Both the books share Michael’s three core beliefs:
- Life is multi-faceted and all our “life accounts” are important and interconnected.
- To make progress in the future, we need to access our present across our life accounts.
- It’s possible to make progress across our life accounts by setting well-defined goals, and creating a system to translate these goals into actions.
The two books are different in three important ways:
- Michael works with a shorter horizon: a year, instead of a lifetime, and drops the focus on designing a legacy.
- He recognizes the power of looking back and becoming complete with our past, to be able to look forward and create our desired future.
- He packs the book with research references and quotes to back up his key premises.
As an aside, Michael’s overall approach to designing his business and presenting his products and services online has become an benchmark for me for creating a thought-leadership platform. See: main website, content like weekly podcast and weekly magazine, products like Full Focus Planner and LeaderBox, courses like Get Published, Platform University, 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever and Free to Focus, and the book websites for ‘Living Forward‘ and ‘Your Best Year Ever‘. Very impressive!
Phase 1: Become aware of your present
- Step 1: Assess your present: Assess your life areas in three circles — the circle of being (physical, spiritual, intellectual), the circle of relating (friends, family, community), and the circle of doing (work, hobbies, money). Then plot these onto a 2X2 [passion X progress] matrix to identify the areas you need to ignite your passion and the areas in which you need to make progress. This is similar to David Allen’s [perspective X control] GTD matrix. In areas of low passion, you need to increase your perspective. In areas of low progress, you need to increase your control.
Phase 2: Become complete with your past
- Step 2: Convert your limiting beliefs into liberating truths: Identify the false beliefs that are limiting your progress in your key life areas. The most common limiting beliefs are that we lack the power and/ or resources to change our circumstances. Now, distinguish these beliefs as limiting your progress, by identifying what cost they are causing in your life. Then, reject them and revise them into liberating truths that connect you with your power and resourcefulness.
- Step 3: Review your areas of regret and gratitude last year: Review what goals you wished to achieve last year in each of your life areas, what results you ended up achieving, and what lessons you learned from your successes and failures. Specifically focus on the areas you regret the most and the areas you feel the most grateful for. The areas you regret the most provide the most opportunity for growth. The areas you are most grateful for provide a secure base from which you can pivot into new growth opportunities.
Phase 3: Envision your desired future
- Step 4: Design your legacy: Fast-forward to the end of your life and ask this question: “what will family, friends, and colleagues say when I am dead?” Be present with the emotions you are experiencing and write an eulogy for yourself that you would want to be true.
- Step 5: Create a life plan: Use your eulogy as the end point to create a life plan. For each life area in the circles of being, relating and doing, declare your purpose and reflect why it’s important to you, describe your current reality and your envisioned future, and make commitments to create the transformation.
- Step 6: Set SMARTER achievement and habit goals: For each of the commitments you have made, set SMARTER (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Risky, Time-bound, Exciting and Relevant) goals for the year. Use a mix of achievement goals and habit goals and stagger them so that you are working on about 3 goals per quarter. Achievement goals represent the outcomes you are committed to. Habit goals represent the behaviours that will lead to your desired outcomes.
Phase 4: Create a system to enable action
- Step 7: Plan your ideal week: Create margin for yourself to achieve your goals by mapping your ideal week on a calendar. Assign themes for each day, and daily slots for Front Stage, Back Stage, and Off Stage time. Front Stage time is for working on the projects related to your goals. Back Stage time is dedicated to the more mundane tasks of managing the game of work and the business of life. Off Stage time is for rest and rejuvenation.
- Step 8: Build your support network: Surround yourself with like minded people who are working towards similar goals. They will help you learn, offer you encouragement, keep you accountable and motivate you to do your best. These might include online communities, mastermind groups, running or reading groups, alumni networks and close friends. These might also include paid support like coaches, therapists, fitness trainers, and financial/ legal advisors.
- Step 9: Motivate yourself with rewards: Identify what rewards are the most meaningful to you. Almost always, intrinsic rewards are more powerful than extrinsic rewards. For many goals, like running, the action is its own reward, as it automatically makes you feel good. For some goals, like learning a skill, the sense of mastery is a powerful reward, even though it might take time to kick in. In other situations, you might need to create an extrinsic reward, like indulging yourself with a treat for putting in Back Stage time.
- Step 10: Build momentum with easy actions: Set your goals as stretch goals in the discomfort zone, but start taking small actions in the comfort zone. Start with easy micro-actions to warm up and build the momentum and confidence to tackle bigger actions. Focus on consistently building a streak, and not breaking the chain. Small, consistent actions lead to big results with the power of compound interest.
- Step 11: Use if-then planning to design action triggers: Think through the various scenarios in which you will encounter different types of obstacles. Then, define what triggers you will put in place in each of these scenarios, in advance, to help you overcome the obstacles and take the desired actions. Over time, your desired actions will become default habits and your dependence on the triggers will reduce.
- Step 12: Set up time to regularly review your system: Set up daily, weekly, quarterly and annual reviews to reflect on outcomes, priorities and action plans. At each level, link your goals in each life area to projects and actions within them. Use the rule of three to prioritise three quarterly goals, weekly projects and daily actions.
I am applying many of these steps in my own life, and I will write another essay on that. For now, if this essay has inspired you to apply these steps in your own life, I would love to learn about how you applied these steps and what results you achieved. Do share your experience in the comments below or on Twitter @gauravonomics.