Read time: 12 min


Your Best Year Ever offers an outline of how you can design your best year ever. Michael Hyatt believes your best year will only take five hours and five steps to plan. This plan will triple your chances of achieving your goals. The key to becoming successful relies on self-belief, learning from the past, designing your future, using internal motivators, and taking action immediately.

About Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt is the founder and CEO of Michael Hyatt & Company. It is a leadership development firm specializing in live events, workshops, and digital and physical planning tools. Michael was previously chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. He is also a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of several books. His work has been featured by the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Inc., Fast Company, Businessweek, and Entrepreneur. 

Step One – Believe the Possibility

“The first key difference between an unmet goal and personal success is the belief it can be achieved.” – Michael Hyatt

Focusing on belief improvement will inadvertently allow your circumstances to also improve. To highlight this point, Michael Hyatt offers an example from his own life. 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 collar was removed. This is an example of a thought-based barrier becoming a reality. Crucially, our expectations shape our perceptions and actions. Subsequently, these perceptions and actions influence your outcomes.

Doubting and Failed Imagination

Doubt is one of the most influential factors preventing us from obtaining our goals. 

Subsequently, Hyatt describes doubt as a goal toxin. Although we use doubt as a way of shielding ourselves from future disappointment, this same doubt will leave us disappointed in the long-term. Taken together, Hyatt argues that goals are left unmet when we do not produce a belief that we can achieve these goals. This is a failure of imagination. However, the alternative is to harness our imagination and revive our sense of possibility.

Doubt is often associated with previous failures. However, the past does not determine the future. Instead, circumstances only prevent us from attaining our goals if we have the wrong framework of assumptions. If we base our framework around previous failures, then we will fail again. Henceforth, establish a different frame around the same set of 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 that are required to overcome the obstacles. 

Comparably, abundance thinkers will recognize they have limitations but will simply seek alternative solutions to the problem. Hyatt recommends you start implementing more abundant thinking into your life. To consolidate this point, Hyatt talks about how he 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 was earning enough money to support his family and give some money to charity. This change in mindset was enough to help him move forward and start obtaining more resources.

Limiting Beliefs

Hyatt suggests there are three types of limiting beliefs. 

  1. Assumptions about the world
  2. Your perception of others
  3. Your perception of yourself

These three limiting beliefs are associated with repeated setbacks. These setbacks can be compounded by exposing yourself to an overabundance of depressing news and comparing yourself to others on social media. As explained earlier in the book, our beliefs are the lens through which we perceive the world. Therefore, if you are adopting limiting beliefs, then you are limiting your potential. Crucially, limiting beliefs are not based on reality. Hyatt explains that limiting beliefs are a misunderstanding of the present that shortchanges your future.

How to Tackle Powerlessness

The Stanford University psychology professor, Albert Bandura, describes power as consisting of four properties that help us achieve our goals:

  1. Intention – Imagining a better reality will help you to collaborate with others and improve your circumstances.
  2. Forethought – Visualizing the future will give you purpose and alter your behavior.
  3. Action – Taking action on your plans will help keep you motivated.
  4. Self-reflection – As well as acting, you must also know that you are taking action. Essentially, you need to look back on your actions, evaluate them, and improve.

Step Two – Complete the Past

Backward Thinking

Completing the past is integral to creating a better future. Ignoring or wishing away the past will not allow you to move on. Instead, these negative thoughts and experiences from the past will be dragged into your future goals and actions. Hyatt explains that the US Army utilizes 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 past experiences with future action via a four-stage process:

  1. State what you wanted to happen – Generally, this stage is associated with a list of goals you may have established.
  2. Acknowledge what actually happened – Ask yourself which of these goals remain unfulfilled. This stage aims not to try to change the past but instead 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 and may have underappreciated the impressiveness of attaining these goals. Finally, consider the themes that kept resurfacing over the last year. 
  3. Learn from the experience – Look back on your year and identify key lessons you have learned or could still learn. Hyatt provides an example from his own life where a client fired him when he was on the verge of their most significant deal. Hyatt describes this experience as humbling. Instead of trying to push this experience to the back of his head, he learned three lessons. Firstly, Hyatt learned that clients can be fickle. Secondly, he learned that your success will not always be remembered tomorrow. Finally, he learned he needed to secure alignment from all relevant parties upfront. Based on these lessons, Hyatt has become far more successful.
  4. 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. However, Hyatt argues that regret has fantastic value for improving our lives. Regret is a form of information that can help guide effective after-action review processes. Specifically, regret can encourage reflection on mistakes and, if the information is used appropriately, it can prevent future mistakes. On top of this, regret can offer you motivation. Genuine feelings of regret can push us to change our outcomes. Finally, regret can increase your integrity. Hyatt describes regret as a moral compass that helps us understand, through emotions, when we have made a mistake.

Researchers consistently associate regret with the opportunity principle. Essentially, regret is a powerful indicator of future opportunity. If you consistently experience regret, then this means 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. 

Step Three – Design Your Future

Develop Written Goals for the Future

Hyatt offers five reasons why developing written goals is so important:

  1. Forces you to clarify what you want.
  2. 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.
  3. Motivates you to take action as you have the specific actions highlighted.
  4. Filters other opportunities by establishing your priorities. 
  5. Allows you to identify and celebrate considerable progress. Without clear goals, progress cannot be easily regarded as a success. 

Develop SMARTER 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.” – Michael Hyatt

Not all goals will provide you with the five benefits of written goals. Instead, Hyatt argues your goals must have seven attributes that are defined by the acronym SMARTER. 

  • Specific – You must identify exactly what you want to accomplish.
  • Measurable – Your goals must include criteria that allow you to measure your progress against a certain level. 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. Instead, they should include verbs like finishing or eliminating. This approach will make it easier to take action.
  • Risky – Hyatt slightly changes the standard R in SMART goals from realistic to risky. He believes that realistic goals are often setting the bar too low. Therefore, develop attainable goals that are potentially risky. 
  • 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 – 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. If we’re going to succeed, we need goals that align with the legitimate demands and needs of our lives. You also need goals that align with your values.

Step Four – Find Your Why

“People lose their way when they lose their why” – Michael Hyatt

Starting the pursuit of your goals is relatively simple. However, progress will always be more challenging. Your ‘why’ should keep you motivated when you are struggling 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.

Divide Your Week into Front, Back, and Off Stage Time

Hyatt structures his week by splitting his time into Front Stage, Back Stage, and Off Stage time. The former relates to the most critical projects for attaining his goals. These goals should incorporate your greater passion and proficiency. Then, his Back Stage time relates to more mundane tasks that are crucial foundations for his Front Stage tasks. Finally, Hyatt utilizes his 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 can master your motivation so that you can utilize it during even the most difficult times. Do so by implementing four approaches:

  1. Find the optimal reward for you.
  2. Be realistic about your commitment to the goal.
  3. Gamify the process to make challenging tasks enjoyable.
  4. Measure your gains so you can identify the value of your hard work.

Step Five – Make It Happen

 The Journey Is Better With Friends

Society likes to describe successful people as self-made when they started with little resources. However, Hyatt highlights that success will always require help from others. Therefore, we must choose our social circle carefully. Choosing your social circle is crucial to improving four areas of your life:

  1. Learning – Surrounding yourself with intelligent people will accelerate your learning by exposing you to new insights and resources.
  2. Encouragement – Surround yourself with people who will buy into your goals. To be successful, you will need some peers who validate and support your goals.
  3. Accountability – Develop a social circle where you feel confident enough to tell them about your successes and failures. This will help you garner accountability. Crucially, also ensure you develop a social circle that includes people within your field of expertise. These individuals are more likely to understand whether you are keeping on track.
  4. Competition – Another critical reason for developing a social circle that includes people from your field of expertise is the friendly competition it creates. 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. The author suggests that starting an extensive project is associated with feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty. 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 start to become riskier. If you get stuck on one task, then try a different task. The most important thing is you keep engaging with tasks with the aim of moving forward.

Comment below and let others know what you have learned or if you have any other thoughts.

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