Episode: You Can Design Your Year

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Michael Hyatt: In 1888, on a visit to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, George Washington Vanderbilt II decided to build a home. He hired two famous architects, Richard Morris Hunt and Frederick Law Olmsted, to design the house and grounds. Construction began the next year and was mostly finished by 1895 when the house, known as the Biltmore, was first opened.

With 175,000 square feet, the Biltmore is considered America’s largest private residence. One of the most beautiful as well. More than a million people every year line up to see its 250 rooms, 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, priceless art collection, and indoor swimming pool. Meanwhile, 2,500 miles away in San Jose, California, people line up to see a very different kind of house.

Sarah Winchester bought an eight-room farmhouse in 1884 and started adding on. She built and built and built until she died in 1922. By then, the rambling structure had grown to 160 rooms with a maze of passageways and no discernible master plan. The Winchester Mystery House has staircases that lead nowhere, doors that open to nothing, beautiful stained glass blocked by walls, and at least one window in the middle of the floor.

In 1906, while Vanderbilt was wowing high-society guests with his dazzling achievement, Winchester admitted in a letter, “This house looks like it was built by a crazy person.” But she wasn’t crazy. Some say Sarah Winchester was motivated by fear, driven by spirits to never stop building. Others say she was a generous person who just wanted to keep her workers busy and employed. Whatever the motivation, the key difference between the Biltmore and Sarah Winchester’s home was design.

George Vanderbilt started with a clear vision. Sarah didn’t, or if she did it got lost along the way, and that happens to a lot of us. Daily life consists in artfully arranging countless variables…personal hopes, family responsibilities, financial circumstances, professional demands, and more. We’re building something, but we often stand back in the midst of it all, and we’re not sure what.

Look at the past year. All of us can find features we really like, but most will also find a few doors and hallways that lead to nowhere. It’s like we’re not sure what we’re trying to build. There’s more on the line here than we might think. Research links finding and remembering our life’s purpose with lower stress, better health, and a longer life, and it starts with design: knowing how we want all of those variables to fit together in the first place.

Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt, and this is Lead to Win, my weekly podcast designed to help you win at work, succeed at life, and lead with confidence. In this episode, we’re going to establish that you really, really can design your year, and we’re going to talk about how. I’m here with my cohost, COO and eldest daughter Megan Hyatt Miller. Meg, thanks for joining me.

Megan Hyatt Miller: Hey, Dad. It’s great to be here with you.

Michael: How’s your shoulder doing?

Megan: Well, my shoulder is coming along. Just for some context, I had surgery about a week ago and some change. In about three to five more weeks I’m going to have a brand new shoulder. I had some issues that needed to be corrected.

Michael: So some of the stuff you take for granted, like fixing your hair…

Megan: Yeah, can I just tell you how humbling that is? My 14-year-old daughter has been fixing my hair, but it’s about to get really bad because my husband, who is bald, is about to become my hairdresser. What could possibly go wrong? He’s sitting here to the right of me, and it’s not looking good, guys.

Michael: I think there’s a proverb, or should be. Never trust a hairdresser who’s bald.

Megan: I think that’s a good word to live by.

Michael: It’s like a chef who doesn’t eat his own food.

Megan: Well, I’m really excited about our show today. We’re going to be talking about how to effectively design the next 12 months and the five steps we can take to do that.

Michael: All right. Well, let’s start with the first step: choose the right approach.

Megan: There are many ways you can approach life, some of which are really bad.

Michael: It’s true in all of life. There are a lot of ways to do it wrong and a few ways to do it right. One of the wrong approaches is what I call drifting. The drift happens when we’re not being intentional, we’re not being proactive, we just kind of succumb to the demands of life, and we’re like a boat that’s carried along by the water, maybe without a rudder. We’re just drifting, going with the flow.

Megan: This is a passive approach. It’s not intentional. You’re just sort of letting things happen. Right?

Michael: Yeah, exactly. It’s like we’re letting life happen to us, and we’re not taking any initiative to make it happen. So many people end up like this. They end up drifting to a life they didn’t really design. They end up having a health crisis or a marital crisis or something else because they’re drifting along not creating their life. To give you a clear example of just how dangerous the drift can be, listen to this story from my friend and, by the way, the coauthor of my book Living Forward, Daniel Harkavy.

Daniel Harkavy: For the last 40 years, my primary passion has been surfing. About 20 years ago, my family and I moved from Southern California up to Oregon. It’s a huge, huge change when one goes from surfing the warmer climate waters of Southern California and makes the move up here to the Pacific Northwest, where the ocean is a lot colder, definitely a lot more wild, and there’s not nearly the number of surfers up here as there are down in Southern California.

So for the last 30 to 40 years I’ve had the privilege of surfing around the world, and as a guy who has spent so much time in the water I’m very aware of a lot of the dynamics that take place with surfing. There are all sorts of elements that are happening that will lead to a fantastic surf session or a surf session that is not good or sometimes, worse yet, even quite dangerous.

One story in particular of the drift took place a few years back. I was out with a few young guys, one of them being my son, a few of his buddies. We were surfing off of the Oregon coast in a place I happen to have a little cabin in. I surf these waters at times. One of the guys who was surfing with us didn’t have a lot of experience surfing, nor had he surfed this spot before. It was a fall day. There was a lot of water moving. Waves were quite large. A lot of currents.

This young friend, not being aware of what was taking place, found himself in the drift, in a rip current that had him moving out to sea at such a quick pace there was really nothing he could do about it. I turned and saw that he was in a difficult situation, and I paddled into that current and started making my way out toward the end of this cape, which sits a couple hundred yards out there. I caught up to him, where he had just been paddling against it but with absolutely no progress being made.

I came alongside of him and said, “Bud, what we need to do is to go horizontal to the beach instead of paddling into the beach. The current is just taking us out. We need to get out of the rip.” So we paddled for a good half an hour or so. We paddled south, got out of the rip, and then made our way in. When we got to the beach completely exhausted it was teaching time, and he learned the lesson of drift.

Now with surfing there are all sorts of drift stories, and I tell you, being an executive coach I’ve seen so many business leaders get sucked in the drift that is very much like that. They find themselves in harm’s way, in a dangerous situation, and oftentimes they pay a price for that mistake.

Michael: The trouble with the drift is that we end up somewhere we wouldn’t have chosen. Nobody ever drifted to a destination they would have chosen. Drifting to the wrong destination looks like waking up when you’re in your 40s or 50s or 60s and going through a major health crisis or blowing up your marriage.

Megan: Are you talking about my shoulder surgery?

Michael: Not exactly.

Megan: I’m not even in my 40s yet, so I guess I’m exempt.

Michael: I wouldn’t call that a crisis. That’s not the result of the drift; that was intentional. You fell and broke that intentionally. (Not really.) Then there are people who lose their kids or lose their career or their career gets stalled out or whatever. The point is nobody ever drifted to a destination they would have chosen.

Megan: Right. And these are the people who probably have a fatalistic approach, either consciously or unconsciously. They don’t really think they have any agency or control. They just sort of think things happen one way or the other. They really can’t do anything about it. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen, and you get whatever comes to you, good or bad.

Michael: That’s true. These are the people who wake up in the morning and don’t really have a plan for the day. They don’t have a plan for the week. They don’t really have a plan for their life, and it just kind of goes wherever it goes.

Megan: Then the pendulum can swing in the opposite direction, which is being driven, which is sort of like the flip side of the same coin.

Michael: Yeah, exactly. I was guilty of this, because to be honest, I saw my dad drifting a lot when I was growing up, and I kind of overcorrected by being driven. It was an overcorrection, and in many ways it led to some of the same results. Thankfully, I didn’t blow up my marriage or lose my kids, but I went through some crises, not the least of which were a series of health crises because I wasn’t really taking initiative and being proactive with my health.

Megan: I think that’s true for a lot of people. Whatever they experience growing up they just do the opposite of that. Again, it’s not conscious. You’re just doing something without being intentional, without being thoughtful about it, and you’re reacting. You’re not really being proactive.

Michael: Totally. I can think back to a very eventful day that you and I experienced that was kind of an example of overcorrecting.

Megan: That would be an understatement.

Michael: It also involved driving, but not as a metaphor. Why don’t you tell it from your perspective, and then I’ll tell it from mine?

Megan: Well, this happened when I was 19 years old. (I’m 37 right now, so you can do that backward math. I’m not going to try to do that on my pain medicine today.) We were headed to church. This was in 1999, I believe, and I was with Mom and a couple of my sisters and a couple of their friends. We were headed to church, and our church at the time was on a country road, a windy road with no shoulder. We’ve all been on those roads.

It’s really easy to find yourself off the shoulder or on the edge of the shoulder, and it’s kind of scary. Well, that’s the situation I found myself in. I think Mom was putting makeup on. She dropped something. I kind of reached to grab it, and before I knew it, the passenger side tire had slipped off the edge of that shoulder. I quickly overcorrected, as you can imagine. I was startled. I was driving a big suburban, so I felt it in an intense way.

Before I knew it, I had hit a road sign on that side of the road, but then found myself on the opposite side of the road, because I had overcorrected, and I was going through horse fence. Do you know how they have that PVC horse fence? I went through 11 sections of that fencing before I finally jerked the wheel to avoid a telephone pole, which I ended up rolling into, so, the car now flipped at least once, if not more times. I don’t really remember.

In fact, the only thing I remember is the smell of dirt, because all of the windows blew. I found myself upside down in the car. I had to climb out of the broken, smashed window to get out. Miraculously, no one was seriously hurt. Everyone was able to get out of the car, but you would not have thought that if you had seen the car, because it looked like probably there were no survivors.

Michael: The story from my perspective, which was pretty harrowing (not as harrowing as yours, I might add)… I was already at church, because I’m part of the leadership of our church, and I was there preparing for the service. Somebody stuck their head into the area where the leaders were and said, “Your family has just been in a wreck. You need to come immediately.”

Well, as you can imagine, my heart sank. I had a little mini panic attack. I ran out of the building, got in my car, and then started driving toward where this happened, but then the traffic started to slow because the traffic was all stopped because of the wreck. Again, this was kind of a country road. I parked my car on the shoulder, got out, and started running toward the scene of the accident.

As I ran up on the scene of the accident, the first thing I saw was the suburban upside down, all of the windows blown, the roof crushed, and I’m thinking to myself, “Did anybody make it out alive?” I think there was a fire truck or two, an ambulance. Then I looked up on the hill, and here comes Marissa, your youngest sister, my youngest daughter, and she was about 10. She comes crying. “Daddy! Daddy!” I lost it.

Miraculously, I see all the rest of the family and the friends who had been in the accident all sitting up on that hill behind her, and everybody was fine. I couldn’t believe it. I remember saying to the state trooper who was there, “Wow. Thank God she was in a suburban,” and he said, “No, just thank God.” He said, “When we came up on the suburban we called Life Flight because we couldn’t imagine that anybody wasn’t critically injured.” Thankfully, nobody was injured. I think I took a couple of you to the hospital just for some scratches to get checked up.

Megan: I injured my shoulder. In fact, the whole reason I’m having surgery now is because of that injury that began back then. I had some problems after that. But that’s pretty minor compared to how bad it was, and it all happened because of that overcorrection. It’s like you start out on one side, and you swing to the other side, and before you know it you’ve crashed because all of it was a reaction. That’s really the point of that story.

Michael: It is. That’s why I think of these two approaches to life, whether it’s drifting or being driven, as two sides of the same coin. In fact, I call it the default life. It’s the default approach. They do seem like polar opposites. I would say they’re both unconscious choices, but they both lead to bad destinations. You’re old enough now where you’ve seen some of your friends who’ve drifted into divorce or into some crisis with their family in another way or a career burnout or whatever. Whether it’s drifting or it’s a result of being driven…same destination, but two different approaches to get there.

Megan: Absolutely.

Michael: Sarah Winchester, by the way, is a perfect example of someone who is a victim of both. The Winchester Mystery House is the result of this driven mania…she couldn’t stop building…and also drifting, because she just didn’t have any focus, and she ended up at this crazy destination.

Megan: I think we’ve made a pretty compelling case that you don’t want to be in this default mode. You don’t want to drift, and you don’t want to be driven. So what’s the third alternative?

Michael: The best approach, the only approach that really works long term, is designing your life. Not drifting, not being driven, not kicking into the default mode, but designing your life. This is where you intentionally craft the life you’ve been dreaming of. In a sense, you become a life architect, the architect of your future.

Megan: I love that image. That sounds really empowering and exciting. I think most of us have been in that season of the default life, and if you’re listening to this and maybe you’re thinking you want to step into that space of designing your life as an alternative, where should you begin?

Michael: To first of all realize you have agency. That’s a new idea for a lot of people.

Megan: What does that mean? We say that all the time, and we’re almost tired of hearing ourselves say it, but it’s an important idea that I think we need to unpack.

Michael: The point is that you can be the agent of a different outcome. You have the means, the power by which you can create something different. You don’t have to drift along on the waves like a bobber on the ocean. You have the power to direct the ship, and that’s really all I mean by agency.

Megan: That’s great.

Michael: That leads right into the second step: set aside the time.

Megan: Without design you get disorder. We all know about entropy, that the world tends toward disorder. Things just break down unless we keep them up. The same is true for our lives.

Michael: Do any desirable outcomes just happen?

Megan: I wish they did.

Michael: I wish they did too, but they don’t. Whether you want to be in the best shape of your life or just have a healthy body or a thriving marriage… It’s not just because people get lucky in love that they have a thriving marriage; usually they work at it. Or a successful, sustainable business. That doesn’t just happen either.

You don’t just have the golden touch. It takes more intention than that, more productivity than that, more design than that. Let’s say you wanted to write a book. That’s not just going to happen. A good relationship with your kids…that doesn’t just happen. Desirable outcomes (and this is the important thing to understand) are caused.

Megan: That’s both a responsibility but an incredible freedom to consider, because it makes you not the victim anymore.

Michael: That’s right. That’s the beauty of it. I love that it doesn’t make you a victim, but it does require you to act and exercise your agency.

Megan: Absolutely. Another important thing to remember is that imposing order takes time. For example, a blueprint for a house has never just materialized, and the same is true for your year. You can’t just expect to write a couple of resolutions, for example, on the back of your cocktail napkin on New Year’s Eve and think that’s going to make for a great year or a great life, even. If you want to have a great year, you have to create one. You have to design it intentionally.

Michael: The reality is that the busyness of life is going to crowd out what’s important. All this stuff about designing a better marriage or getting in better health or getting a business off the ground or writing a book… All that’s important, but it’s not urgent. The problem with things that are important but not urgent is it’s easy to keep putting them on the back burner.

“I’ll get to that when I get through this thing I’m wrestling with, this new project at work, this new career change I’ve made.” Whatever it is, we keep pushing the important to the background. It’s critical that you set aside time to dream about next year and really design a game plan, and here’s why: what gets scheduled gets done. You’ve probably heard me say this a gazillion times.

Megan: It’s so true, though.

Michael: But it’s true. If it doesn’t end up on your calendar, it’s probably not going to happen.

Megan: So how much time do you recommend?

Michael: Well, I can tell you what I’ve done for years, and this is the premise of our program 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. It doesn’t actually take five days, but historically what I’ve done is that period of time between Christmas and New Year’s I’ve taken five one-hour blocks to plan the next year, to get resolution to the past year and then to turn the corner and begin to design the next year.

It’s a morning, it’s an afternoon, but it’s time set aside when you’re not on Facebook, you’re not on Twitter, you’re not doing all that other stuff that can distract you, but you’re really focused in on thinking about, “How would I design next year so I can get to the end of the year and say, ‘That was an awesome year. That was intentional. I got the outcomes and the results I wanted’?”

Megan: A lot of the things we’ve heard from our best students who have had the most success is they actually go on a mini personal retreat, often with a spouse or a significant other, a friend, or somebody, where they just spend a couple of days over a weekend and deep-dive into this planning.

Oftentimes, they’ll go off-site to a hotel or some other destination that’s beautiful, that’s inspiring, that gets them out of the normal day-to-day, like you were talking about, which is really important, and that has been really effective for people. So when January 1 rolls around, you have a plan you’re excited about and a clear path forward so you can design your year step-by-step rather than drifting or being driven.

Michael: I want to camp a little bit on that “where you do it” thing you were talking about. It doesn’t have to be expensive. If you can’t afford a hotel room, that’s fine. You can set aside some time at the local library.

Megan: That’s a great place to do it, by the way.

Michael: It is. I love working at the library.

Megan: It’s so quiet.

Michael: Find a quiet place, a quiet little corner where you’re not going to be disturbed. It could be at a friend’s house. It could be at a state campground. It could be any number of places, but the important thing is get out of the ordinary where you’re going to be distracted. If you try to do this at home, you’re probably going to get distracted. If you try to do it at work, same thing. Try to find a special place where you can do it.

Megan: Love that. Before we continue with our next step to a designed year, you’re going to tell us about your new goal-setting webinar coming up soon.

Michael: Yes, I am. I always get excited about webinars. It’s one of my favorite things to do, but especially when we’re talking about goals. I love teaching people how to challenge themselves and reach major milestones in their lives. This webinar is called (and I love this title) Navigate Your Way to Success in 2018: Five Blunders That Could Shipwreck Your Goals and How to Avoid Them.

Megan: Nobody wants to get shipwrecked. I love that imagery.

Michael: Yeah, nobody does, but the truth is major goal-setting mistakes are a lot more common than you think. As somebody who has been setting ambitious goals for most of my life, I’ve seen it all, and I’ve made my share of blunders too. Now I have a proven system I’ve been using for years. (I mentioned it just a moment ago.) I know exactly how to help other high-achievers bypass those critical errors. If you want to succeed in setting and achieving the right kind of goals this year, you definitely want to join me for this webinar.

Megan: Awesome. So how do we sign up for the webinar?

Michael: Well, I thought you’d never ask. All you have to do is go to and you can pick one of several convenient time slots. We have a bunch of them there. Registration is completely free (my favorite price). Megan, I have to tell you, I’m really looking forward to this. We’re going to be talking about how to make 2018 a successful, unforgettable year, and you really don’t know what’s possible until you start setting goals in a way that actually works.

Megan: I love it. You can just go to to sign up for the free webinar, Navigate Your Way to Success in 2018. I hope all of you can join us for the webinar. Now let’s get back to our discussion on designing your year.

Michael: That brings us to the third step: acknowledge your current reality.

Megan: You have to start where you are. When planning any journey, there are two key locations you have to identify: where you are now and where you want to go.

Michael: It’s just like a GPS system. You might chart a beautiful course from Paris to Rome, say, but if you’re standing in Istanbul, that’s really not going to help you. You have to know where you are and where you want to go.

Megan: Even if you wish you were doing better in areas of your life, like your health or your finances, you have to give yourself permission to start where you are.

Michael: Yeah, funny story. This is a true confession. For years I never flossed. I just wasn’t taught that as a kid, and as it turns out, most kids aren’t.

Megan: I feel like we should have some really ominous-sounding music, like, true confessions music happening right now.

Michael: Gail, my wife (your mom), used to get on me about this. About 10 years into our marriage, she just said, “You have to go to the dentist. I don’t want to grow older with a guy who’s losing his teeth.” That was kind of a frightening thought. So I said, “Okay, I’m going to go ahead and start flossing, and as soon as I get my teeth in shape, then I’ll go.”

People do this not only with flossing their teeth, but they think, “I’m going to visit a financial planner, or a financial adviser, once I’m out of debt and I have my finances all taken care of,” but that’s really not how it works. You’re going to those people because you need help. You have to be honest about where you are. You don’t need to make it better than it is or spruce it up or try to put some shine on it. Just admit where you are. That’s the whole point of goal setting.

Megan: It’s kind of like not wanting to go to the gym until you’re in shape. Oh goodness. We mentioned this last week, but we have a quick self-assessment you can use to evaluate how you’re doing in 10 key life domains. This is really cool.

Michael: Yeah, it is cool, and it’s called the LifeScore Assessment. This is one of the best tools we’ve ever developed. I don’t know how many people we’ve had go through this, but over 250,000, I think, last I counted. You can find it (and it’s free) at You can’t change the past, but all of us have the power to change the future, and that’s the beauty of planning, that’s the beauty of goal setting.

Megan: So empowering. After you acknowledge where you are, you have to take ownership of your current results. It can be tempting to place blame on something or somebody external, like the economy or a tough circumstance or an underperforming department, but when we do that we really cede our power, which is the opposite of what we’re talking about here.

Michael: It’s the opposite of agency. I want to tell you this story, and I’m not sure I haven’t told this on a podcast before. If you’ve heard this before, forgive me, or just act like you’ve never heard it before and laugh at the appropriate time. Actually, it’s not a laughing story. This was back in the recession when things were really tough. The economy was falling apart, as if I needed to remind you. I’ve tried to put it out of my own memory, but I can remember it like it’s yesterday when I start telling this story.

We had this one budget for August (I think it was August of 2009), and we missed the budget. We missed our sales budget. I had this executive coach by the name of Ilene who flew in to meet with me for the day. She said, “Hey, I’ve been reviewing your financials. I saw that you missed August.” She said, “Tell me what happened.” I said, “Well, it’s pretty obvious. We’re in the middle of a recession. Things are really tough out there, and retail bookstores are especially struggling right now,” and those were our primary customers. I said, “So, yeah, we missed our budget.” Kind of almost fatalistically.

Megan: Like, “What else could we have done?”

Michael: Like there’s nothing else that could have happened. I mean, it’s obvious. We set goals, and we’re going to miss them. It’s in a recession. She said, “Okay, anything else?” I said, “Well, no. That’s pretty much it.” She said, “Okay. I get that the economy is tough, but what was it…” This was the big question. “What was it about your leadership that led to this result?” I wanted to slap her. It really ticked me off, because I thought… In fact, I said it out loud. I said, “Ilene, I don’t think you heard me. There’s a recession.”

Megan: “Have you watched the news?”

Michael: “Have you watched the news? Are you reading the newspaper? There’s a recession going on. Our industry segment is way down. We’re struggling. Yes, I missed the budget. Guilty as charged.” She said, “But here’s the problem with what you’re saying. You’re making yourself the victim, and I want to ask you again. What was it about your leadership that led to this result?”

Megan: You’ve asked me this question. I’ve also wanted to slap you, just for the record.

Michael: I know. This is one of those questions you have to ask and duck.

Megan: Exactly.

Michael: You have to be careful. She was careful. She was very compassionate, and she said, “Let me get at this another way. If you could go back to the beginning of August, are there some things you would have done differently in the way you led your team?” I said, “Well, of course.” She said, “Like what?” I said, “Well, I would have met with the sales manager early on to see if it would have helped if I had called on some of the big accounts like Walmart and Barnes & Noble. If I had went on those sales calls, that might have made a difference.”

She said, “Okay. What else?” I said, “Well, I probably would have monitored more closely the sales results on the daily sales report, and I would have realized we were going to miss way earlier in the month, and maybe we would have come up with some specials or something to bolster sales.” She said, “Okay. What else?” I gave three or four things, and she said, “Okay, so here’s what I hear you saying: it was about your leadership.”

Megan: Face-palm.

Michael: I said, “You’re right. It was about my leadership.”

Megan: But how cool to realize you weren’t the victim and there was a whole list of things you could have done to change the outcome had you had your mind in that right place.

Michael: I think this is what happens to people when they take ownership of something. Initially it’s very difficult, because you think, “I don’t want to blame myself,” but once you do, it is the most liberating thing you can possibly do, because once you take ownership you’re empowered to change the outcome. As much as it pains you for me to ask you, I ask myself this question a lot.

Mom and I ask this question of each other a lot. In fact, I even asked her that question this morning about something she was frustrated with about the house. I said, “Don’t slap me, but what was it about your leadership that led to this?” She looked at me, kind of rolled her eyes, and said, “I know, I know. Yeah, there’s plenty I could have done differently.” It’s a great question.

Megan: It is a great question. Another great question is asking yourself, “What do I need to change about my behavior to get better results in the coming year?” This is really relevant to the designing your year question, because presumably, the choices and the mindset and the decisions we made in the last year have been the things that have driven the results we’ve experienced, good or bad. Those are the things that have created the experience we find ourselves in right now, so if we want to do something different we’re probably going to have to change our behavior in order to get there.

Michael: Yeah, totally. I heard somebody say one time that where you are right now in life (this is a hard truth) is the sum total of all of the decisions you made up until this point. Now I get that there are things that happen outside of our control. We’re not in total control of our lives, but we all have to admit that our health, not completely but in large part is due to some decisions we’ve made.

The condition of our marriage is maybe not totally but in large part due to some decisions we’ve made. At the very least, the person we married. As our friend Ian likes to say, sometimes we got the pizza we ordered. So with when it comes to our kids, our careers, or anything else in life. We’ve made these little decisions that at the time probably seemed small and incremental, like they didn’t really matter, but they changed the trajectory of our lives and led us to this place we’re at right now.

Now, again, people may feel defensive when they hear that, but when you own that you can change it going forward, because all change takes for this next year is owning the outcome and making those small, incremental decisions that will lead you to a different place.

Megan: Absolutely.

Michael: Okay, now we’re ready for the fourth step: envision your ideal outcome.

Megan: This is a fun one. It reminds me of an architectural writer I like reading. His name is Witold Rybczynski, and he says that great buildings are often the result of a single and sometimes very simple idea. It’s all about vision. We have to begin with the end in mind, and that brings us to asking the question about what kind of outcome we want.

Michael: Before we get to that, I just have to say I was impressed that you could pronounce his name, because I’m looking at it, and I wouldn’t have a clue how to pronounce it.

Megan: All right. I’m going to just pull the curtain back for a second and say that we often get these very complicated names when we’re quoting people, and our team gives us a pronunciation guide, because it would be just butchery left and right without them.

Michael: I was impressed that maybe you just knew this guy.

Megan: Sorry.

Michael: So you have to begin with the end in mind. What outcome do you want? Give yourself permission to dream. There’s something about the educational process that kind of is geared toward shutting down our dreams. When you ask a kid who’s 4 or 5 years old, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” they might answer, “An astronaut.” If that kid still says an astronaut when he’s 14 or 15, as a parent you’re saying, “You know, you might be wanting to think about a real job.” We’re dialing that dream down, making it manageable.

The best way to dream, from my perspective, is to metaphorically stand in the future and take a look around. What do you see? We do this as a practical matter in our company when we’re trying to describe projects we want to delegate to people. We really focus on that end result and standing in the future and describing what we see, but think of it this way. At the end of 2018, how do you want to feel? Sometimes our emotions tell us a lot more than a visual representation of what we see.

How do we want to feel? How do you want your loved ones to feel at the end of 2018? What do you want to see happening in your business? What does your body look like? Is it different than it is now? Is it bigger, smaller? Probably taller or shorter is not something we have a lot of control over, but what could you fix? What do you want to have achieved? The more specific, the more concrete you can make that, the more vivid you can make it, the more compelling and powerful it’s going to be as you begin the process of designing your future.

Megan: This is so important, because I think all of us have experienced failure or setbacks. Not only do the forces in our lives conspire to help us stay in that place of small thinking and out of a place of vision, but also our own failures and setbacks, the things we experience as a result of dreaming in our lives, little by little kind of whittle away at that. So I think these questions help us to reclaim some of that ground that’s often lost earlier in life when things maybe don’t go like we hope.

Michael: They kind of open the windows on the future so you can get a breeze.

Megan: Our friend Ray Edwards is a huge proponent of designing your life. Listen to what he has to say about intentionally pursuing the outcomes you want.

Ray Edwards:  I think there are five tragic losses we can suffer if we don’t make our priorities important and act on them right now instead of waiting for someday.

And they are, first of all, our integrity which is not about just being honest which is what most people think. But integrity is really about having a structure of your worldview and values and operating in a congruent way with that structure. And if you don’t, you’re out of integrity.

The second loss comes from the first, and that is the loss of your self-respect—which is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re not operating in accordance with your values, your self-respect is going to suffer.

Which leads to the third loss, which is the loss of leadership. You lose your ability to lead yourself—that’s the first person you have to lead, as we’ve learned from Michael—and you also lose the ability to be a leader for the people who are most important in your life—your family, your team members, other members of your church, acquaintances, friends.

And the fourth loss is the loss of your legacy. And legacy is not just about money—in my opinion—it’s about what impression you make on the world that is remaining after you’ve left this world (because we’re only here for a finite period of time). Legacy is about what do people remember about you, about your character, about how you lived with your values, about how you walked them out. And if you are failing in the first three areas that I mentioned, then your legacy is lost as well.

And number five is the loss of Gods gifts that he has given you. This may sound a little out there but I believe God has given each of us gifts that we either exercise or we don’t. We can’t lose them if he gave them to us, but we can refuse to use them—which is even more tragic than losing them because they were right within our grasp all the time but we didn’t use them because we didn’t make them priority and take action on them right now.

So these losses are all tragic and they are most tragic because they’re completely within our control. You don’t have to suffer these losses. You just have to be intentional about making priorities real priorities and acting on them now, not someday.

Michael: It’s important under step four to clarify your purpose and your priorities. This is a huge part of envisioning the ideal outcome for your year. You can do anything you want… By the way, it was David Allen who said this, and we quoted it in a previous episode. You can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want.

This is kind of like the thing they don’t tell you when you go to these motivational seminars, or whatever, and people are saying, “You could be anything. You could do anything. You could accomplish anything.” But not everything you want. You have to set priorities and then consciously choose to act on them, particularly for 2018.

Megan: That’s right. Research from Cornell University and Carleton University showed that having a sense of purpose has tangible health benefits too. Two studies from those two institutions associate a sense of purpose with reduced stress, fewer heart attacks, and a 15 percent lower risk of death. All right then.

Michael: All because of purpose. You have to ask yourself, “What is most important to me this year?” Is it finally getting that book written? Is it starting that company? Is it getting that promotion? Is it rebuilding your marriage or taking it to another level? Is it finally getting in shape or beginning to eat better, taking care of yourself, maybe, for once? What is it? What’s most important to me this year? Then also, what am I willing to de-prioritize to make it a reality?

Megan: That’s a really important question, because every yes is also a no.

Michael: I know. One of the things I’ve recently had to contend with, as you know… I took on a board assignment for a nonprofit, and one of the first things you asked me was, “Great. What are you going to give up to do that?” We had to get very specific about that.

Megan: We did.

Michael: The fifth step is take the first step. That’s really where it ends and where it begins.

Megan: The good news is you don’t need a detailed plan. You don’t have to figure it all out before you take the first step. This is one of the most common myths to achievement. People think they need some elaborate plan, some step-by-step blueprint, which actually leads to procrastination if you overplan. Dirty little secret.

Michael: Sometimes I say it this way: excessive planning is often a fancy way to procrastinate. Because you kind of get the feeling that you’re doing something.

Megan: Right. You look busy.

Michael: You look busy. You’re filling out this long list of everything you have to do (we used to do this in the corporate world), and by the time you get done doing the list you’re exhausted. And, oh, by the way, you can’t possibly see the whole path anyway. If the goal is set where it should be, which is, I contend, in your discomfort zone, then you’re not going to know clearly how to get there. It’s going to be a little bit of an adventure. All you need to see is the next few steps. The key is to get started, to get moving.

Megan: That’s right. The path often becomes clear once you’re in motion. In fact, I say often to our team that we hold our goals tightly but our strategy loosely. We don’t want to spend too much time figuring out an elaborate strategy or staying fixated or overly committed to one that isn’t working once you get into it down the road a little bit. What you do want to stay committed to is your goal, and that kind of takes the pressure off figuring it all out in advance. Zig Ziglar says you don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.

Michael: I love that quote.

Megan: That’s what we want to encourage you to do today. Don’t overplan; just get started. You need incremental progress. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, of course.

Michael: It’s kind of what I was saying before. We underestimate the power of incremental progress. We certainly understand the power of incremental regress, when we eat a little bit too much in the holiday season, and that leads to one thing after another, and we put on a few extra pounds, and before long we’re completely out of shape and we’re not where we want to be. Incremental progress is the exact opposite of that: taking the next right step. Do that again tomorrow, again the next week. Eventually, those right steps add up and will get you to the destination you want to go to.

Megan: That’s right. We also have to be willing to do it afraid. Another myth is that you have to wait to overcome your fear before you get started. This is a really common one, and it will hold you back if you believe it. Sometimes you have to just do it afraid, and the confidence doesn’t come until after you do it. The truth is that everything important happens outside of your comfort zone. I kind of wish this wasn’t true, if I’m honest. I really like the comfort zone. It’s so cozy and warm and safe there.

Michael: The thing about the discomfort zone, too, is that eventually it becomes comfortable. It’s uncomfortable initially, and then you get comfortable with it.

Megan: You have to keep pushing the envelope a little bit. The good thing is that once you have some successes under your belt you develop some confidence that you know you can do hard things, so you’re willing to try more readily than you are sometimes when you’re just starting out. So that’s a good thing to know too.

Michael: It really comes down to, especially these scary things, asking yourself, “What single brave decision do I need to make today?” In fact, I’ve heard you say it. You may know the source of this. Maybe you are the source of this. “What would I do if I were brave?”

Megan: I’m not the source of it, but I do love that quote.

Michael: Where did that come from?

Megan: I’m not sure. I heard a life coach named Martha Beck use that, but I don’t know if it originates with her either, so I’m not sure. We’ll have to look into that.

Michael: It’s a great quote, though. Say it again.

Megan: What would you do if you were brave? It brings a lot of clarity.

Michael: So today we’ve covered five steps to design the coming year: choose the right approach, set aside the time, acknowledge your current reality, envision your ideal outcome, and take the first step.

Megan: As we come in for a landing, I want to remind you that we have agency to create the life we imagine. Yes, there will always be factors outside of our control, but most of the things that matter are yours to improve. Whether your 2018 resembles the beautiful Biltmore or the slightly creepy, crazy Winchester Mystery House, it’s really up to you. Any final thoughts for today, Dad?

Michael: If you’re feeling a little bit excited about 2018, that’s good. You should, because this next year right now is a blank canvas. You can turn it into whatever you want. It could be random, unintentional, and ugly by the end of the year or it could be something beautiful, something that was intentional, something you created and offered up to the world. So I would just be very thoughtful about this next year.

I really think of myself as a steward. I’m given this time as a gift. I’m given this next year, or whatever of it I have, as a gift, and I want to be faithful over that stewardship. I want to value it. Time is such a gift, and the older I get, the more I realize it. I want to treat that with respect, I want to treat it with dignity, and I want to be intentional about how I use that time. Planning this next year is a great way to do that.

Megan: I love that. All right. As we close, I want to thank our sponsor LeaderBox. It provides automated personal development in a box. Check it out at If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, you can get the show notes and a full transcript online at

Michael: Thanks again for joining us on Lead to Win. If you like the show, please tell your friends and colleagues about it, and also please leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts.

Megan: This program is copyrighted by Michael Hyatt & Company. All rights reserved. Our producer is Nick Jaworski.

Michael: Our writers are Joel Miller, Mandi Rivieccio, and Jeremy Lott.

Megan: Our recording engineer is Matt Price.

Michael: Our production assistants are Mike Burns, Mike Boyer, and Aleshia Curry.

Megan: Our intern is Winston.

Michael: We invite you to join us for our next episode, where we’re going to be discussing the three emotions that are keeping you stuck and how to conquer them