quarter; that way you can concentrate your attention and keep a steady pace throughout the year.
2. Decide on the Right Mix of Achievements and Habits
Achievement goals represent one-time accomplishments. Habit goals represent new regular, ongoing activity. Both are helpful for designing your best year ever, but you need to decide on the right balance for your individual needs. The only right answer is the one that works for you.
**3. Set Goals in the Discomfort Zone
The best things in life usually happen when we stretch ourselves and grow. That’s definitely true for our designing our best year ever. But it runs counter to our instincts, doesn’t it? Follow these four steps to overcome the resistance:
A lot of this is very similar to Start With Why by Simon Sinek.
Perfectionism and self-judgment are sure to derail us. “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly,” G. K. Chesterton once said. That line always makes me laugh. But it carries an essential truth: Doing is better than not doing perfectly. Give yourself a break and keep plugging away.
“Why am I doing this in the first place?” I then try to remember the dream. I try to get connected to the original vision, because that keeps me going when the going gets tough. No one crosses the messy middle to reach their goals unless they really want what’s on the other side of discomfort
Come up with motivations for all of your goals. List the most important ones first and keep the top 3 that really motivate you. These motivations will help you when your willpower is low.
For example, I wrote this down:
- I’m tired of being overweight.
- I want to get into the best shape of my life.
- I want the stamina and the energy to be able to be the most productive self I can be.
You need to connect with your motivations both intellectually and emotionally. Is there research backing up your motivation. Can you feel what is at stake? What would it be like to achieve that goal, what would it feel like to miss that goal.
Intrinsic rewards help us avoid that danger because we connect personally and emotionally with them. You might say they’re self-justifying. They become an end in and of themselves, even part of our identity.
Mastery of an action, like my guitar playing, eventually makes it self-perpetuating. “Studies of expert performers tell us that once you have practiced for a while and can see the results,” explain Florida State University psychologist Anders Ericsson and science writer Robert Pool, “the skill itself can become part of your motivation. You take pride in what you do, you get pleasure from your friends’ compliments, and your sense of identity changes.” The activity is fully internalized and has become its own reward.
Instead of three or four weeks, they found it took an average of sixty-six days for new habits to become automatic-more than three times the popular duration. And some activities, they said, would be more like 250 days!
Match habit with achievement goals
If you find habit goals difficult to keep up, try matching it with achievement goals that can give you a sense of accomplishment throughout the journey.
For example if your habit is to go to the gym 3 times a week, match it with an achievement goal of being able to lift a certain weight.
Chains and Games
Another trick is tracking streaks. Jerry Seinfeld famously used this system to build his writing habit. The idea was to write a joke every day and mark the calendar every day you write. “After a few days you’ll have a chain,” he explained.
Measure the gain not the gap
So take a minute and look at the gain. See how far you’ve already come and let your progress inspire your perseverance.
This is another reason setting milestones is helpful. Not only do they help break up the big goal into manageable chunks, they give us something to measure-forward or backward.
By measuring the gains we’ll not only cultivate persistence, we’ll also get a sense of our momentum.
Get help from friends Peers help with Learning, Encouragement, Accountability and Competition.
“Especially when it comes to self-improvement like weight loss or overcoming an addiction we need the energy of a community to stay with the program in a way that fuels us,” says psychologist Henry Cloud
Your goals should be shared with people who are going to support you. This could be close family members or with the fitness group you have joined.
Then I heard Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby, speak at TED. “The repeated psychology tests have proven that telling someone your goal makes it less likely to happen,” he said. Why? Because your brain experiences the same sense of satisfaction as if you had actually accomplished it. It works against you.
I have read a few of Derek Sivers books in the past and I have always enjoyed his writing. The TED talk mentioned here is: Derek Sivers: Keep your goals to yourself | TED Talk.
1. Connect with Your Why
Start by identifying your key motivations. Why do you want to reach your goal in the first place? Why is it important personally? Get a notebook or pad of paper and list all the key motivations. But don’t just list them, prioritize them. You want the best reasons at the top of your list. Finally, connect with these motivations both intellectually and emotionally.
2. Master Your Motivation There are four key ways to stay motivated as you reach for your goals:
3. Build Your Team
It’s almost always easier to reach a goal if you have friends on the journey. Intentional relationships provide four ingredients essential for success: learning, encouragement, accountability, and competition.
Examples of groups that can help you reach your goals:
If you can’t find a group you need, don’t wait. Start your own.
The key is to get started first and then the act of completing tasks will give you the motivation to continue. Start with a goal in the Comfort Zone, so you can get some momentum going before tackling more ambitious goals.
At this stage of the game, the most important aspect of making it happen is practicing the art of the start. You don’t have to see the end from the beginning. In fact, you can’t if your goal is big enough. And the good news is that you don’t need to. All you have to see is the next step. Any goal is manageable one action at a time.
It is important to realise when you might need outside resources. This could be working with a personal trainer, joining a class or getting a guitar teacher, but it equally is buying a book or taking a course as well.
You need to try and pre-empt any issues that might prevent you from reaching your goals.
I am sure you have heard about placing your gym clothes next to your bed the night before. The key is to not rely on motivation that you will have “in the moment” but to lock in decision in advance.
Because they address contingencies, we can think of them as simple if/then or when/then statements. They work, says social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, “because contingencies are built into our neurological wiring.
When people decide exactly when, where, and how they will fulfill their goals, they create a link in their brains between a certain situation or cue (‘If or when x happens’) and the behavior that should follow (‘then I will do y’). In this way, they establish powerful triggers for action.”
Make sure your Activation Triggers are easier to achieve than your actual goals. That’s the whole point. You’re leveraging the easy to do the hard. After you’ve come up with a short list of possible triggers (two or three), select the one you think will set you up for success.
Examples of Activation Triggers
A major part of the Activation Trigger process is thinking when you’re at your strongest, rather than relying on your willpower when you’re not.
Anticipate Obstacles and Determine Your Response. Come up with rules for what you will do if the unexpected happens. Like declining meetings after 5pm.
Even with a set of Activation Triggers firmly in place, you can still get derailed unless you identify potential obstacles and detail how you will deal with them.
General “Jimmy” Doolittle pioneered flying aircraft using instruments. I just thought this was quite interesting. The idea is that we can’t do everything by ourselves, and we need to use the tools available to us.
It took several years, but he figured out a combination of radio and gyroscopes could let him fly safely regardless of visibility. And he proved it in 1929 by flying a plane with a totally blacked-out cockpit.
As Doolittle found, when it comes to experiencing our best year ever, we need the right mix of instruments.
Now we need to add another: a regular goal review process. You can’t just write goals and motivations. You have to review them and keep them top of mind.
You can do this in a physical notebook or planner, like my Full Focus Planner, or a digital solution like Evernote or Nozbe. You can even frame your goals and hang them on the wall. (I use a hybrid system of the Full Focus Planner and Nozbe, as well as hanging a summary on the wall. You need to find whatever works best for you.)
To gain the full benefit of the review, you should scan this list each day. I know it sounds like a lot, but it takes only a minute. After all, you only have seven to ten goals, right? I do this as part of my morning routine.
I am currently using Obsidian for my daily journal and note-taking. I plan to embed my goals into my daily note so that I see them every day.
It goes a bit deeper and takes a bit longer, about twenty minutes. There’s a triple focus of the weekly review.
The Weekly Big 3 represents definitive outcomes I must accomplish to move closer to my goals. How does this relate to my Daily Big 3? I use my Weekly Big 3 to dictate my Daily Big 3.
Come up with the top 3 things you want to achieve in the week and then break them down into tasks that become part of your daily big 3.
GOALS → NEXT ACTIONS → WEEKLY BIG 3 → DAILY BIG 3
I recommend setting goals by quarter so you space them out in the year and also prompt action immediately, instead of waiting till later in the year as a more distant deadline finally comes into view. Quarterly goal setting naturally leads to a deeper review every three months. You can treat it like a scaled-down version of the Best Year Ever process and walk the 5 Steps again.
The main purpose of the quarterly review is to analyze your goals and decide if they’re still relevant to your life, and then make any adjustments if not. I like to take a full day for my quarterly review. But if time is tight I can usually do this in an hour-two at the most.
In the quarterly review process, at least five options are possible:
REJOICE if you’ve reached your goal/milestone. If you’re not there yet, Then RECOMMIT to achieve it. If you can’t recommit, Then REVISE the goal so you can achieve it. If you can’t revise, Then REMOVE the goal from your list. If you remove a goal, Then REPLACE it with another you want to achieve.
1. Break Down Big Goals into Manageable Next Steps
Don’t fall for the old “eat that frog” trap. While your goal should begin in the Discomfort Zone, your next step should be in the Comfort Zone. Do the easiest task first. If you get stumped or stuck, seek outside help. You want to build momentum early with quick wins.
2. Utilize Activation Triggers
Brainstorm the best Activation Triggers for you. Remember to leverage what comes easy to do what’s hard. Don’t rely on your willpower in the moment. Instead, optimize your Activation Triggers with elimination, automation, and delegation.
You’re going to face obstacles, so anticipate those and determine the best if/then response in advance. The idea is to plan your workarounds before an obstacle derails you. If you don’t have it right to begin with, experiment until you nail it.
3. Schedule Regular Goal Reviews
For your daily review, scan your list of goals. You want to keep your goals fresh in your mind and also think through a few specific tasks for the day that will bring you closer to achieving them. I call these my Daily Big 3.
For your weekly review, scan your goals with a special focus on your key motivations. Conduct a quick After-Action Review of the prior week. Review the next actions for each of your goals and determine what three outcomes you must reach in the coming week to achieve them. I call these my Weekly Big 3, and I use them to determine my Daily Big 3.
For the quarterly review, I recommend walking through the five Best Year Ever steps again. But the key is to: (1) rejoice if you’ve completed your goal or passed a milestone, (2) recommit if you haven’t, (3) revise the goal if you can’t recommit to it, (4) remove the goal if you can’t revise, and finally, (5) replace the goal with another you want to achieve.
If you want to see a big change, you must be willing take a big LEAP. It’s as simple as four steps, one for each to letter of the acronym: