Late last year I read the book Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt and it happened to be the perfect book to set me up for goal setting in 2019. I didn't read it with the intention of finishing the book then go right into determining new year goals, in fact, I didn't even know completely what the book was about, but the timing could not have been better.

Let me preface the book and this post with this fact: You do not need to wait until the end of the year to read this book and then begin setting new goals. If you are a goal-oriented type person or someone who wants to have an amazing day/week/month/year (okay, who doesn't??) then you will enjoy this book anytime of year. I was hoping to roll out this post much closer to the start of the new year but you know, life happens. It just goes to show you, you can begin goal setting at any time of the year. Sure, January seems like a logical start but don't take an all or nothing approach to your goals. Meaning if you didn't set any goals in January that you should just wait until next year or maybe July and do half year goals. That's a story you've told yourself and it's simply not true. You can start today.  You can start right after you've read this post.

So without further ado, let's get into what Hyatt talks through in his book. There are five steps outlined in Your Best Year Ever to help work through your beliefs, strengths, limitations to design your future with goals in mind that will help you get there. All the steps are pretty straightforward to help set you up for success when it comes to figuring out, executing and living out your goals.

The first step Hyatt addresses is 'believing the possibility'. He says that our beliefs shape our reality. Again, it is those stories we tell ourselves. Depending on our situation/season of life/afternoon lull, we need to change our sense of what we believe is possible. The most common reason we do not succeed in something, be it a goal, task, whatnot are doubts we have placed upon ourselves. We are our own worst enemies. It is not that someone else told us that we could not do it (in some cases, maybe they did) but we told ourselves (or we listened and believed what was said) that it wasn't possible. Those stories! Hyatt calls this limiting beliefs. They may be about the world overall, others but most often ourselves. These limiting beliefs distort our view and the way we think about approaching change. Often the source of these beliefs comes from previous flaws we have encountered, setbacks we have come across along the way, negativity bias as often seen through social media, negative self-talk and negative personal relationships.

The trick here is to reframe our mindset. Tell yourself a new story and while you're at it make it positive and uplifting! It may never be easy but to accomplish any goal on our list we have to believe that we are up for the challenge and trust that we are capable. Understand that every goal will have obstacles. We might want to quit but if we change our mindset that we can do it, we will move foward.

Ok awesome right, that all sounds great, but how do we do this? Hyatt says we need to upgrade our beliefs. Avoid the trap of limiting beliefs and embrace your liberating truth. Change your beliefs, change your mindset. Recognize the limiting belieft that is holding you back. Record it, review it and then reframe it. Dive head first into your new story and give yourself completely to your new belief. I used to shame myself for having anxiety and thought of it as a negative personality trait (story I told myself). I thought having anxiety made me less-than (again story) but now I know that these are just things I was telling myself and they simply are not true. Changing my mindset has helped me move forward to who I am today. I feel liberated from those 'stories' I put on myself and, in fact, I have less anxiety as a result.

The second step is to complete a review the past. In order to move forward, Hyatt says we need to think backward. This might be difficult to rehash old memeories, but by taking a review of our past learnings, being aware of our reactions/situations/etc and analyzing (a little without stirring up too much stress and anxiety) we can move forward into determining what we want to work on next. Past regrets have a way of revealing new opportunities. What you may have considered a hinderance in the past as a roadblock, look at the roadblock as a road sign, that road sign being an opportunity.

Gratitude also plays an important part. I'm learning more than ever that gratitude can make all the difference in our attitudes, outlooks and ways we approach life. Gratitude keeps us hopeful, improves patience, reminds us we have influence and expands our possible responses to future opportunities. There are different ways to include gratitude within our daily routine. If you are the praying type, you could include prayer at the beginning and/or the end of your day. Practicing general thankfulness is probably the most simplistic way to show gratefulness. My favorite way to share my gratitudes is to journal them daily. I started this practice the last few months of 2018 and it's a goal of mine to continue in the new year. I love beginning my day sharing my personal gratitudes. You realize that even if you are telling yourself some made up crappy stories you believe to be true, noting and reflecting in what you are grateful for can help you realize that you have it pretty good.

Hyatt's third goal setting step is to design your future. According to Hyatt, great goals check seven boxes. Great goals are not just SMART, they are SMARTER.

S: Specific -> Focus is power.
M: Measurable -> Include built-in criteria to measure against.
A: Actionable -> Clear primary action.
R: Risky -> Don't set the bar too low. Risk drives results.
T: Time
E: Exciting -> What inspires and motivates you?
R: Relevent -> Alignment and relevant to your life/situation.

Out of this list, having a goal be 'Exciting' has to be my favorite! It makes sense that we should be excited and passionate about a goal we want to obtain but I don't think we always consider that to be a characteristic in goal settting. Hyatt says it should be and I love that!

Beyond just thing up SMARTER goals, we must write them down! Hyatt suggests seven to ten as a good number to work towards including goals that fall within the different lifescore domains. Writing down your goals helps to solidify them and bring you closer to commitment. By writing down the goal, you can gain clarity, become more motivated to execute, and track your progress. If you are not sure what I mean by lifescore demains... this is something addressed specifically in the book but you can get a glimpse of it on this website with an online assessment. Essentially, domains are key areas of your life like physical, marital, parental, social, etc. You will likely have goals that fall into a few of these different categories.

A key takeaway I learned from the book was the difference between achievement goals and habitual goals. I've always had a little bit of both in past goals but I didn't really think nor realize a difference. Achievement goals are focused on one time accomplishments whereas habitual goals are a regular ongoing activity with no deadline. Habitual goals help you maintain a practice and often may be mini-steps that you need to work towards a larger achievement goal. For your habitual goals, they should include a start date, frequency, time trigger and a streak target (how often you aim to complete the habit goal). For me, I have a habitual goal of reading twenty minutes per day before bed. I started in January. The frequency is daily, the time is for twenty minutes and my streak is every freaking day. This habitual goal will in turn help me reach an achievement goal I've set to read eight new non-fiction books by June this year. As a result of this mini habitual goals, I'm already on track to blow this one out of the water. It's a good idea to include a mix of both habitual and achievement goals in your seven to ten.

Hyatt talks about risk and comfort which is so fitting as I've been going through my 'word of the year', BRAVE. Hyatt says that 'comfort is overrated...your discomfort is a catalyst for growth'. I totally agree and have felt this on a few different occassions. With my word being BRAVE, I am vowing to spend more time in my 'discomfort zone'. I want to become a little more comfortable feeling uncomfortable and be willing to take more risks. After reading Best Year Ever and a few other books since, I am finding this notion of escaping your comfort zone is everywhere! I actually wrote a blog post on it as well called Getting Uncomfortable. For a goal to really make a difference it needs to stretch us with the end point living somewhere outside of our comfort zone. We also have to be careful though as there is a point where we can go to far and that place is named the delusional zone. If we swing the pendulum into our delusional zone it might leave us feeling more frustrated and discouraged than excited and optimistic. It's a careful balance but I'm looking forward this year to embracing discomfort, paying careful attention to situations that I may have, in the past, ran straight for the door and instead notice and embrace my fear to move forward.

The fourth step in the book is to discover your why. This is also ever apparent in several books I've read after finishing Your Best Year Ever. Whatever you need and/or want to do if your life needs a why. This why will allow you to define your emotional connection to accomplishing the goal. Hyatt suggests to identify your what motivates you and write it down. Master your motivation and internalize the reward while also being realistic at the same time.

Bring your friends along for the fun. Social media is everywhere these days, for better or worse. Choose your social circle wisely as it can help or hinder you in reaching your goals. It can help to find like-minded people that have similar goals and interest as you and work together with them to achieve your best year ever. Recruit friends to do a little goal setting with you. While it might not seem like the most sexy of evening plans, it can be fun and working with others can add to the accountability factor as well. If no one knows your goal besides yourself, you might be less likely to accomplish it. On the other hand, if your social circle is aware and helped you with your goals, you will be held accountable and more likely to knock your goal out of the park.

And last but not least, step five: get after it and make it happen. In some cases, the journey to reach one of your goals is long, daunting and may include many steps to reach the end point. If this fits the description of any of your goals, Hyatt suggests to break it down. Start with the easiest task first, cross it off the list and then keep going.

In my case, one of my goals for 2019 was to become an NASM Certified Personal Trainer. It was a big one and one that I knew was going to take a lot of work just to get certified. Most of those steps (studying, quiz taking, final exam) took me out of my comfort zone but, in the end, that is where I knew I was going to see the most success. The easiest task right on the edge of my comfort zone was signing up; taking the first step to purchase the training materials and then start studying. Even that first step was nerve-wracking because once I signed up I was committed to seeing it through. The good news is that just seven weeks after I signed up, after seven weeks of a lot of studying and practice quiz and exam taking, I took my NASM final exam and passed! I am beyond excited that I crossed this goal off my list and much earlier than I had actually anticipated! The hard work goes up from here and will become a series of new goals as I begin developing myself in the industry, securing and working with clients. I am so thrilled to start this adventure and this process of goal setting helped me to realize and achieve this goal!

You have the power to trigger your own success. The old saying rings true, 'If there is a will, there is a way'. Review your goals often to track actual progress against projected progress. Depending on the goal, the frequency might change but you may review your goals as often as daily, some weekly, monthly or even quarterly. As you take that inventory of your goals, celebrate your wins, large or small. Did you meet a portion of your goal or an action step related to the goal? Talk about it and share it with others! Even if just with a friend, significant other or your social media circle, tell someone. Any victory, small or large, is worth celebrating!

If this post peaked your interest at all regarding goal setting, I definitely encourage you to dig deeper and give Michael Hyatt's Your Best Year Ever a read. It's well worth the time and energy invested to sit down, read the book, think through what you hope to accomplish over the course of the next few days/months/year and develop an action plan to rock your best year! You can use this book to help you personally as well as professionally.

Being in the corporate world for most of my adult life, I kind of shuddered at goal setting thus never really set many personal goals. It was enough to 'do goals' at work that I didn't think or want to go through a similar practice for my personal life. Since taking up a more routine personal goal setting practice last year, I have found a new appreciation and have renewed energy for using goals to set myself up for an amazing life. It has actually become, dare I say, fun and exciting and I honestly do love it! If you are looking for any help determining or reaching personal goals you have yourself, I'd love to help you out! Feel free to reach out to me at ablendedbalanceblog@gmail.com and let's get you on your way to having your best year ever!