Episode: How to Achieve Big Goals with Your Spouse
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Megan Hyatt Miller: Abigail and John Adams.
Michael Hyatt: Jackie and Rachel Robinson.
Megan: Margaret and Denis Thatcher.
Michael: Isabella and Ferdinand.
Megan: Victoria and Albert.
Michael: John and June Carter Cash.
Megan: Marie and Pierre Curie.
Michael: Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.
Megan: Bill and Melinda Gates.
Michael: Bonnie and Clyde.
Megan: Uh, no.
Michael: Then how about Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Anna Snitkina? The famous novelist who wrote The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment was in deep water. I’m talking up to his eyeballs in debt. Worse, after putting the rights to his works in hock in exchange for a new novel, Dostoyevsky had only a month to finish the book and couldn’t make any progress. So, in desperation, he called for a stenographer, and it was Anna who answered the call.
Megan: The pair met every day for several hours, and in less than four weeks they completed Dostoyevsky’s new novel, The Gambler. It was an amazing accomplishment. But writing wasn’t all they were up to. Fyodor and Anna talked as they worked and began a deep friendship. So deep that Fyodor proposed to Anna shortly after they finished the novel. Anna said, “Yes,” and the two lived together 14 years before Fyodor passed away.
Michael: While Fyodor was alive and long after, Anna helped him solidify his ragtag publishing business. As Maria Popova tells it, Anna studied the book market meticulously, researched the best vendors in the country, negotiated with art directors, and masterminded a distribution plan. Soon Dostoyevsky was a national brand. Today, says Popova, many consider Anna the first Russian female publisher and the first Russian businesswoman.
Megan: As Fyodor and Anna show, along with all the other names we mentioned, when couples pursue life together they can accomplish far more than they might on their own. Maybe even Bonnie and Clyde.
Michael: Uh, no.
Megan: Dostoyevsky was a brilliant novelist, but he was a terrible businessman with holes for pockets. Anna enabled him to live up to his full potential.
Michael: And Fyodor helped Anna live up to hers. That’s a possibility for all of us. Research shows married people are happier, healthier, and wealthier than single people. Now I’m sure there’s research on unmarried achievement, but that’s not what we’re talking about here today. When we pair historical examples with the findings of social science, it’s clear that a good marriage is an optimal environment for personal achievement.
Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.
Megan: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.
Michael: And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work, succeed at life, and lead with confidence. In this episode, we’re going to explore how couples can work together to achieve their most important goals.
Megan: You know, Dad, as you mentioned earlier, we are going to talk about goal achievement today for couples. I am really excited about this topic.
Michael: I’m excited about this too, because, honestly, this can be an impediment for a lot of people in setting goals, because maybe one of the partners is really an achiever and the other one feels intimidated by that, so they don’t even try.
Megan: You could maybe relate to this a little bit.
Michael: Maybe. We’ll unpack that as we go on.
Megan: That’s right. Today we’re going to talk about five of the most frequently asked questions we hear from our audience on this topic. We actually get a lot of questions about this, because people want to know not only how they can accomplish their own goals, but it’s sort of intuitive to leverage your marriage to do even more than you could do on your own, but most of us were never taught how to do that effectively.
Michael: Right. And for those of you who don’t have the background on this, we do a course through Michael Hyatt & Company called 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. I have a brand new book called Your Best Year Ever that’s just out right now, so we have a lot of experience with this. We’ve had over 32,000 of our students go through that content, and we have more feedback than we know what to do with, but these are the questions that come out of that feedback.
Megan: Yeah. So let’s talk about the first one.
Michael: The first question is…How do I get my spouse excited about goal setting? If we’ve heard this once, we’ve heard it a hundred times.
Megan: We really have.
Michael: People just aren’t on the same page together.
Megan: That’s probably because there’s a hesitancy on the part of the spouse who is maybe not the goal-achieving spouse by nature, and it’s important to tackle that together. One of the things I really recommend for people is that they don’t come into this conversation from the perspective of they want to persuade or, even worse, convince their partner. What you need to come into the conversation with is the goal of understanding.
Usually, resolution is easier when you’re clear on the problem, and chances are you don’t understand the problem very well. This is not a conversation people are having very often, but it is a great opportunity to go deeper with your spouse. So you want to try to discover what the real issue is, where the hesitancy is coming from, and really listen for the answer. For example, oftentimes there’s a hesitancy, if you’re not a natural goal setter or maybe an experienced goal setter, around the potential for failure.
The conversation in somebody’s head is, “Well, what if I fail? What will you think of me? What if I’m not as good at it as you are?” Or “What if it constrains my freedom? I kind of like to fly by the seat of my pants, and now I have to be in this rigorous goal-setting process.” They may think, “That doesn’t sound very fun. I kind of like to let things happen as they happen.” So there may be issues that come up there that are important to understand before you launch into your persuasive attack.
Michael: Along with the point you’re making about you don’t want to be controlled or constrained, I don’t want to be held accountable.
Megan: Right. Oh, that’s a good one.
Michael: “If I say out loud what it is I’m trying to achieve and then I start to fall short, are you going to nag me? I’m already nagging myself. I already have this voice in my head, this self-critical voice, so I don’t need your voice piling on in the midst of that.” This is like Stephen Covey 101: Seek first to understand before trying to be understood. Try to understand the other person.
This is just human nature. It’s true when you’re trying to sell anyone on anything. It’s much easier, it takes a whole lot less energy, if you discover first what they want and then propose your solution as a way to help them get what they want. This is why I like to start this conversation by talking about dreaming, not goal setting. When you start to ask the question, “What do you want for your life? What would you like to have for your health? What do you dream about for our marriage? What would you love to have happen in your career?”
Forget all the mechanics and the technology of reducing that to a goal, but just dream a little bit. Just open up the space and dream. That’s a conversation that for most couples is maybe a conversation they haven’t had since before they were married or maybe the first few years of their marriage, but for most of us we let those dreams die incrementally a little bit every year.
Megan: Because your life is practical, and you’re just sort of making the day-to-day work, and you don’t make space…
Michael: Paying the bills.
Megan: Yeah, you don’t make space for those really important long-range conversations that drew you together in the first place.
Michael: That’s right. We have to understand what’s in it for them. In fact, I often say everyone is tuned in to the most famous radio station of all time, which is WIIFM. What’s in it for me?
Megan: That is so corny but true.
Michael: Wait a second. Are you saying I’m corny?
Megan: Uh, yeah.
Michael: Dad humor.
Megan: Yeah, king of dad jokes.
Michael: You can fight that to your own peril or acknowledge the fact that the other person, in this case your spouse, is also asking “What’s in it for me?” You can discover what that is, kind of excavate that reason, and then go with it. It’s almost like that martial art of aikido, where you use your opponent’s body weight to work against them. In this case you’re not trying to work against the person, but you’re trying to go with the natural direction of where their interests and needs already are as opposed to just bludgeoning them with evidence and arguments and trying to convince them why they ought to be goal setting. That’s not going to work.
Megan: No, that’s the worst thing you can do.
Michael: The second question we often get is…What if we have opposite approaches to achievement?
Megan: We hear this all the time.
Michael: We do. Somebody says, for example, “Look, I’m just a natural achiever. I’m a goal setter. My spouse couldn’t care less about that.” Differences are actually a benefit. That’s kind of how you have to reframe this and put yourself in the right position where you can appreciate your spouse, not resent them for being different. The problem is it doesn’t feel like it’s a benefit, but it really is. Consider this. Gail and I are exactly the opposite on almost every personality test.
Megan: It’s true.
Michael: Like on Myers-Briggs, totally the opposite. When it gets to strengths and weaknesses, like the StrengthsFinder test, my number-one strength (and this will shock a lot of people) is achiever.
Megan: Some people just fell out of their chair right now.
Michael: Yeah, exactly. But in Gail’s case, out of 34 strengths, number 33 for her is achiever.
Michael: Here’s another one: flexibility, or adaptability I think is what StrengthsFinder calls it. That, for me, is number 34.
Megan: Me too.
Michael: Really? I think you’re more adaptable than I am.
Megan: I don’t know. I think I just have a lot of kids.
Michael: I have more kids than you have.
Megan: I know, but mine are still at home.
Michael: Good point. For Gail, adaptability is number one.
Megan: I can’t even imagine what that would be like. That’s a superpower.
Michael: The point is that when it comes to Myers-Briggs, which measures four different domains, we have all eight possibilities covered. When it comes to StrengthsFinder, I’m not very adaptable, but she is, so as a couple functioning together, we’re stronger together.
Megan: That’s so true.
Michael: When it comes to achiever, I kind of have that covered. These differences are actually a benefit.
Megan: Because you’re able to balance each other, which is one of the most beautiful things in marriage. You get to bring your unique gifts and your challenges to the table, but you don’t have to do it alone, and that’s kind of the whole point here. When you have the benefit of the strengths of the other person, even if they’re very different than your own, when you’re trying to move toward a list of shared goals or things you want out of your life… I mean, the more strengths the better is true.
Michael: It’s really why I like playing with a team. I tried to be a solopreneur for a while, and the problem was I was left to just my list of gifts.
Megan: It’s like a little limited palette of paints. You can only do so much.
Michael: That’s the perfect metaphor. Now I have a team, and we have almost 30 people now. That’s a big palette. There’s somebody on my team who is an expert at doing something I’m not particularly good at. That’s helpful.
Megan: It’s kind of like for Joel and me… Joel is the really steady, stable one of the two of us. I am kind of passionate and intense, and my emotions can from time to time go up and down, and I can go down the deep dark hole when it’s not a good day. Joel is like the tetherball pole to my tetherball, as you told me when we were dating, which has proven to be only more true as the years have gone by.
We’ve been married now nine years, and it’s just such a gift, because when I get down, especially when I think about a goal I’m pursuing, and I might want to give up, he’s able to keep it in perspective. “No, no, no. You’re good. You’re good. Just keep going step-by-step.” Conversely, I can give him kind of a shot in the arm when he needs one to keep going and have the passion and drive he might not have as much on his own. So it’s cool.
Michael: The point here, again, is that if we’re going to make progress on goal setting as a couple, if we’re going to reap the benefits of it, we have to reframe our differences and not resent those.
Megan: Or resist them.
Michael: Right, but to embrace them and see them as a good thing. The third question we get about couples pursuing their goals together is…How can we support each other’s individual goals? This obviously assumes that you’ve gone through the goal-setting process. You’re a little farther into it. You’ve negotiated and navigated the fact that you’re going to actually do this together. So you’re going to do it together, but now how can you support one another?
Megan: This is where it really gets fun.
Michael: It does, and I have a whole chapter dedicated to this in my new book Your Best Year Ever. It’s so much better when we can pursue goals in the context of a community. All the research shows that there are incredible benefits for doing this in a community. Trying to be the lone ranger, going it your own… You can do it, but it’s…
Megan: Well, some people can do it. Not everybody, because you encounter obstacles, inevitably…everybody does…and if you’re trying to go it alone, man, you’re so vulnerable. Like I was just talking about myself, to those bad days when you want to give up, and a community helps that from happening.
Michael: Even in my case, where achiever is my number-one strength, there are times when if I’m by myself I just have to grind it out, and it’s just pure willpower, and it’s not very fun, but inside the context of a community I can actually enjoy it. There are at least three benefits.
First of all, learning. In other words, we can learn a lot from our spouse. We can get feedback. It’s a way of validating our goals so we don’t go offtrack or we don’t drift into the delusional zone or we’re not choosing a goal that’s too comfortable. Just the feedback we can get from our spouse is hugely helpful.
A second benefit is encouragement. This is huge, because with goal setting, and particularly with goal achievement, it’s often three steps forward, two steps back, and so many people bail out when they suffer a setback. That’s, by the way, just the nature of goal setting. You’re going to have some setbacks. You’re going to face some challenges. The people who really win with goal setting are the people who persevere through that and, I would say, people who, in advance, set up a support system (and it’s awesome if you can have your spouse) to encourage you when you get discouraged.
I love this verse from the book of Ecclesiastes. It says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his fellow. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” To have that second person in place is a huge advantage to actually following through and accomplishing the goal.
The third benefit is accountability. This is one we have to be careful with. It’s like a knife that cuts both ways. It can be helpful if we give the other person permission to hold us accountable. Otherwise, it can feel like nagging. So don’t hold your spouse accountable unless they ask for it, and just be very careful how you do it.
Megan: Yeah, you can’t want them to achieve their goals more than they want to achieve their goals. That’s counterproductive in a whole bunch of ways, but it can be very powerful if it’s something you’ve agreed on in advance and you know what it looks like to hold somebody accountable, because that’s exciting. You’re always there, so it can be a really helpful thing.
Michael: We didn’t really say this when we were talking about formulating the goals, but it’s probably worth saying here. You have to make sure each party in the marriage is pursuing their own goals and not a goal to please the other partner. For example, I can’t impose something on Gail that she doesn’t want for herself, and she can’t impose something on me that I don’t want for myself. I have to want it myself. So, all of these benefits are accessible in marriage.
Megan: They are. Psychologists at Carnegie Mellon did a study with more than 160 couples. They gave them a choice of doing a fun and easy puzzle or taking on a major challenge, which was giving a speech. When Andrea Williams reported on this study at michaelhyatt.com, she said, “Researchers wanted to know how the influence of the partner impacted the choice made by the decision maker. The opportunity was carefully designed to mimic real-world opportunities—particularly rising to the occasion of apparent risk.”
The researchers found supportive couples were more willing to take on the risk. Also, they found that those people reported greater happiness and well-being, better relationships, and more personal growth than those with less supportive spouses.
Michael: That’s really interesting. What about some practical ways to show support? How can we support one another at a practical level?
Megan: That’s a great question. I think, first of all, you can help your spouse dream big while they’re setting goals. That looks like helping each other spot and overcome limiting beliefs. We talked about this before in a number of different occasions, but those limiting beliefs are sneaky.
Michael: They are, because you can’t usually see them for yourself, but once you develop some proficiency or facility with this you can spot them in other people pretty obviously. I would say that almost daily, certainly every other day or so, Gail and I are picking up on limiting beliefs with one another. We just challenge that, and we’ve given ourselves permission, so it’s not annoying. We’ve given ourselves permission to do that, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned in our pursuit of goal setting and just achievement in general is that limiting beliefs are usually the first thing that holds us back.
Megan: We usually lose the battle in our mind before we lose it on the field. Joel and I do this too. We look for those statements that are sometimes just in passing that start with things like “I could never…” or “This is always…” or “What always happens is…” or something like that.
Michael: Global statements.
Megan: Yes, and those are usually the “canary in the coal mine” that says you’re headed into dangerous territory here, and you need to start backing out before it gets worse.
Michael: We do the same thing. Another thing we can do is share helpful thoughts or resources. If Gail, for example, finds a relevant article or a podcast she thinks would be helpful to me, she passes it along. By the way, she does that on podcast episodes pretty frequently, because when we go to the gym we do that together. We listen to podcasts, and we’re often passing those kinds of things back and forth and sometimes listening to the same podcast at the same time. So as a couple, just keep an ear to the ground for resources that would help your partner.
Megan: Also, you want to be invested in your spouse’s goals as much as your own.
Michael: I love this.
Megan: I do too. It’s not just about what I achieve, as someone who has a set of goals, but it’s also about what your spouse can achieve. We’re in this together. We’re one in marriage, so Joel’s goals are my goals, in a sense. I want to be connected to those and care about those at the same level that I care about my own. When we do that, it becomes powerful. The other person feels supported. They feel loved. They feel known, which is huge. This is an important one to really connect with.
Michael: And it’s a really practical way to serve the other person. I really believe that in marriage the best marriages happen when each party is committed to serving the other person and helping them become the best version of themselves and really achieving their dreams. So for me to know Gail’s goals and then to ask myself, “How can I help her achieve these?” is awesome.
Like, one of her goals that comes very natural to her but something that was on her heart as a dream was that when the grandkids turned 13, she wanted to take them on a one-week trip, something special for them, where we could bond together with them. Well, that does not come natural to me. In other words, the world of work comes natural to me. Building relationships, I hate to say it, is not second nature to me, but it is second nature for her.
So she had that for a vision, and the question for me was, “Okay, how could I make that happen? How could I equip her? How could I empower her? How could I enable her, resource her in a way that we could make that an extraordinary experience that the grandkids wouldn’t forget?” We’ve done that now three different times. We’ll do the fourth one this coming summer, and it’s an amazing experience. I’m so glad she had that on her goal list, because I got to experience the benefit.
Megan: That’s right. You have eight grandchildren, so you’re going to be doing that for a while. Maybe more by the time you get to number eight.
Michael: Eight so far, yeah.
Megan: Before we continue in our conversation, I want to pause for a second and have you tell us about your latest book.
Michael: I’m so excited about this. My new book, Your Best Year Ever, just came out, and the premise of it is this: we all want to live a life that matters and reach our full potential. We often find ourselves, though, overwhelmed by the day-to-day. That’s pretty much everybody’s story. It’s hard to make progress on these big dreams and goals when you just can’t get the daily stuff done.
So our biggest goals often get pushed to the back burner and sometimes forgotten. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way. You can focus on your goals and you can reach your potential, even in the midst of a busy life, if you do it in the right way, and that’s what I want to talk about for just a minute. My new book, Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals.
Now this system is powerful. It’s proven. There have been a lot of people who have gone through our goal-setting course, over 32,000 people at this point, but it’s also research-driven. If you’re ready to make progress professionally, grow financially, improve your health, invest in your relationships, whatever your goals are for the coming year, Your Best Year Ever teaches the framework you need for success.
The best part? If you order the book before the end of January (listen to me; this is important), you’ll get hundreds of dollars worth of bonuses for free. You can find out more at yourbestyeareverbook.com. So don’t wait. Claim your copy and make 2018 your best year ever.
Megan: Great. I hope all of you are going to go check that out. Remember, it’s yourbestyeareverbook.com. Now let’s dive back into our conversation.
Michael: So we’ve covered three questions. The fourth question we hear is a big one. What if our potential goals conflict? This is going to happen for couples. By the way, the real advantage of this is that when they conflict it will give you the opportunity to have some of the most meaningful conversations you’ve ever had. I have this crazy premise (and sometimes it doesn’t feel like this in real time) that on the other side of conflict is intimacy.
Couples that will push through the conflict will get to that intimacy, but only if they push through it. What that does for me is that whenever I have a conflict (and like I said, it’s hard to recognize this in the moment), that’s actually beneficial if I’ll let it work for us, because now we have to have a conversation about something that’s obviously very important to both of us but where we have a difference of opinion, a different perspective, and that can be a good thing.
Megan: Yeah, because you need to get aligned around a common vision. For example, if Joel had a goal that was to run six days a week at 7:00 a.m. and I also had a similar goal, but he didn’t know it, that might mean I would be taking the kids to school every day and, therefore, couldn’t accomplish my goal. There would need to be some coordination around a goal like that, particularly around the timing of it, so we could both get what we want.
It might look like three days a week you get to work on your goal at that time, and three or four days a week I get to do mine at that time, or something like that. You’re just going to have to think through it, and it helps if you remember that you’re on the same team, that your spouse is not against you. They’re not an obstacle to overcome. These conflicts that can emerge in goal setting are just opportunities to help serve each other, work on your compromising skills, and move toward each other, and to remember that you’re aiming toward the same end zone.
Michael: I had a guy who was in my mentoring group (Joel, your husband, will remember this, because he was in the same mentoring group). This guy had a goal of doing the Ironman. That’s like major training.
Megan: Major. Like a job.
Michael: Yeah, it can be hours every day. Well, it was okay, because he was able to negotiate that with his wife. They didn’t have any children, and it worked okay. But you take an infant and put it in the mix, or a couple, and you’re trying to do that on top of a busy work life, you’re basically abandoning your spouse, and they’re being forced to do all the childcare.
So there are times in your life where that may work, but you have to get aligned around a common vision and negotiate these conflicts. Our goals also should be relevant and aligned to each other. In fact, in the SMARTER framework, which I teach in Your Best Year Ever, individual goals must be relevant. That’s what the last R stands for.
Megan: What does that really mean, though?
Michael: Well, it means they have to be, first of all, aligned to the season of your life, like the example I was just giving. They have to also be aligned with each other, and in the context of marriage they have to be aligned with your spouse. Again, that example I just gave I think is relevant (no pun intended). It has to be relevant with your spouse’s goals. I can’t be pursuing something at the expense of my spouse’s goals.
For example, in that case where I was talking about Gail wanting to take that week in the middle of the summer to spend with our 13-year-old grandchildren, if I had a goal that said I wanted to take in that same month our sabbatical (because we take a month off every summer), that’s not going to work. We have to negotiate it. It’s a small difference. One can go in one month and the other one can go another month, but they can’t be at the same time. They have to be aligned. Again, this gives us an opportunity, when we both have a set of goals, to discuss the differences and get our goals aligned with each other.
Megan: The truth is you just need to be looking for ways to compromise and give and take. Whether or not you do your sabbatical in June or July honestly doesn’t really matter, for example, and it doesn’t probably matter to her if the grandkid trip happens in June or July, but somebody is going to have to flex, because they can’t happen simultaneously.
The key here is to keep the big picture in mind. What do you really want to accomplish? In my example with Joel, physical fitness is the main goal there, not that it happens at 7:00 a.m. or something like that. So you want to look for ways that you can compromise without ultimately compromising your goal, if at all possible, or having your achievement come at the expense of something that matters to your spouse.
Michael: By the way, that’s a hugely important point. We can get so goal-focused that we will sacrifice everything to achieve that goal, and that’s an unconscious way of drifting or being driven that’s not helpful. If we’re committed to designing our lives…not drifting, not being driven, but designing our lives…it’s going to take exactly that kind of intention.
Megan: This is a good test. All of our goals should ultimately contribute to the health and well-being of our marriage and the life of our spouse, and if they don’t, you probably have a problem.
Michael: Well, this is one of the big problems I have with the über-achievers. I won’t mention any names, but well-known people in our culture who are willing to sacrifice their marriages or their health in the pursuit of a career goal or a business goal. You know what? I’m not willing to do that. I want the balance.
Megan: Along the lines of how to compromise is looking for that third way. I don’t know that we’ve ever talked about this on a podcast before, but very often when we are trying to navigate a conflict it feels like it’s “his way versus my way” or something like that. There are basically two options we have to choose from, and somebody is going to lose. The magic happens when we discover a third way that’s a win-win solution that accomplishes the majority of what both people need in a way that neither of you might have thought of at the beginning.
For example, if one spouse has a goal to pay off $15,000 of debt and the other one has a goal to take two high-end vacations, well, then what are some creative ways you can transcend those conflicting goals? Maybe use your credit card points for the vacations. I don’t know. There are probably a lot of different options.
Michael: One I was thinking of as you were mentioning that… I thought, “Okay, so what if we sequence these so we make the vacations the reward, in a sense, for paying off the debt?” So to acknowledge to the spouse… Let’s say you’re the one who wants to pay off the debt. Say, “Hey, I would love to take those high-end vacations, so why don’t we do this? Why don’t we have the goal due on paying off the $15,000 in debt sooner than the goal of vacations and make it contingent upon us paying off that debt?” Now you have, all of a sudden, both parties of the couple now focused on paying off the debt, and then both parties of the couple get to enjoy the high-end vacation.
Megan: That’s a great idea. I love that.
Michael: Okay, we’ve already heard about Fyodor and Anna, talking about how a couple could work together accomplishing goals. Listen to Professor Thomas Kidd from Baylor University (my alma mater) talking about a story about a historical couple who achieved big things together.
Thomas Kidd: One of the big takeaways from my article is that I found that even spouses who are kind of in the background in terms of a very public spouse and a relatively private, family-oriented spouse… Still, that family-oriented spouse can make a huge difference on the public leader in some surprising ways. I think the best example of this is John and Abigail Adams. John Adams, of course, was the second president of the United States and had this wonderful relationship with his wife Abigail.
It was a very traditional relationship in many ways. In colonial, Revolutionary America the woman was not expected to have any kind of public role, but not only was Abigail’s relationship with John very supportive and necessary for him in his political career in the usual familial and emotional ways, but she also made a huge impact on him intellectually and even politically. She really pushed him to think about issues I think he hadn’t given much thought to before.
Of course, the founding fathers tended to think of liberty as extending only to people just like them, elite white men, but Abigail was always trying to get John to think a little bit more broadly about the implications of liberty. She, for instance, pushed him to think about “How can we be talking so much about liberty when we have slaves in America?”
Probably most famously, she told John she thought that as they were declaring independence and making the new code of laws they should remember the ladies. That’s what she told him at the time of the Revolution. They should “remember the ladies,” because women in 1776 were basically legal non-entities. She was saying that liberty should extend to women as much as it did to men.
I think these are issues that, on his own, John Adams just simply wouldn’t have thought about it. So even though Abigail Adams is, in many ways, a very conventional colonial American woman and housewife and mother, she’s able to make that kind of political, intellectual impact on him that I think helps to shape him intellectually too. I really was struck by that, about how even the most private spouse can make a big difference on that public figure.
Michael: All right. The fifth and final question we need to cover when talking about pursuing goals together is…How can we hold each other accountable without irritating each other?
Megan: This is really important.
Michael: We sort of mentioned it before, but we want to unpack it now. You have to begin by asking your partner how they want to be held accountable, because it’s not your job to put on the badge and become the goal police. Nobody wants that.
Megan: Don’t write us and tell us that didn’t work out well for you.
Michael: Yeah, we’re telling you right now…that will not end well. You have to tailor your approach to their preferences. They might say to you (and this is totally legit), “I actually don’t want you talking about it.” Gail said that to me on certain goals. She said, “I don’t want you to mention it. I don’t want to report back to you. I want you to ignore this,” and I said, “Okay,” because that’s what she needed in order to accomplish the goal.
But there are other times where she would say, “I do need you to mention this to me occasionally, but it can’t be in the context or in a way that’s shaming. I don’t need that. Here’s how I want you to say it.” Let them give you the words, because shaming… If there’s anything we’ve learned from Brené Brown it’s that when you shame somebody on their behavior, that’s usually a recipe for making the behavior persist.
Megan: Absolutely. It’s important to agree on an accountability plan, which means it might be nothing or it might be a lot or it might be somewhere in the middle. It can look like a lot of different things, but you need to agree on a plan and then stick to it unless the other person says it needs to be revised. You could consider scheduling this as a part of your weekly review, so you can just sort of add a little step to your weekly review process that we have laid out in the Full Focus Planner, for example.
Michael: The thing I love about that is then it becomes part of a larger process, and it’s not just sort of ad hoc and feels like somebody is throwing a grenade over the hedgerow. What you want it to feel like is it’s part of a process. It’s more objective. It’s not personal.
Megan: Right. You could also do it as part of a date night. Maybe you have some conversation questions you normally work into that, and this could be a great part of that. Again, assuming it has been with mutual agreement on that way of holding each other accountable before it starts. That’s really critical.
Michael: One of the things you can do there that feels a lot less personal… If you can get the other person to say it and hold themselves accountable without you actually having to say it… For example, at a date night you could say, “Hey, let’s talk about our goals. How do you feel like you’re doing?” and let them talk about it.
Megan: “How do you feel like it’s going?”
Michael: Yeah. Like, “I had a goal to work out five times this week, and, gee, I only worked out four, and I kind of feel badly about that, but here’s how I’m processing it.” Well, then you can jump in. The person has already held themselves accountable. You don’t need to jump in and beat them over the head with it.
Another way you can hold each other accountable is to celebrate wins together. Love this. One of the things Gail and I do at bedtime (we learned this from our friend and mentor Dan Sullivan) is we share our three biggest wins before we go to sleep. Literally, our heads are on the pillows, and we share our three biggest wins, and then we pray together. That’s a great way to end the day by kind of reframing the whole day. So if it was a day that didn’t go so well…
Megan: Which, let’s be honest. There are a lot of days that don’t go so well.
Michael: Probably a couple of times every week, and you could focus on those things. For me, I can keep turning those things over and over in my mind.
Megan: Now I know where I get it.
Michael: I learned a new term from the show The Good Doctor. You’re watching that. Right?
Megan: I am watching that.
Michael: I love that.
Megan: It’s so good.
Michael: Do you remember when Dr. Shaun Murphy uses this term perseverate? Do you know what that is?
Megan: I don’t know what that means.
Michael: Well, he’s autistic, and he tells this patient, “I perseverate.” Now here’s what that means. That means you keep turning on something over and over again once the stimulus is gone.
Megan: Wow. Now I have a word for it.
Michael: It serves him as a doctor, because he actually focuses on the remedy to their diagnosis until he gets it right.
Megan: Unfortunately, I don’t think you and I are quite that productive in our worrying.
Michael: No. To perseverate when you worry is not a good thing, or when you have a bad day. When you end a day with the wins, it gives you a chance to focus on that and to peacefully go to sleep. Another thing you can do (I advocate for this in Your Best Year Ever and also in the Full Focus Planner) is preselect a reward for each goal so you can celebrate when it’s complete.
I’m not that good at this. I’ve learned a lot from you, frankly, on celebrating wins. You’re very good about this with the team. You’re very good about it with me, but to take the opportunity to celebrate that win and really mark it as complete, to kind of spike the football in the end zone and say, “I did it.”
Megan: Do the happy dance. I think this is important when it’s a goal you’re really working hard for but the reward is not inherent in the goal itself. For example, you don’t need to have a reward for a goal like going on a sabbatical or some great trip. That is the reward. But you do need to have a reward, or you might find that it’s beneficial to have a reward for a big financial goal or a fitness goal or something else that’s like a grown-up kind of goal.
Michael: Wait a second. Are you saying my sabbaticals are not a grown-up goal?
Megan: Well, I mean, you don’t have to convince yourself to do that. That’s all by itself really fun, but if you have a “Get out of debt” goal, well, that’s a grown-up goal. I mean, we have to make a good decision for our lives because there’s a bigger payoff at the end, so having a reward makes the payoff more apparent and concrete so you can work toward that, kind of like a little carrot. So I love this idea.
Michael: I think that’s a good point. That’s a fair point. As hard as it feels like I have to work to do a sabbatical, in many ways that is a reward. I’ll tell you what’s the work on that one. The work is planning it out, finding a place to go, getting everything set up in advance so we can break free. But you’re right. The goal is the reward.
Megan: All right. Today we’ve tackled the five most frequently asked questions we receive about goal setting for couples. How do I get my spouse excited about goal setting? What if we have opposite approaches to achievement? How can we support each other’s individual goals? What if our goals conflict? And, finally, how can we hold each other accountable without irritating each other? Very important.
As we get ready for a landing here, I’d like you to imagine what it would be like to pursue big things with your spouse in the new year. Imagine how great it could be to align your expectations, encourage each other, and end the year having achieved what really matters most. It will definitely take effort (that’s not a secret), but in the end the result will be worth it. That we can guarantee. Dad, do you have any final thoughts before we end today?
Michael: I would just echo what you said. It’s totally worth the effort. I would try this as an experiment. If one of you is a little hesitant, just frame it up as, “This is not something we have to do for the rest of our lives, but just for this year let’s try it. How about if we read Your Best Year Ever together, and then we go through the exercises and see if it makes a difference? If it doesn’t, we’ll never talk about this again. But if it does, it could be a game changer.”
We know for a fact… We’ve had thousands of couples that have done this that have come back to us and said, “This changed everything about our marriage. We had some of the most important conversations we’ve ever had. We navigated some things that have been conflicts for years without resolution, but in the context of a bigger goal we saw that reconciling that was important, and we were able to do it.” So again, just to underscore what you said, this is totally worth it.
Megan: I agree. In fact, a lot of those same couples will choose to go away for a weekend, kind of do a little weekend getaway and go through the goal-setting process together, and that can be amazingly rejuvenating for your marriage.
All right. As we close, I want to thank our sponsor LeaderBox. It provides automated personal development in a box. Check it out at leaderbox.com. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, you can get the show notes and a full transcript online at leadto.win.
Michael: Thanks again for joining us on Lead to Win. If you like the show, please tell your friends and colleagues about it. Also let me encourage you to leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts. That can really help get exposure for the podcast, and we’d be grateful for it.
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’ll be discussing leadership lessons from the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Until then, lead to win.