Your Best Year Ever

Michael Hyatt | October 16, 2018

Suzanne is in the best shape of her life. She began running regularly in her thirties and completed her first marathon a few years later. Looking for a challenging, inspiring goal when she turned forty, she decided to run fifty marathons in fifty states by her fiftieth birthday. She calls it her 50/50x50 Challenge, and she’s well on her way. Now forty-four, she’s already checked twenty states off her list.

Richard retired from active Air Force duty five years ago and now teaches history at his local community college. After noticing students lacked both critical thinking and social skills necessary for leadership, he met with his advisory board on the problem. Agreeing on the need, the board asked him to create a new leadership curriculum in time for the fall semester. Richard took a sabbatical to work on the project, finished over the summer, and started teaching the new course on schedule.

When Tom worked out a proprietary color-pairing system for his interior-decorating business, his partner Isabelle had an idea. She found a developer who helped them create a mobile app that used phone or tablet cameras to match colors and suggest options for coordinating palettes. It took several months to work out the kinks. But after input from beta users, they set a March 1 launch date. They’re on track to beat it by two weeks.

Each of these hypotheticals—50/50x50, the leadership curriculum, and the app launch—represent one-time accomplishments. You’ll recognize the key features. They have a clear, definable scope and time frame for completion. These are called achievement goals. But there’s another kind of goal we also need to consider.

Bill and Nancy have an awesome marriage. It’s not just that they were lucky and married the right person. It’s that they have intentionally cultivated intimacy. As simple as it sounds, they have gone on a date night every week for more than two decades. This habit has provided a context in which they can have deep, meaningful conversations about the things that matter most.

Spencer is healthy and fit. Whenever he goes in for his annual physical, his doctor is amazed. He has continued to improve for each of the last five years. The surprising thing is that Spencer just turned sixty last year. But his health is not an accident. It all started when he began to cultivate the habit of strength training four days a week.

Larissa has built a seven-figure business in just three years. You might be tempted to write off her success to the fact that she stumbled onto a great idea at exactly the right time. Certainly, that played a role. But if you asked her the secret to her success, she would chalk it up to her habit of making five sales calls every single week.

Unlike the first three examples, these last three don’t have a defined scope or limited time frame. Instead, they represent ongoing activity. These are called habit goals. Both achievement and habit goals can help us design the future we want, especially if we can get the right mix and leverage their differences.

Distinctions with a Difference

As the examples above illustrate, achievement goals are focused on one-time accomplishments. They might target paying off your credit cards, hitting a financial benchmark, or finishing writing a novel. It’s essential that achievement goals include deadlines.

Habit goals, on the other hand, involve regular, ongoing activity, such as a daily meditation practice, a monthly coffee date with a friend, or walking each day after lunch. There’s no deadline because you’re not trying to accomplish just one thing. You’re trying to maintain a practice. Instead, there’s a start date, which triggers initiation. Look at the three corresponding achievement and habit examples in the following list for quick comparison.

Achievement Goals Habit Goals
Run my first half marathon by June 1. Run 3 miles on weekdays at 7, starting January 15.
Increase sales revenue 20% by the close of the third quarter. Call 4 new client prospects each week, beginning March 1.
Read 50 books this year by December 31. Read 45 minutes each evening at 8 p.m., beginning immediately.


The habit goals listed also follow the SMARTER framework. That’s essential for knowing what activity we are trying to maintain and the desired frequency. While habit goals do not include deadlines, the most effective habit goals have four time keys: Following the SMARTER framework, the achievement goals in the table are specific, measurable, and have a time key, all of which drive focus and effort. When the deadline is up, we know if we’ve achieved the goal or not.

1. Start date. This is when you intend to begin installing this habit.

2. Habit frequency. This is how often you will observe this habit. It could be daily, specific days of the week, weekly, monthly, and so on.

3. Time trigger. This is when you want to do the habit. It could be a specific time each day, week, and so on. This makes it easier to become consistent if you can do the habit at the same time.

4. Streak target. This is how many times in a row you must do the habit before you can consider it installed—that is, once the activity becomes second nature. With most habit goals, you can stop focusing on them once that happens.

The risk factor comes from maintaining your streak. Installing a habit takes a period of time, and it might be longer than you think.

Excerpted from Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt. Used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, copyright © 2018. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without permission from Baker Publishing Group.

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