A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals
Life gets busy. Has Your Best Year Ever been sitting on your reading list for a while? Instead, learn the key insights now.
DISCLAIMER: This is an unofficial summary, analysis, and critique of the book.
Michael Hyatt’s Perspective
Michael Hyatt is the founder and CEO of Michael Hyatt & Co, a leadership development firm specializing in live events, workshops, and digital and physical planning tools. Hyatt was previously chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. He is also a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of several books. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fast Company, Businessweek, and Entrepreneur. He currently runs a popular blog and podcast alongside his leadership training activities.
Hyatt’s perspective comes from decades as a leadership consultant and trainer. He distilled the book’s content from individual coaching sessions, webinars, and workshops.
Your Best Year Ever is a self-help book that examines goal-setting across different areas of your life. The book includes Hyatt’s process to help high achievers become more productive, improve their work-life balance, enhance their relationships, and optimize their happiness and health. He believes your best year will only take five hours and five steps to plan. This plan will triple your chances of achieving your goals.
Who Is This Book For?
Your Best Year Ever is for those who struggle with motivation (e.g., while keeping new year resolutions). It will also serve people who want to make changes in their lives but aren’t sure how to go about them and those who let their negative thoughts hold them back from taking action.
StoryShot #1: The First Step Is To Believe the Possibility
The first fundamental difference between an unfulfilled goal and achieving success is believing that it is possible. If you focus on improving your beliefs, your circumstances will also improve unknowingly. Our expectations determine our perception and how we act. In turn, these perceptions and actions influence our outcomes. For example, Hyatt’s family used an electronic collar on their dog to warn it not to stray too far. Whenever the dog walked too far from Hyatt’s household, the collar would lightly vibrate. The dog quickly learned not to cross the exact barrier Hyatt’s family had linked with the collar, even after the family removed the collar. This is an example of a thought-based barrier becoming a reality.
Doubt and Failed Imagination
Doubt is one of the most influential factors preventing us from achieving our goals. Although we use doubt to shield ourselves from future disappointment, this same doubt will leave us disappointed in the long term. Taken together, we don’t achieve our goals when we do not believe we can achieve these goals. This is a failure of imagination. Alternatively, we can harness our imagination and rekindle our sense of possibility.
Doubt often results from past failures. However, the past does not determine the future. Instead, circumstances only prevent us from reaching our goals if we have the wrong framework of assumptions. If we base our framework on previous failures, we will fail again. Going forward, establish a different frame around the same circumstances.
Become an Abundant Thinker
Every goal will have obstacles to overcome. The difference between scarcity and abundant thinkers is that the former consider their abilities set in stone. When encountering obstacles, scarcity thinkers will think about the skills they lack, while abundant thinkers will seek alternative solutions.
You should start implementing more abundant thinking into your life. Hyatt used to frame his world around barely earning enough money to meet his family’s needs. He decided against adopting this framework of scarcity. Instead, he started thinking about how he could earn enough money to support his family and donate to charity. This change in mindset was enough to help him move forward and start gaining access to more resources.
There are three types of limiting beliefs:
- Assumptions about the world
- Your perception of others
- Your perception of yourself
There is an association between repeated setbacks and these three limiting beliefs. When you consume an overabundance of depressing news and compare yourself to others on social media, you can compound your setbacks. Our beliefs are the lens through which we perceive the world. Therefore, if you adopt limiting beliefs, you will limit your potential. Limiting beliefs do not reflect reality. They are a misunderstanding of the present that shortchanges your future.
How to Tackle Powerlessness
Albert Bandura – a psychology professor at Stanford University, defines power in four properties:
- Intention: Imagining a better reality will help you collaborate with others and improve your circumstances.
- Forethought: Visualizing the future will give you purpose and alter your behavior.
- Action: Acting on your plans keeps you motivated.
- Self-reflection: As well as acting, you must also look back on your actions, evaluate them, and improve.
StoryShot #2: The Second Step is To Complete the Past
Completing the past is integral to creating a better future. Ignoring or wishing away the past will not allow you to move on. Previous negative experiences and thoughts will influence your future goals and actions. The US Army uses backward-thinking methods to prevent the past from affecting the future. The most prominent method is the After-Action Review.
The After-Action Review
This method aims to connect experiences with future action via a four-stage process:
- State what you wanted to happen: Establish a list of goals at this stage.
- Acknowledge what actually happened: Ask yourself which of these goals remain unfulfilled. Instead of changing the past, this stage aims to shed light on your present. On top of this, consider the goals you accomplished that you are most proud of from last year. Identifying these goals will allow you to identify where you have succeeded but have not appreciated how impressive your accomplishments have been. Finally, consider the themes that kept resurfacing over the last year.
- Learn from the experience: Look back on your year and identify key lessons you have learned or could still learn. One of Hyatt’s clients fired him when he was on the verge of their most significant deal. Hyatt describes this experience as humbling. Instead of pushing this experience to the back of his head, he learned three lessons. Hyatt learned that clients can be erratic. He learned that people will not always remember our success in the future. He also learned he needed to secure alignment from all relevant parties upfront. Based on these lessons, Hyatt has become far more successful.
- Adjust your behavior: If you do not change your beliefs based on the past, you will be worse off than when you started.
Society likes to suggest we live life with no regrets. But regret has fantastic value for improving our lives. Regret is a form of information that can help guide effective after-action review processes. It can encourage reflection on mistakes, and if we use the information appropriately, we may prevent future mistakes. In addition, regret may offer you motivation. Genuine feelings of regret can push us to change our outcomes. Finally, regret may increase your integrity. Regret is a moral compass that helps us understand, through emotions, when we have made a mistake.
Researchers associate regret with the opportunity principle. Regret is a powerful indicator of future opportunities. If you consistently experience regret, then you have what it takes to make a positive change in all situations. You have a natural tendency to expect more from yourself, which is a positive trait. The people with no hope of being successful are those who do not display this regret.
StoryShot #3: The Third Step is To Design Your Future
To design your future, we should set new goals. It’s best to write down these goals. Here are five reasons developing written goals is essential:
- Writing down goals forces you to clarify what you want.
- It helps you overcome the resistance of starting, as you have taken an extra step over and above dreaming. Creating written goals requires processing, self-checking, and analyzing.
- It motivates you to act as you have the specific actions highlighted.
- It filters other opportunities by establishing your priorities.
- It lets you identify and celebrate considerable progress. Without clear goals, progress cannot be easily viewed as an accomplishment.
Develop SMARTER Goals
Not all goals will provide you with the five benefits of written goals. Instead, your goals must have seven attributes defined by the acronym SMARTER. These attributes are:
- Specific: You must identify exactly what you want to accomplish.
- Measurable: Your goals must include criteria that let you measure your progress. Creating objective goals will also make it easier to set smaller goals, like milestones along the way.
- Actionable: Create goals that include a strong verb. Your goals should not be about becoming or having, but about finishing or eliminating. This will make it easier to take action.
- Risky: Hyatt slightly changes the standard R in SMART goals from realistic to risky. He believes realistic goals often set the bar too low. Therefore, develop attainable goals that are potentially risky or impossible. By striving for what appears impossible, we often end up accomplishing the impossible, or at least doing much better than we would have otherwise.
- Timed: Providing yourself with a deadline will force you to pay attention to specific goals and take action. The tighter the deadline, the more productive you can be.
- Exciting: There is no energy in logic. If you don’t find your goals personally compelling, you won’t have the motivation to push through when things get tough or tedious.
- Relevant: Effective goals are relevant to your life. To succeed, you need goals that align with your life’s legitimate demands and needs. You also need goals that align with your values.
StoryShot #4: The Fourth Step is To Find Your Why
It is relatively simple to begin pursuing your goals. It’s progress that will always be more challenging. Your why should keep you motivated when you struggle to make progress. Your why should also be attached to your intrinsic motivations. Looking deeper, these intrinsic motivations should consist of your hopes, values, and ambitions. Avoid making your why external, such as society or your loved ones. Generally, external motivators will only work in the short term. Long-term success relies on motivating yourself internally.
To Stay Connected With Your Key Motivations, Divide Your Week Like a Stage
Structure your week by splitting your time into Front Stage, Back Stage, and Off Stage time. The Front Stage relates to the most critical projects for attaining your goals. These goals should incorporate your greater passion and competence. Your Back Stage time relates to more mundane tasks crucial for your Front Stage tasks. Use your Off Stage time for rest and rejuvenation. Balancing these times is crucial for maintaining motivation and staying connected with your why.
Master Your Motivation
You want to master your motivation so that you can use it during even the most difficult times. Do so by implementing four approaches:
- Find the optimal reward for you.
- Be realistic about your commitment to the goal.
- Gamify the process to make challenging tasks enjoyable.
- Measure your gains, so you can identify the value of your hard work.
StoryShot #5: The Last Step is To Make It Happen
The Journey Is Better With Friends
Society often refers to successful people as self-made, but success will always require help from others. We must carefully choose our social circle. Choosing your social circle carefully is crucial for four main reasons:
- Learning: Surrounding yourself with intelligent people will accelerate your learning by exposing you to new insights and resources.
- Encouragement: Surround yourself with people who will buy into your goals. You will need some peers who validate and support your goals to be successful.
- Accountability: Develop a social circle where you feel confident to tell your successes and failures. This will help you earn accountability. Develop a social circle that includes people within your field of expertise who are more likely to understand if you are on track.
- Competition: Maintaining a social circle that includes people in your field of expertise also fosters friendly competition. The social pressure of seeing others succeed around you will help keep you motivated.
The Art of the Start
Often the most challenging part of making it happen is starting. Many people are skilled at planning and preparing but struggle to pull the trigger and start. Inadequacy and uncertainty are common feelings when starting an extensive project. Planning several fantastic projects and goals is merely a form of procrastination if you do not act on them. Don’t expect to see the end of the tunnel when you first start. Instead, all you need to do is appreciate the next step and decide to take action.
One way to become more effective at starting big projects is to do the most straightforward task first. This should be such an easy task that even significant failures will not stop you from completing the task. Once you have completed this task, you can take a little more risk. If you get stuck on one task, try a different task. What’s important is that you keep engaging with tasks to move forward.
Final Summary, Review and Criticism of Your Best Year Ever
You can reach your full potential by following the simple, clear steps outlined in Your Best Year Ever. It identifies critical areas for you to work on and hurdles you must conquer before you can start improving yourself. The key to becoming successful is self-belief, learning from the past, designing your future, using internal motivators, and taking immediate action.
While Hyatt’s five-step system is of his invention, some details of the individual steps borrow heavily from the self-help literature. Although his ideas are drastically simplified, he incorporates references to social science research, especially psychology. He draws examples from both his experience and his clients. He also includes stories of pop culture icons and well-known corporate leaders.
Hyatt occasionally brings up his Christian faith and stresses the importance of family.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was first published in Dec 2020 but was updated on 29 January 2022.
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