in: Advice, Character, Podcast

• Last updated: February 21, 2022

Podcast #762: Prepare Now to Have Your Best Year Ever

How did your 2021 go? Did you accomplish less than you wanted to? Are you hoping to have a more successful run at your goals in 2022?

Well my guest today has got your plan for making the coming twelve months your best year ever. His name is Michael Hyatt, and he’s the CEO of the leadership consulting firm Michael Hyatt and Company and the author/creator of the Your Best Year Ever book and course. Today on the show, Michael takes us through the five-part process he believes is key for successfully making and keeping goals, starting with the importance of adopting the right mindset and doing an after-action review of how the previous year went. We then discuss how Michael has modified the standard SMART goal model to make it smarter, why your goals should feel risky, and the number of goals you should set per year. We then discuss how to stay motivated in working on your goals, whether or not you should share your goals with others, and why you should tackle your goals by doing the easy stuff first. We end our conversation with the importance of reviewing your goals on the regular.

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Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. Now, how did your 2021 go? Did you accomplish less than you wanted to? Are you hoping to have a more successful run at your goals in 2022? Well, my guest today has got your plan for making the coming 12 months your best year ever. His name is Michael Hyatt, and he’s the CEO of the leadership consulting firm Michael Hyatt & Company Co and the author and creator of Your Best Year Ever book and course. Today on the show Michael takes us through the five-part process he believes is key for successfully making and keeping goals, starting with the importance of adopting the right mindset and doing an after-action review of how the previous year went. We then discuss how Michael has modified the standard smart goal model to make them smarter, why your goals should feel risky and the number of goals you should set per year. We then discuss how to stay motivated and in working on your goals throughout the year, whether or not you should share your goals with others and why you should tackle your goals by doing the easy stuff first. We end our conversation with the importance of reviewing your goals on the regular. After the show’s over, check out our show notes at

Michael Hyatt, welcome to the show.

Michael Hyatt: Thanks, Brett. Good to be with you.

Brett McKay: So you’ve had an interesting career. The first half of your career, you were a CEO of a multi-million dollar publishing company. And in your second act of your career, you’ve turned into a teacher. You are teaching individuals organizations how to be better leaders, how to be more productive, how to set Effective goals, so basically it seems like you’re just trying to help people live better lives, more effective lives. And you’ve got a course coming out called Your Best Year Ever, and then you’ve based a book, you wrote a book based on this course called Your Best Year Ever. And I thought it’d be great to bring you on the podcast now because we’re coming to the end of the year, people are thinking about how 2021 went, they’re thinking about goals they wanna set for 2022, so I think we’ve got some… You’ve got some good insights to help people through this process, so let’s start off with where people mess up with their New Year’s resolutions, like where do they get derailed? Do we have numbers on how many people create resolutions and then the percentage of people that actually follow through… Have you figured that out?

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, I’ve seen a variety of stats on that. Basically, almost everybody sets resolutions. Very, very few people follow through on them. And partly it’s because I think more of a resolution, like an aspiration, it’s just sort of this general but vague desire to achieve or to accomplish something. But unless it gets reduced into an actual goal, and I’ve got a very specific format for how I coach people to develop their goals based on the latest science, and unless it’s put in that format and you’ve got some sort of system that is the foundation for the whole thing, you’re probably just gonna be petering out by the third or fourth week of January. In fact, usually when I go to the gym, I used to belong to a gym and now I’ve got one in my house… But I used to go to the gym and always after the first of the year, I hated it because parking lot was full. I couldn’t find a parking place. Go into the gym, I couldn’t get on the equipment in a timely manner because the place was packed. But I finally learned that if I would just wait a couple of weeks, all that would take care of itself because all the people that were the people that had made resolutions, but didn’t really have a plan for following through, they would just give up and go back to their normal life. So you gotta have… You gotta have a system, and that’s what I try to offer in Your Best Year Ever.

Brett McKay: So yeah, it’s the problem is that a lot of times people set goals, it’s very ethereal and very vague, and you’re saying you gotta make it concrete.

Michael Hyatt: Absolutely. The more specific and measurable and concrete that you can make it, the better it’s gonna be, ’cause you gotta really step into the future. And I think this is where people get tripped up and where people don’t get the clarity they need, ’cause they don’t think about it enough. But I think deciding what you want for your future is the hardest part, once you decide that, trying to visualize that in as much detail as possible and then reduce it to writing… It’s critical to the whole process.

Brett McKay: Well, before we get to writing down goals, there’s stuff you you’ve gotta do before that, and you walk people through this process, it’s a five-part process. It’s field-tested with thousands of people you’ve done this over the years with. And you start off with basically, before you even write a goal down is you have to talk about people’s mindsets when it comes to goal setting. How do our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us influence whether we’ll achieve our goals or not? Like what do you see the mistakes people make there?

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, this is like the biggest thing people have to get past because their ability to visualize the future, their ability to change is really dependent upon the way that they view the world. I call it limiting beliefs. So we have these beliefs about the world, they don’t actually exist out there, but they’re just in our head, and we’re often unaware of these, but they shape our reality. So let me give you an example, I don’t know about a decade ago, we had an English setter. His name was Nelson, and he was a great dog. Except that if we put him in the backyard, we didn’t have a fence at the time, he would often wander away. We’d have to go chase him down, and it just wasn’t very good use of our time. So we invested in an invisible fence, and it was amazing because they put a perimeter wire around your property, and then if the dog tries to transgress that perimeter or go past the perimeter, then they get just like a vibration, but it’s unexpected, so it kind of shocks them and they avoid that sort of surprising little vibration, and so it doesn’t take long.

He got trained in like, I don’t know, probably less than an hour. And he was so trained that I would have the grandkids on the other side of the invisible fence and try to coax him with treats to come over it. And he couldn’t do it, he wouldn’t do it. He always stayed on the inside of the invisible fence. It was a great, great solution. In fact, I ought to get a sponsorship with them, ’cause I tell this story so much. But regardless, the thing is, is that his view of reality had moved from the physical world to his head. The only thing that was keeping him from going past that perimeter was his belief that something bad was gonna happen if he did so. And that was it.

But all of us develop these over time. Maybe it was because it was the way that we were raised. We had some negative experience. And years ago, back in the early ’90s, I went through a bankruptcy with a business that I had started, and it was horrific. It was one of the most humiliating things that I ever went through, but one of the things I discovered years later was that I had a belief that I developed around that experience that basically said, I’m not very good at starting a business or I’m not very good at running a business. And man, I had to shake that. I went on to become the CEO of Thomas Nelson publishers, one of the largest book publishers in the world, but I had to do some serious mental work before I could even begin to think about that and break myself free from the past. So that’s where people have to start, is really develop their mindset and ask themselves, what is it that’s keeping them from getting the life they want. Is it really out there or is it between their ears? And I would say probably in my experience, some of it’s out there for sure, objective, but most of it’s subjective and it’s just a belief that we have about the future or about the world.

Brett McKay: When you’ve worked with people through your course and in your program and in your coaching, what are some common beliefs that people have, limiting beliefs that people have that you’ve seen over and over again?

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, I would say some of the most common ones have to do with themselves. And they’ll say, for example, I’m not very good with money, or I’m too young, or I’m too old. I get that all the time. Especially from entrepreneurs, I coach a lot of entrepreneurs and they’ll say, “Well, I’m not sure I should start this business because I’m too old,” or, “I’m not sure I should start this business because I’m too young.” And so then I just have them look at some examples of people that were really young when they started businesses and were highly successful or really old when they started businesses and were highly successful, but those would be some of the most common ones. It can could also be the beliefs about other people, you know, like whenever you hear somebody say, “All women are… Or all men are… Or all children are… Or all pick your ethnic group are… ” Those are limiting beliefs that have very little to do, if any, with the reality out there. And then there’s beliefs about the world where people say something like, it’s just… People are just evil or they’re just bad. Or conversely, you can could say they’re good.

I mean, these are all beliefs, nobody’s gonna be able to empirically prove that one way or the other, but they’re beliefs that shape how we behave, and that’s the key thing. So we gotta be careful about what we believe. I’ve got a sign in my kitchen that says, “Don’t believe everything you think.” That’s really true.

Brett McKay: Yeah, you bring in cognitive behavioral therapy in this. They have this idea of limiting beliefs, they call it learned helplessness. I think they actually did an experiment with dogs like your dog where they basically shocked the dog so much they stopped jumping over a fence and they could just take off the shock and the dog wouldn’t jump over the fence anymore. But yeah, one of the problems that can lead or the bad thinking patterns that can lead to limiting beliefs is catastrophizing, thinking the worst could happen, or universalizing, it’s like, “Well, it didn’t work out for me in this one instance, so therefore it will never work out for me.”

Michael Hyatt: You’re exactly right, catastrophizing, universalizing, personalizing, those are all ways that we take the stories that we experience and then we try to apply them in a broader sense. And sometimes that’s helpful, that’s kind of the foundation of wisdom, but it can could also be the foundation of limiting beliefs that hold us back…

Brett McKay: And another limiting belief that people can have, especially around goals or resolutions is like, “Well, I’ve never followed through on my resolutions, so there’s no point in trying now.” And I think that holds a lot of people back.

Michael Hyatt: Oh, it definitely does. Or I’m not very good with deadlines, or that goal is just too big, or I’ve never done that before. And I think we have to be careful, and here’s one way to access what those limiting beliefs are, is pay specific attention to the language you use. So, for example, if you say to yourself, “Gosh, I’m just not very good with money or I never follow through.” My daughter says this. She says, “Well, if you say so.” Yeah, because not only our thinking but our words determine the reality that we experience. It shapes and structures kind of our cognitive experience and enables us to process it and make meaning out of it. So we gotta be careful about what we say. This is very helpful, by the way, for people that may be listening that may be coaching or a therapist or whatever, but just listening to the language that people use can be really helpful in helping you to access or understand their thoughts.

Brett McKay: Alright, so the first step is just figuring out what are your limiting beliefs, your negative thinking patterns, how do you reset those to something more positive and abundant?

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, I tell people the first thing you gotta do is get it out of your head. So go ahead and write it down just as it appears in your head. So usually limiting beliefs, they’re sentences in our head, and so if we can just get those on paper, just write down what you’re saying to yourself, There’s this inner narrator that just exists in all of us that’s constantly explaining, interpreting and making meaning. So get it on paper. That’s number one. Number two, ask yourself the question, is that belief empowering? Or not. Now, if it’s not empowering and you wanna change it, then what you have to do is transform it into a liberating truth. So from limiting belief to liberating truth, so you, for example, you might say to yourself, “I’m not very good with money.” That would be the a limiting belief. You say that’s not really serving me, ’cause I tend… Because of that belief, I find myself not very good with money. But a liberating truth might be something like, you know, I’m learning to be more proficient with money, or I’m learning how to invest, or something, it needs to be true, but it needs to be the aspect that you’re missing or you’re not emphasizing. So all of us can learn, right? We just gotta transform it into something more productive and more helpful.

Brett McKay: Yeah, it’s reframing. And one useful thing I’ve read, and this…

Michael Hyatt: Reframing. Exactly.

Brett McKay: Yeah. This comes from cognitive behavioral therapy is if you find yourself universalizing like, “Well, I’m not good at this.” Well, you can add in ‘yet’ at the end. I’m not good at this yet. So it’s the idea is that you can… This isn’t permanent, you can actually do things to improve the situation.

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, that’s a good way to do it, and that’s a good way to hack our language. Another example of that exact same thing is when people say, “I have to go to the gym,” and if they can just change one word from it, have to get. “I get to go to the gym.” then all of a sudden you start focusing on the positive aspects of going to the gym, instead of sort of the negative part of it, the drudgery part of it, the part of it that you’re trying to avoid.

Brett McKay: Yeah, you talk about in the book, a lot of people, especially like when you get into middle age, they’re always complaining about, I’m just tired, I have no energy to do things. But like you said, reframe it, like oh you have enough energy to get done what you need to get done. I’ve caught myself doing that. When my kids are like, what’s wrong? I’m like, “I’m just so tired.” And It’s like I’m not really tired. I’m able to… I’m able to function. I’m able to go down and do a work out, so I’m not tired, I gotta quit telling myself that.

Michael Hyatt: Totally. ‘Cause you will manifest that behavior. And one of the things I say to myself, one of my affirmations with regard to energy, which is important, is that I say I have more than enough energy to achieve the things I need to do.

Brett McKay: That’s all you gotta do. And besides reframing, you also recommend, after you’ve done that, is you have to sort of reorient yourself to that new belief, you have to kind of talk to yourself in a way, kind of do… I wouldn’t call them affirmations, but you have to change the way you talk to yourself so that you start believing this new reality.

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, Brooke Castillo, who has a great podcast called Self Coaching School, she calls this self-coaching. And I think that for all of us, I think coaching is a great thing to get involved in, therapy is a great thing to get involved in, but you can do a lot of self-coaching. Just talk to yourself, coach yourself. What would a coach say to you in this situation?

Brett McKay: Yeah, I always do that when I’m being hard on myself. It’s like would I talk to my son this way, if he was having a hard time? And the answer is usually no.

Michael Hyatt: Yeah. That’s a good one.

Brett McKay: Alright. So the first part is figuring out your limiting beliefs and reframing them and reorienting them to a more abundant, more positive view. So if you have this view of yourself that you can never accomplish goals, well, maybe not now, but you can change that, the next process is before you even start setting or your writing your goal down is reviewing your past. Why is it important to review your past before you start thinking about goals for the future?

Michael Hyatt: Well, first of all, I’m not recommending that you do a deep dive into this, that may be time better spent with a therapist, and frankly, I really believe in therapy and have had quite a bit myself. But what I’m talking about here, specifically as it relates to setting goals for the new year is, look back over the last year. By the way, if there was trauma or something really significant that may be helpful to process with a therapist too, but here’s the thing I’m after: I don’t want you to drag the worst of your past, especially the last 12 months, into your future and make your future toxic or ruin it before it starts. So it’s important to get clear on what happened in the past. Do what I call in the book and in the course an after-action review, which is something I learned from the US military.

But just asking yourself the question, simply, what was it that you wanted to have happen? And then to acknowledge it, you know, don’t pretend. Don’t try to blow it off. Don’t try to dismiss it. Don’t make it bigger than it was. Don’t make it smaller than it was. But acknowledge what actually happened in as objective way as you can, and then then go ahead and learn from it. And what is the wisdom that you can distill from it that you might still find useful into the future? And then adjust your behavior. So literally those steps, if you go through those steps in processing the past. And in the course, I have people actually write these things down, there’s an exercise for this, but write this stuff down and just make sure that you’ve processed it and you’re not dragging it into the future.

Brett McKay: Yeah, I mean, in the book, you have a few questions to ask yourself in this after-action review. One of them is what were your plans, dreams, and your concrete goals, if you had any? Sometimes you forget what they were. I like this one, what were some of the two or three specific themes that kept reoccurring throughout the year? I think that’s interesting ’cause I think every year has a different theme based on a different part of your life. So those are a few questions. Let’s say you do this after-action review. So you write down how the year went and you’re trying to not get too emotional in this, you’re trying to be objective. Talk about the successes, talk about the losses, but let’s say you look at it and you’re looking at the losses and you start feeling that twinge of regret. And it’s like, “Oh man, I just wasted another year.” You actually make this case that you can use that feeling of regret kind of do a judo move on it and actually use it to spur you for positive change. What does that look like?

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, there’s been a lot of research around regret, and the thing about regret is it usually indicates, and I kinda see it like as a Geiger counter that is revealing buried treasure, whenever you feel regret, that’s oftentimes where you have the opportunity to really grow and to really achieve something significant. And it’s called, in the research, the opportunity principle. But to look for that regret and don’t see it as something negative or something shaming, but to kind of embrace it and say, “Oh, I feel some regret about whatever it was, that loss, that thing I didn’t fully achieve, so maybe that’s an opportunity that I can focus on. And if I could just persist this next year, I could get the breakthrough that I’m after.”

Brett McKay: Okay, so look for those… Instead of seeing regret, so I guess, regrets, yeah, I like that it’s a Geiger counter to figure out where you can make improvements. You also, besides not analyzing your regrets, look for opportunities to be grateful. Why is that important in your goal-setting process?

Michael Hyatt: Well, before you ever begin the process of setting actual goals, you’ve gotta get yourself in at a position where you’re thinking abundantly about the future, and this is also kind of another limiting belief that people have, where if they have scarcity thinking, then they’re not gonna think as expansively as they should about the future. You know, their world is gonna be very small and what they think they can accomplish is very small. But if you can get to a place where you feel abundant, and all of us have felt this way. Where you wake up, grateful maybe on a certain day and you think, “Man, I could take on the world.” It’s because you’re having an abundance mindset. And so why not be intentional about that? It’s a good practice to do every day. But especially when you think about planning goals for the future, to look back over the last year, even if it wasn’t a great year, what are the things that you could be grateful for? And just to remember, life is not just a single dimension, it’s not all work. You know, maybe things didn’t go so well at work, but maybe your marriage or your relationship with a significant other is amazing, or your relationship with your kids is great, or you picked up a new hobby, or you’ve got some friends that you didn’t have before. Whatever it is, try to find those areas where you could can be grateful. And I find, Brett, to write those down is also very helpful.

Makes it more concrete. And it also gives you a list to refer to on those days when you wake up and you don’t feel so grateful, it’s just a way to prime the pump.

Brett McKay: And I think, yeah, it is important to be grateful, ’cause as you said gratitude is just a virtue. You should do it in and of itself, right? But also, it’s good to do before you set goals, because as you said, whenever… They’ve actually done research on this, and you’ve highlighted the research in your book, whenever people are in a scarcity mindset, when they start thinking about the future, they start thinking scarce. They have very limiting beliefs, but if they’re more grateful, they’re more optimistic and they’re more open to possibilities when they start thinking about the future, and that will help you when you actually start sitting down to write your goals out.

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, absolutely, and I literally, I believe in this so much that I begin every day with it, initial gratitude, what am I grateful for from the previous day, and then I do it in my weekly preview when I’m reviewing the past week. I do it in my quarterly preview, when I’m looking at the previous quarter before I plan the new quarter. But it’s just a good exercise that, frankly, it kinda helps you bring closure, and in this case, we’re talking about step two, the past, bring closure to the past before you begin the process of designing the future. Just a great way to do it and set you up for success.

Brett McKay: And another point you make that often times you think of gratitude as a mood that just we feel grateful whenever the mood strikes us. But now you say like, no, gratitude is a practice, you have to be intentional with it, it doesn’t just happen. You don’t want it to just happen.

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, this is true really for a lot of emotions, but sometimes people think gratitude is an emotion, and indeed it can be an emotion, but we can get to that emotion. One way to hack our way there is to begin to act grateful, to begin to say grateful things. True for love too. I learned this a long time ago, thank God I’ve been married for 43 years, but I wouldn’t be married if I was just depending upon this elusive feeling that we call love, ’cause sometimes I don’t feel that. But if I act in a loving way or I speak loving words, guess what? My feelings follow my actions. So that’s an important, I think, life principle is to remember that our feelings are always gonna follow our actions, and we can act our way into a new way of feeling.

Brett McKay: We’re gonna take a quick break for a word from our sponsors.

And now back to the show. Alright, so we’ve looked at our limiting beliefs, reoriented them, reframed them, we’ve done the after-action review, and now we’re actually gonna start thinking about our goals and writing goals down. And I think pretty much everyone who’s listening to this podcast has probably heard of SMART goals, these are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and then time bound. You’ve modified the SMART goal process to create SMARTER goals. What does a SMARTER goal look like?

Michael Hyatt: Well, let me give you the acronym, and it is an acronym, just like SMART. Before I get to that, I wanna just say that it’s critically important to write down your goals. This is where a lot of people don’t achieve what they want to achieve, and this is the case with resolutions, because it’s something vague, it’s in their head, it doesn’t live on a piece of paper. I really believe, Brett, that the first step in making something, that aspiration a reality, the way to begin to manifest that and make it part of your experience, is to begin to write it down. Certainly you can speak it, and that’s helpful too. But the thing about writing is it helps you clarify your thinking. And there’s this old saying that I picked up somewhere, I’m not even sure who said it, but it’s the thoughts disentangle themselves passing over the lips and through pencil tips, sometimes things are a jumble in our head, but as we begin the practice or the act of writing it down, we start to get clarity, and it’s almost magical how it happens because I can be really vague on something, and I learned this as a writer, but if I start writing, I’ll get clearer because that very act forces you to get clearer.

Okay, so let me give you these seven attributes of SMARTER goals. First of all, attribute number one… Do you want me to give you an overview and then we can go back in and unpack it around?

Brett McKay: Yeah, let’s do an overview. And then kind of unpack it.

Michael Hyatt: Okay, so attribute number one is specific. Attribute number two is measurable. So far, no difference with the SMART framework. Attribute number three is a little bit different in my system, it’s actionable. I’ll come back and talk about what that means. Attribute four is where I really depart from the conventional wisdom, and that is attribute number four is risky. And a lot of times in the traditional framework that stands for either relevant or it stands for realistic. And I contend that realism is overrated. I’ll come back to that. Attribute number five is that they’re time keyed or time-bound. Attribute number six is they’re exciting. And attribute number seven is that they’re relevant. So SMARTER.

Brett McKay: Okay, so it’s specific. What does a specific goal look like?

Michael Hyatt: Well, this is a case where the more specific you can make it so that it’s not vague in general, but the more specific that you can make it, the more likely you are to achieve it because it’s gonna help you to visualize it. It’s gonna help you actually pursue it and make it concrete. So I’ve had goals in the past, I’ve written I think 12 books, and if I just had a goal, like write a book, it’s directionally right, at least it’s getting me pointed in the right direction. But if I say for example, like my new book is called, It’s All in Your Head, and it’s all about brain science and how we can apply that to goal achievement and productivity. But if I literally say, like I did last year, that my goal was to write a book called It’s All in Your Head, that all of a sudden is more vivid. I can visualize that. I know what to do with that. Writing a book, that sounds big, ambiguous and scary. So make it as specific as you can.

Brett McKay: Okay, and then the next one is measurable.

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, the great thing about this is if you can make it measurable, first of all, you can plot your progress. So for example, if I’ve set a goal that I wanna lose 20 pounds, and I’ve been specific and measurable and put 20 pounds in there, then I know how I’m doing towards that goal. It also helps me to recognize the win. I’m defining the win in advance and I’m trying to reduce it if possible to a number. Now, I fully get that not everything that we wanna achieve in life can be measurable, and there is… I distinguish in the book between what I call achievement goals, which is what I’m talking about now, and habit goals, which are often useful in those situations where we can’t measure. We’re gonna just take up a habit that we know is gonna move us toward what we want. So, for example, if I wanna have a better relationship with one of my kids. You know, I could pick up a habit goal, like having lunch with him at school every week, that would move me toward that kind of connection that I desire that may not be able to be measured. But I would say when you’re doing an achievement goal, if at all possible, reduce it to a number, include something that quantifies it. It’ll help you mark your progress and it’ll help you know when you’ve won.

Brett McKay: Well, even with a habit goal, you can make it measurable by saying, “Well, I’m gonna do X once a week.”

Michael Hyatt: Totally. That’s a little hack for a thing that… Where you want something that’s an aspiration, but you can’t… I have a goal can get you there.

Brett McKay: Yeah. Okay, so we got measurable. The next one, this is where you change, instead of achievable, you have actionable, why the difference?

Michael Hyatt: Well, goals are essentially about taking action. And so I don’t even know what achievable is, I don’t even know what that means, because the reason I don’t know what it means is because I’ve been able to accomplish, you probably have too, things that on the front end I didn’t know if they were achievable. And I just… I know that if I set a goal that’s right, I probably got a good chance of achieving it. But I call this actionable because it needs to be a verb. It’s about the actions that I can take that are gonna move me toward this new reality that I want. And it’s very simple, but just make sure that every goal starts with a verb, but it’s an action verb, not a to-be verb. So I don’t wanna get too grammatical here, but for example, if I said something like, “I wanna be a better writer.” That’s a ‘to be’ verb. Instead of saying like, “I’m going to write 500 words a day,” which would be a habit goal. Or I can make it achievement goal, “I wanna write this manuscript called It’s All in Your Head.”

Brett McKay: Okay.

Michael Hyatt: Makes sense?

Brett McKay: That makes sense. Alright, so make it actionable. Avoid ‘to be’. Make an action verb. The next one you added this, it’s the R. It’s risky. So this is a lot of times SMART goals are like you want them to be realistic, but you’re saying no, you want the goals to be risky. Why is that?

Michael Hyatt: No. Yeah, I’m doing this, Brett, based on the research. So there’s a whole field of study called Goal Achievement Research, and the people that have done work in that area basically found to their surprise and counter-intuitively that when you set a goal too low, it doesn’t really command your attention. It doesn’t ignite your imagination. There’s nothing about it that pulls you forward because it’s only an incremental gain. It’s nothing that is inspiring. So what you’ve gotta do is you’ve gotta make this something that’s risky, that’s in your discomfort zone. And that’s the key thing, is to put it inside of your discomfort zone.

So the way you know that you’re in your discomfort zone is when you begin to feel a little bit of fear, a little bit of uncertainty, or a little bit of doubt. FUD people call it. But I’m looking for those three emotions that indicate that I’ve passed from the comfort zone, where nothing really good happens, you just maintain the status quo, to the discomfort zone. And if you really think about it, this is where every great thing happens, but it doesn’t usually start out that way. We feel a little bit of fear, like the possibility that we may fail. So we gotta dial up the goal in terms of what we’re trying to achieve to the point where we feel a little bit of fear. We know we can fail; it’s not a certainty. And then it brings us to uncertainty, you know, we’re not sure if we can do it, you know, we’ve never done it before. And then finally, doubt; maybe we wonder, do I have what it takes to pull this off? And those are actually good motivations and talk about reframing.

I reframe these as positive indicators that I now just moved beyond the comfort zone into the discomfort zone where great things happen. If you look back over the course of your life, probably every significant, important, meaningful thing that happened to you began in the discomfort zone. You were out of your comfort zone, whether was that new job you took, or starting that new business, or marrying the girl, or marrying that boy, or having those kids or whatever it was, it was all in your discomfort zone, and it created that fear, uncertainty and doubt. So you don’t wanna dial it up so far that you’re in what I call the delusional zone, where it’s just impossible. For example, if I said, at my age, I think I’d like to start a third career as an NBA center. That’s in a delusional zone. But there’s a lot of things that would be in the discomfort zone, but so I just wanna make sure that I don’t go too far over into the delusional zone. I wanna dial back a few clicks, so that it represents something that achieves that fear, uncertainty and doubt, but not where I’m terrified by it or have no clue about how to proceed, that’s the delusional zone.

Brett McKay: Alright, so the next one in the T is time keyed, and that’s just, it makes sure… This is kind of similar to time bound, like have a deadline associated with it.

Michael Hyatt: Totally. And the only reason I call it time keyed is because when it comes to habit goals, you might not be talking about a deadline, you won’t be talking about a deadline, but you might be talking about, for example, the time of day that you’re going to do it or the days you’re gonna do it. Is this gonna be a Monday, Wednesday, Friday activity? Or is this gonna be an every day activity, or is this gonna be at 9 o’clock in the morning, or is it gonna be at noon. So it needs to be time keyed, there needs to be a date or a time associated with it.

Brett McKay: The next one is E and that’s excitement or exciting. What is an exciting goal, and why is that important that you feel excited about your goal?

Michael Hyatt: Well, it’s important because if you’re not excited about the goal, and there’s a lot of times we put things on our goal list that we feel like we ought to do, maybe because our boss is asking us to do it or our spouse is asking, but it really is something that’s extrinsic. It’s external to us, somebody else is motivated by it, but we’re not that motivated by it. Those goals, you will not accomplish, not usually. When you get to the messy middle, you’ll quit on the goal. And that’s an important concept to be aware of too, is that in every goal pursuit, you’re gonna encounter a time when it’s the messy middle, when you’re too far in to quit, but you’re not sure you’ve got what it takes to finish. And that’s when you wanna quit, and that’s where a lot of people quit. So if you don’t have something that’s really exciting that you actually wanna accomplish, it’s gonna be easy to bail at that point.

Brett McKay: Yeah, I wanna talk more about that, like staying motivated on your goals throughout the year, ’cause you have some more insights there. That last letter in the acronym of smarter is R, and that’s relevant. What is a relevant goal look like?

Michael Hyatt: Well, there’s a couple different things that it means, but let me just give you two of them: First of all, it means that they’re relevant to the season in life that you are right now. I’m an empty nester. I’ve got more discretionary time than most people. And I’ve got five grown daughters, some of them with very small children who have very little discretionary time. It wouldn’t be appropriate for them to try to set a goal in some area like I might set a goal, like for a hobby or something, because they don’t have the time right now to pursue it. So it’s gotta be relevant to your season in life and your life circumstances, but the goals also need to be relevant to each other. And what I mean by that is that they need to fit together. You can get into the delusional zone by having several giant goals that on their own makes sense. Yeah, they’re in your discomfort zone, but they’re not in the delusional zone. But if you put too many of those together, you’re gonna be in the delusional zone. So you just gotta have some balance there and make sure that there’s some kind of internal logic that makes sense for all the goals as they fit together.

Brett McKay: Well, let’s talk about the number of goals ’cause I think that’s a thing that people struggle with. I know I’ve had in the past when I’ve resolutions, ’cause you just wanna do all the things in a year. So do you have any insights on what’s the ideal number of goals to pursue throughout the year or is it like you’re having… Are you setting goals a quarter, are you setting goals for the entire… What does that look like?

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, what we recommend is seven to 12 per year, no more than that, but no more than three… Sometimes you can go to four, but three goals per quarter. So spread your goals out evenly, don’t make them all due on December the 31st, because what happens to people is they procrastinate and then they’re trying to jam them all in the last quarter of the year. So have them spread out, but also no more than seven to 12 for the whole year. I may say seven to 10 in the book, but the latest research shows about seven to 12.

Brett McKay: But you’re not doing… I think the key is you’re not doing it all at once. I think that’s what causes people to get overwhelmed and just stop ’cause they try to do everything at once.

Michael Hyatt: Totally. And that builds into it failure, so seven to 12, and that’s a much more realistic number to manage… If you think about it this way, Brett, you think a goal is kind of outside the whirlwind of daily activity and you’ve got a life that requires certain maintenance, and those are things that are already in place. And so it’s not like you’ve got 40 hours a week to pursue these goals of things that don’t exist, you’ve got things that already in place that you gotta maintain, so you wanna make sure that you don’t have more goal than you’ve got resources to accomplish.

Brett McKay: And do you have any insights on the type of goals, like domains of life that people should make goals for?

Michael Hyatt: Absolutely, and in fact, we’ve got an assessment called the Life Score Assessment, that will enable people to take that. It’s a free test, maybe you can link to this in the show notes.

Brett McKay: Will do.

Michael Hyatt: But what the Life Score Assessment does is that it gives you an opportunity to self-assess against the 10 major domains of life. And I do this every year. In fact, I do it every quarter so that I can evaluate just how I’m doing in each of these areas, so I know where I need to focus because, for example, if I’m really suffering in the domain of my social life, my friendships, then that may be something I wanna build a goal around for this next year.

Brett McKay: Okay, so let’s talk about… We set our goals, we’ve written them down, we get started on them, and as you said earlier, at the very beginning, a lot of people they set that fitness goal, and so the gym is crowded. And then about a month later, it’s back to normal. ‘Cause a lot of people where they get hung up, they get going strong, they start out the gate really strong, but then they just sort of peter out. Any insights from research that you’ve done and just working with people on how to stay motivated throughout the year on your goals.

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, one of the things that I encourage people to do it is to get really clear on there why. Find their why. What is it that’s motivating you or you find motivational when you frame that goal up? And we’ll never be more inspired than we are at that moment, when we begin. I can think of running several half marathons and everybody’s pumped up at the beginning of the race. You think, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got so much energy, I’ve got 30,000 people out here.” The excitement is palatable. And a lot of people start off too fast, they don’t pace themselves because they have an exhilaration from having a goal. But the problem is what’s gonna keep you going when you hit mile number 10 or mile number 11, and that’s where you have to identify your why. I think if you can do that on the front end and get crystal clear on why you wanna accomplish this, that’s important. You also wanna make sure that it’s something that’s internally motivating you, like I said a few moments ago, and not something external. This is not something that merely my spouse wants or my boss wants or society expects.

But this is something I really want, if I’m honest with myself, I look in the mirror and I say, “Why is it that I’m motivated to achieve this?” That’s what you gotta get to. And I find that if you could write those down and identify at least three and rank them in priority order, like what’s the most motivating, what’s the second most motivating, what’s the third most motivating, that’s a list that you can pull out from time to time when you wanna quit or when you’re tempted to quit. Pull it out and say, Oh yeah, that’s why I wanted to do that. That’s what this is gonna make possible if I achieve this goal. So kinda back to book writing, one of my first books was my book Platform, Get Noticed in a Noisy World. And so I had just left the big corporate world and was starting this new business, this new career as a speaker and an author and a business coach. And so writing a book is hard, and there are many times when you wanna quit. And I can remember in that specific book I got… I was like a week away from the deadline and I’m reading back through the manuscript and I’m thinking to myself, this just is not very good. This needs a lot more work, and I started to kind of panic. And then I reminded myself why I needed to stay with my nose to the grindstone and finish out the project.

And I said, one of the things I had written down back when I’d identified that goal, is I said, “If I can publish this, and it could be a success, this is gonna produce the… This is gonna serve to be the groundwork of my whole future, of my whole business. So if I can get this done right, then this is gonna make so much that I want to accomplish, whether it’s speaking or coaching or whatever, it’s gonna make it so much easier if I’ve credentialed myself with this book.” So that got me through that very messy middle when I wanted to quit, I wanted to bail on the goal, but I was able to go through with it because I pulled out that list and looked at all the reasons why it was important.

Brett McKay: And another tact that I found really useful to keep yourself motivated when you’re working on your goals is… You got this from a guy named, Dan Sullivan, it’s, “Whenever you’re feeling down and dejected about the progress you’re making on your goals,” it says, you said, “Measure the gains, not the gap.” What does that mean?

Michael Hyatt: Yeah. Dan’s got this great concept, and he’s my coach, but he says, “Measure the gain, not the gap.” And so what that means is that let’s just say you get to the end of December… Or let’s actually say, we get to July. You gotta go on to lose 20 pounds, you’ve lost 13. Okay, so now you got a choice, you can either focus on what you’ve gained. You can say, “Holy smoke, I’ve lost 13 pounds since the beginning of the year.” Or you can focus on the gap and you can say, “Gosh, I’m still seven pounds away from my goal.” Well, if you focus on the gain, that’s gonna fill you with confidence and a sense of possibility about the future. It’s gonna re-energize you to keep in the race and keep going. If you focus on the gap, that’s where you get overwhelmed and wanna quit. So Dan says, “Always focus on the gain, not the gap.”

Brett McKay: What about groups? How can other people help you stay motivated throughout the year.

Michael Hyatt: Well, life is better lived when we do it as a journey with other people. And I’ve found accountability groups, and not even accountability groups, but just people that share similar interests, similar goals, or can be a huge motivation for one another. These are the people that you can brainstorm when you get stuck, you can get feedback to your goal initially, you can get encouragement when you wanna quit. And frankly, these are people that can kick your butt when you’re slacking off, so it’s… You gotta be very careful about the peer group that you choose for this, but the right group can make all the difference. And I experienced this when I was running my first several half marathons, I tried to do it kind of Lone Ranger style, and it was hard. And once I joined a group, and I knew the group was counting on me to show up, and I was counting on them to show up, it made it so much easier. And then when we were out there running, it also made it easier because I wasn’t just doing it on my own alone with my thoughts, I was having conversations with people that were pursuing the same goal, and it was inspiring.

Brett McKay: Something you talk about, some research that I’ve read before, is you don’t wanna tell your goals to people because you’re less likely to fulfill them, because basically when you tell someone the goal, you get the satisfaction of that you accomplished the goal. ‘Cause people are like, “Oh wow, that’s a great goal to have.” And you feel good and it causes you to not work on it. Then you dug deeper into this and it’s not completely the whole picture. How can you tell people your goals, so you’re held accountable, but in a way it doesn’t decrease motivation to actually get started on it.

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, so the two extremes are that, you know, I’m gonna announce to the world that I’m gonna achieve this thing. And what the research says is that if you do that, your brain actually thinks it’s accomplished it. And so then you just kinda take your foot off the pedal and you don’t pursue it. On the other hand, the other extreme is, “I’m not gonna tell anybody.” And so that’s kind of the Lone Ranger approach, where it’s just you and your goal. And what the latest research shows is that there’s a middle ground, and that is you wanna selectively share your goals with that peer group. And again, a small group, not 30 people, not 50 people. I’m talking two, three people, that you know are gonna be an encouragement to you. They’re not people that are gonna tell you that you can’t achieve that goal, but people that are gonna encourage you on when you wanna quit, that’s a group you wanna share it with, and that’s perfectly, perfectly fine.

Brett McKay: Alright. So be picky with who you share your goals with.

Michael Hyatt: Be picky.

Brett McKay: Alright, so the final process in your Best Year Ever Process is just getting started, taking action that’s, for a lot of people, that’s the thing that holds them back. They make the goals in the new year, but they actually don’t do anything to get going on it. How do you overcome that inertia after you’ve set your goals?

Michael Hyatt: Well, the simple thing is, just start. And I’ll tell you how not to do that. One of the things that people sometimes do is that they over-plan. They wanna identify every single step to get from where they are to achieve that goal. Now that may be important if it’s gonna demand a huge number of resources, like right now, we’re about to do a renovation to a house that we own. And so we’re getting a very detailed, fixed bid, step by step, from the contractor because we wanna know what we’re signing up for and we wanna make sure that we have the resources to cover it. But for most of us with our goals, that’s just kind of a fancy way to procrastinate. So we decide we’re just gonna have all these steps and we’re gonna get the project just right and just perfect. We’ll do a little bit more research, then we’ll start. But here’s the problem: If you’ve got a goal that sit in your discomfort zone, you’re not gonna clearly understand what’s required until you get into the process. And you just gotta start. So I even have an acronym for START: Schedule The Action Required Today.

Schedule The Action Required Today. That’s how you start. What do I need to do first? Forget about step two, forget about step three, but focus on where do you need to start first in order to get in motion and begin to build momentum.

Brett McKay: And one of the ways you can build the momentum you talk about is, do the easy stuff first, and that’s kind of counterintuitive. Oftentimes in the self-development world, you hear like, “Eat the frog.” So like, do the hard thing first. But you say, “No, actually, do the easy things first.”

Michael Hyatt: Yeah. So let me give you a practical example that everybody can relate to. If you go to the gym, if you walked into the gym, walked right over to a bench and picked up a bigger weight than you’ve ever lifted before, ’cause I remember this is gonna be a discomfort zone, and you just decide to lift that without warming up, that’s a good recipe for an injury. Well, the same is true in life. You don’t wanna tackle something without warming up and without moving up. And so here would be another example, and I’ve used book writing a lot, but there’s a lot of people who wanna write a book.

But if I said to myself, “Okay, I’m gonna write… I’ve never written a book before, but I’m gonna write the chapter that I think is gonna be the most difficult, because if I can eat that frog first, then everything else is gonna be easier.” Here’s the problem: You’re going into it with no momentum. You’re going into it with no sense of success. And you’re trying to write this hard chapter without the momentum and it’s almost impossible, and you quit before you start. Instead, what would be the easiest thing to write? Like I’m gonna tell you, this is like stupid simple, but here’s how I start writing every book. First thing I do is I say, “Okay, today… ” Let’s just assume I’ve got a book proposal, I’ve got an outline, so I know where I’m going. And I say, “Okay, I’m just… Today, I’m just going to write the dedication.” Next day, “Okay, I’m gonna write an annotated table of contents,” so just a little descriptive copy on each item on my table of contents. Next day, “You know, I feel really good about Chapter Three, I’ve done a lot of research, I’ve got some stories for that, so I’m gonna start on that one. That’s the easiest one.”

So I did this with my book “Living Forward.” Which is all about developing a life plan, and I was in Colorado for 30 days up in the mountains with my wife in a cabin, and my goal was to write this book. So I did exactly what I’m saying. I started with the easiest thing first, so I finally got to this big hairy, gnarly chapter on Day 30, so we were supposed to fly out the next morning. And I had this one chapter, the one I’d been putting off, the one that I knew was gonna be the most difficult to write, but guess what? That was, I had all this momentum. I’d written like, I don’t know, 10 chapters. This was the last one that I had to write to finish the book, and then I could go home and say it was behind me. I was extremely motivated, extremely confident, and I said to myself that morning as I began to work on that chapter, “I’ve got this.” So that’s the difference. Start with the easier stuff and give yourself a sense of momentum.

Brett McKay: Yeah, I’ve done that. I’ve noticed I’ve done that with my writing and just even other projects that I’ve done. I always do the easy stuff first to get that momentum, but the other thing I’ve learned whenever I start with easy stuff is I start figuring out the hard stuff in the process. When you start writing easy stuff, you start… And I don’t know what’s going on, but by the time I get to that hard stuff, I kind of have it figured out by then because I’ve sort of sorted stuff out with the easy stuff. Does that make sense?

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, totally. Book writing would be a good example. You’re gonna become a better writer in the process of writing the book. The last stuff you write is gonna be better than the first stuff you wrote because you just got some mileage under your belt.

Brett McKay: You also talk about another thing to do to help you get started, you have these things called “activation triggers.” What are those?

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, an example of that is, is there something where I could kinda stack the habit on top of something else that I’m gonna be doing anyway? That’s a normal habit. So an example, if I’m wanting to run, if I have decided this next year that I wanna develop a running habit or if I wanna run in a race of some sort, but I find myself getting up in the morning kind of groggy. It’s a little bit too cold out. It’s 23 by the way when I got up this morning here in Nashville, Tennessee. And I think, “Oh, the weather is bad, I’m just gonna wait.” But if you do an activation trigger, what that might look like is you make it as easy as possible to get into the pursuit of that goal. So setting my running clothes out the night before, so that when I walk into the bathroom, boom, there they are. It just makes it that much easier to follow through.

Brett McKay: Nice. Alright, so we’ve… We set our goals, we’re working on them. Do you have a review process that you use throughout the year to stay on track with your goals?

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, one of the things that I wanna review, my annual goals, I’m gonna review those every day, just scan ’em every day for the first 30 days and make sure that I’m aware of them. Then I’m gonna focus on the goals for that quarter, but I’ve gotta get connected to those every day. And partly because that’s what’s gonna inform my task list. In other words, when I’m trying to think of what I need to get done today, one of the things I wanna consider is, “What could I do today that would move me toward the completion of a goal that I have for this quarter?” This takes like literally 30 seconds, no more than 60 seconds. But you gotta maintain visibility. And too often, people set a goal or a resolution that’s not written down. Or even if they set a goal, they put it on a document on their hard drive or they write it in a journal somewhere, and then they lose visibility. And the loss of visibility is one of the biggest reasons people don’t complete goals, they’re just not reminding themselves of what it is that they set out to do.

Brett McKay: Okay. So review your process, constantly keep them on top of mind. Well, Michael, this has been a great conversation. Is there any place people can go to learn more about the book, and the program, the course?

Michael Hyatt: Yeah, the best place to go is, You can get the book on Amazon or wherever better books are sold, as they say. But I really do recommend the course. The course goes deeper, it has a lot of exercises and it gives you a group to do it with, but that will be launching soon. And again, it’s at

Brett McKay: Michael Hyatt, thanks for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

Michael Hyatt: Thanks, Brett. I appreciate being with you.

Brett McKay: My guest there was Michael Hyatt, he’s the author of the book, “Your Best Year Ever.” It’s available on and bookstores everywhere. You find more information about the course, “Your Best Year Ever” at Also check it at our shownotes at

Well, that wraps up another edition of The AoM podcast. Make sure you check out our website,, where you’ll find our podcast archives, as well as thousands of articles written over the years about pretty much anything you think of. And if you’d like to enjoy ad-free episodes of The AoM podcast, you can do so on Stitcher Premium. Head over to, sign up, use code MANLINESS at checkout for a free month trial. Once you’ve signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android or iOS and you can start enjoying ad-free episodes of The AoM podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate if you take one minute to give us a review on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher, it helps out a lot. If you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing the show with a friend or a family member who you think will get something out of it. As always, thank you for the continued support. Until next time, this is Brett McKay, reminding all of you listening to The AoM Podcast to put what you’ve heard into action.

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