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The #1 Thing Successful People Never Told Me About Goal Setting (And Having Your Best Year Ever)

Successful peopleStop setting goals that don’t blow your mind with their awesomeness.

I had a conversation with a friend recently about the things she wanted to accomplish in the next few years.

She talked a lot about slow and steady progress, a lot like what I talk about, but she said she wasn’t that motivated to achieve her goals.

She had all these things she planned to do but nothing really was it – something that fired her up to make it a reality.

So I asked her what kind of goals she set and she said:

“You know, the typical stuff. Lose 5 pounds. Save about $100 a month for my IRA. Get a $2,000 raise at work. That kinda stuff.”

“But I’m just not that motivated to achieve them. They don’t really get me up in the morning. They’re just…”

“Boring?” I said.

“Well, yeah…” she replied.

We’ve all dealt with this at some point in our lives. We set goals each year, but most of them are just “eh” – they aren’t cool, different, big, or inspiring. Usually, they’re the same goals.

They need to be big enough that they make you think “Whoa, that’s big. I have no idea how to get there though. How is this ever going to work?”

And that, right there, is the point. The goal needs to be big enough that it’s a puzzle. Big enough that it becomes a game. Okay, how am I going to make this a reality?

Don’t talk about getting that $2,000 raise at work: set your goal as having that summer place in the islands, or in France, or just taking a three week vacation with the family somewhere international.

If your goals don’t inspire you, make you smile, and go “BOO YA” then you need bigger ones that get you up in the morning.

Here’s how to make that happen and figure out what goals will inspire you… and make everyone else jealous in the process.

Why Small Goals Won’t Wake You Up… But Incremental Progress Gets You There

Here’s the irony:

We all know that progress in life (towards any health or life goal) is made incrementally: small, tiny daily things done over time.

I constantly suggest that we stop going from zero to 100 the first week of the new year because it just results in failure and ultimately hating ourselves and feeling guilty when we DO fail (yet again).

This is the power of the “something every day” philosophy. It’s a guilt-free way to make progress towards any health or life goal no matter how big.

But here’s the thing: our goals still need to be HUGE so that they are worthwhile enough that we want to pursue them every day.

Here’s why:

Let’s think about my friend’s goal again.

She said: “Save $100 a month for an IRA.”

That’s a great, worthwhile goal. But it won’t get anyone up in the morning. Not sexy enough. Not fascinating enough. Not big enough. Not emotional enough.

What if instead, her goal was to own property abroad, let’s say Costa Rica & France.

Well that’s exactly what I did in my own life.

My current goals weren’t inspiring me. I was waking up and “going through the motions” in life, which honestly scared the crap out of me.

Back then I was only 25, but my “fire” for life was like an 80 year old.

One of my goals (since I struggled with money so much in my early 20s) was just to earn an extra $500-1000 a month so I could travel a few times a year.

And like my friend, this didn’t inspire me enough, since traveling was far away (6+ months). So instead, I tacked these pictures onto my wall:

achieving big goals vision boardImage via Kura costa rica.

achieving big goals vision board

Image via private costa rica villas.

parisImage via Haven in Paris

I really made this WAY more emotional than just “earning a few bucks on the side to travel.”

It became this:

“How awesome would it be if I had a place for my friends, family and me to go to, so we can relax, travel, and just enjoy life? What if I had a spot somewhere “tropical-y” like Costa Rica for the adventurous getaway, and then a place more centralized like Paris?”

Having been to Costa Rica, I found it to be one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever been to, and property is extremely cheap.

Wouldn’t it be neat if I had a place that I could just fly to on a whim for a week?

Flights are only $400 from New York City. I could just go next week if I wanted to, and shoot some videos for all of you, write some articles, host some live online events – all from my jungle villa.

What’s more, the 90% of the year when I wasn’t there I could just give friends and family the instructions and directions and let them stay there as long as they wanted.

So in part, it would be me being selfish (wanting a second place), but also being generous with friends, family, cousins, etc.

And why Paris?

Well, I have family in France, some French ancestry, I speak French (not nearly good enough anymore), and I’d like to spend more time in Paris for those summers or periods of the year where I don’t really want to be on a vacation or isolated, but want another place that’s central enough that I can travel to other spots.

Just a few hours from Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and more.

Suddenly, earning an extra $500-$1,000 on the side looks AWESOME. And that’s because of two things:

A. I made it huge.

B. I made it emotional.

Look at my original goal: Save $500 a month to travel.

Look at my new goal: Own property in Costa Rica and Paris that I can jet-set to whenever I want, and 90% of the other time when I’m not there, offer it to friends and family.


Now that’s a vision that inspires me to pursue that goal. That’s something that makes me want to wake up in the morning.

But what does this have to do with being healthy?

Small Goals Won’t GET YOU UP in the Morning.

At the end of the day, what I talk about here are principles (habits) that will get you the health, body and LIFE that you want.

The reason why all our “diet” attempts fail is because we focus on diets rather than the underlying behavioral change.

We can “eat less and move more” all we want (the worst advice on the planet), and fail constantly because we don’t change what we do each day.

Ironically, or maybe powerfully, the same principles that make you extremely successful at being healthy, also create extreme success in your life (relationship, finances, happiness, fulfillment).

That’s why more than anything else, I focus on habits. All that we are is the result of hundreds of tiny habits we engage in each day.

Habits that either lead to calm and focus, or habits that lead to anxiety and stress.

Habits that lead to higher levels of health and wellness, or habits that lead to health problems and weight gain.

Habits that lead to happiness and fulfillment, or habits that lead us down the road to depression and unhappiness.

Incremental progress is the way to success, but your vision shouldn’t be incremental progress – it should be some HUGE vision of the good life. Whether or not you achieve it is not important – what’s important is that it gives you the fire and the passion to want to get up and cultivate the habits, skills and mindset to get there.

Successful people and the Magic of Thinking Big?

There’s a rumor that two of the biggest world-changers of the past 100 years (Ghandi & Martin Luther King Jr.) said something near the end of their lives that was very similar.

When they asked what their biggest life regret was, it was this:

“I regret not thinking bigger.”

Imagine that.

These two people are household names because of the influence and positive change they had on millions of people. Yet they both expressed the regret of not having thought bigger while they were young.

This only leads me to assume one thing: as big as our vision is, that’s as far as we’ll stride and stretch.

Here’s what other have said:

Donald Trump, business Magnate.

“I like thinking big. If you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might a well think big.”

Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos.

“Whatever you’re thinking, think bigger.”

Paulo Coehlo, Writer of The Alchemist.

“If you think big, your world will become big.”

(Side note: Check out the interview snippet here).

In other words, if your goal is only to lose 5 pounds – that’s all you’ll strive for.

You’ll only think about how to lose 5 pounds.

You’ll think of small things initially like not having milk in your coffee, not drinking soda one or two days a week, and maybe eating less takeout Chinese food.

And those things are great – they’ll get you to lose those five pounds this year – but they’re hardly going to be life changing.

But if you think about – just entertain the idea of – how to get your dream body in the next 365 days, your mind changes.

Rather than thinking about “just” eating healthy one day of the week (since you only want to lose 5 pounds this year), you think about how you could lose 30+ pounds and look and feel better than you ever did.

And as a result – you only look for ways to transform your life in a big way.

So rather than just not adding milk to your coffee (a small win), you think of big wins: Getting a few new friends who are already fit and healthy, and spending most of your free time exclusively with them.

You might think about creating some kind of daily routine, like gradually shifting to home cooking more and more of your meals each week.

Or maybe you think of starting a meetup group for people that are looking to get healthy, or even getting a small group of colleagues at work together to run a 5k.

This is a strategy Lauryn specifically used to lose 100+ pounds and get people on her side.

That way, you’re developing a tribe at work AND at home where you have the support you need to stay focused.

These are all big wins – strategies that’ll help you get to your next-level self. These aren’t “5 pounds less” goals.

Can you imagine if all you wanted was to lose a few pounds? You wouldn’t be driven to figure out what would be “big wins” for your life.

But if we want total transformation in a specific arena of our life, we have to think bigger.

How to Create Goals That Will Set You on Fire Each Day

Thinking back, there are three main criteria for “next-level” goals.

  1. They must be bigger than you are comfortable with.
  2. Take your “realistic vision” and double it. That gets you thinking.
  3. They must require you to grow in specific ways you never have before.

Even though I talk about health here, I want you to think about your life in a big picture kind of way.

Because honestly, for most of us, looking and feeling how we want is just part of a rich, fulfilling life.

Great health allows us to do the things we love with confidence, and without being held back by health conditions, pain, etc.

1. It must be bigger than you’ve gone before, and bigger than you’re comfortable with.

With finances, it’s fairly easy: we can think about the next level financial stuff – material things. The house, the vacations, the toys, etc.

With health or happiness it’s not always as easy, so here’s what I suggest.

Maybe it’s as simple as losing all the weight you gained in 30 years, in the next 12 months.

If you want an “overall” goal, it could be this: for the first time in my life, in the next 12 months, I’m going to have every aspect of my life become the best it’s ever been, including: My happiness, my relationship, my finances, and my health.

That’s a game changing goal if you ask me, but it has to be more specific.

It follows the rules of principle #1 because very few people have the time to do all these things, which requires you to think about how to make it a reality. It forces you to actually sit down, think, and get creative on how you can use your time more wisely.

2. Take your realistic vision and double it.

Whatever seems realistic now, double it. If it’s just 10 pounds this year, double it to 20.

If your original vision was just to get healthier than you’ve ever been, make it bigger: Get healthier than you’ve ever been while still excelling personally (family life) and professionally (work life).

If you only go to yoga once a week, go extreme and say you’ll meditate 10 minutes every day of the week. That’s a harder goal that forces you to be more consistent than you’ve ever been before, and thus, acquire new skills.

3. It must require you to grow more than ever before, and stretch further than ever before.

Here’s the bottom line, the single biggest reason for all of this “think big” talk.

It needs to require you to acquire new skills, mindsets, beliefs, and habits in order to get you there.

For example, if dropping soda helped you lose ten pounds last year, the next level you obviously has to involve something different.

Maybe that involves walking ten minutes a day on top of dropping soda.

Or if your mental sanity is something that needs fixing (you constantly feel stressed and overwhelmed), and you were doing “just fine” with a yoga class once a week, the next level you might require 10 minutes of meditation every day.

The point of the goal is not the goal, but the stretching that happens because of it. The stretching will turn us into the kind of person not only capable of achieving our next level goal, but also spills over into every other aspect of our lives.

This is why we frequently see people that transform their health go on to transform their lives.

The habits, discipline, beliefs, skills, resilience all spillover to other important arenas with a huge impact.

The Next Level You Is a Reflection of The Next Level Mindset

Something I’ve only just begun to understand is the power of the mind.

Now most of you know that I emphasize a psychology-first approach to health. That most of us fail to reach our goals not because of having the wrong information or the wrong “what,” but because we don’t do it, or have mental narratives and stories preventing us from success.

Here’s what I’ve realized after hanging out with healthy people, happy people, financially successful people, and more.

We only achieve what we think about and focus on.

Sounds a bit weird, but here’s what I mean.

Health & weight loss.

Think about my “losing 5 pounds example.”

It’s not big, so it doesn’t require me to think big. Maybe it just requires me to stop drinking soda three days a week.

That’s cool – but it doesn’t stretch me. I don’t need to create any new habits or learn any new skills. Practice better habits, more discipline, or change my routine around. It doesn’t force me to get any better.

And then go back to my “lose 30 pounds” example. By setting that huge goal, I need to think. What would it take to make that a reality?

It might mean dedicating the entire year to my health, so my game plan might look like this:

Okay, month 1: Fix my broken sleep. I’ve been using the computer too late, have been eating too many big dinners, have been stressing too much, etc. I’ll address all of these.

Month 2: Learn to cook a home-cooked meal 1x a week. I always find myself eating out, going out to business lunches with beer, wine, and pasta, and something needs to change here.

Month 3: I feel sluggish and crappy all day every day, and I know that sitting 12 hours a day probably plays some role in it. If I walked even 10 minutes a day, I would feel dramatically better.

Month 4: Meditation.

Month 5: Drink only water each day.


This is a big vision.

Can you see all the new skills, habits, etc. I would acquire in this process? It makes me a better, bigger person overall.

Doing something like this is likely to have BIG results in your life beyond just weight loss. You might see nagging health conditions that have bothered you for a decade go away after intensively focusing for a year on health.

But if you only focused on those 5 pounds, guess what you get? Just 5 pounds.

This is why it’s crucial to focus on the huge, because then you’ll spot the opportunities and paths to get you to the huge goals.

And even if you “fail?” you’ll have accomplished, 30%, 50%, or 70% of a huge life transforming vision.

Making My “Multiple Vacation Houses” A Reality

So my tiny goal originated purely financially: save $500 a month so that I could travel and not worry about my expenses. That’s great and all.

But the latter involved purchasing $500,000 worth of property abroad for vacations, friends, and family.

To make the first one a reality, I can just get a few clients (or one client) who pays me $500 a month.

The latter, I have to think bigger. It doesn’t necessarily mean harder, but I do have to think differently. Maybe this time it means starting an actual business or hiring an employee to train my clients, and I just get my clients.

So maybe this time, I need to get 10 clients at $500 a piece, and pay a trainer $1000 a month to take care of it.

Clearly this vision is much  bigger than before, it’s harder than before, and it’s going to stretch me more than ever before. That’s the point. The bigger the vision the bigger the stretching required.

This’ll give me the $5,000 a month required for the mortgage or whatever is required here for my properties abroad.

It doesn’t always require more time or effort. But it does require doing something different.

Does that make sense? It’s an entirely different mindset. You look for the big, you achieve the big (because the path you look for is different).

You look for the small you only find paths that make the small a reality.

As We Go Into the New Year – Set Something Huge

It doesn’t mean it has to be a one year goal. You probably won’t lose 100 pounds in a year (although it’s possible and I’ve seen it happen before). Set life transforming goals.

Set goals that are so massive they inspire you, goals that are awesome, and goals that make your friends jealous and say “yeah, c’mon!”

Because at the end of the day, if you don’t wake up with a vision that inspires you to do something different, and become better than before, are you really going to be motivated to make it a reality?

What About You?

What huge vision of the future do you have that’s inspiring you to become better? Take a second and share it below, I want to see what big vision of the future you have.

– Alex

Have You Read My New Book Yet?

  Read more about this in my book Master The Day. You’ll learn the nine daily success habits I learned interviewing people that lost 100+ pounds and kept it off in a healthy way – by changing their habits. Plus, you’ll get a free $100 bonus video course if you show me your receipt. You can get the audiobook here too.

4 comments… add one

  1. Meditate 20 minutes everyday to get in tune with my intuition and attract new opportunities, people and experiences into my life.

    1. Love it Jasmine! How have you been recently? This is also something on my list – I’m trying to get up to 2 x 20 minutes a day spaced in the morning and evening.

  2. Hey Alex,

    Really like the picture idea to make your goals more concrete, emotional, and visible. When did you go to Costa Rica?

    1. Hey Ryan –

      Last year sir!


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