Episode 261 | 3 Habits to Make this Your Best Year

Rob Shallenberger: Welcome to our podcast listeners. This is your host, Rob Shallenberger, and this is an exciting time of the year. I think most of us are ready to kick 2020 out the door. There’s been a lot of things that we can learn from 2020 and everything else, but nonetheless, good riddance to this year, we’ll learn the good and focus on the good, but I think a lot of us are excited for 2021. So, here’s the whole point of this podcast, and that is, how do we really go into 2021, focused, ready, and aligned with our inner selves so that it can be a great year, regardless of what comes? There’s a lot of unknown variables still, there’s a lot of things that can happen in 2021, there’s a lot of things that are left unresolved and not fixed, if you will. But nonetheless, if we can really focus and when we can really focus on doing what matters most, it empowers us because now we’re focusing on the things that are within our control, our sphere of influence. And here’s the thing, if you’re listening to this, it’s right around the New Year’s. And this is the time when a lot of people are thinking about New Year’s resolutions, what really does matter to them – and that’s all good, there’re great thoughts in that. Here’s the challenge, 85% of New Year’s resolutions are broken by January 15th. In other words, you start listening to the radio and people throughout all these intentions, and again, it’s great that the intentions are there, but it’s the execution of those intentions, it’s how they’re worded – the goals – and the way they’re written. People without realizing – and it’s not to sound demeaning in any way – but are not setting themselves up for success. And that’s why 85% of New Year’s resolutions are broken. It’s not a misalignment of intent, it’s the way that the goals are written, it’s the way that it’s carried about and executed that’s making the difference.  


And so, what I want to focus on for just a few minutes, is reviewing what we call the big three high-performance habits that will help us do what matters most. Most of these you’ve heard about. If you followed our podcast, if you’ve been in any training, you know about these big three habits. And so, this is going to be a little bit of a pep talk for all of us, if you will, a little bit of reminder on what can we really do so that we’re not setting a New Year’s resolution. And I would ask us to throw that terminology out, this is not what that’s about.  


This is about developing a laser focus on what will truly make 2021 a great year. And that is to develop a written personal vision that is meaningful and gives us direction. That’s habit number one. Habit number two is right now this time of year, identify our roles and goals, the goals that specifically matter most and how do we word those and write those, so that we set ourselves up for success rather than it becoming a New Year’s resolution. And the third habit is to be consistent and disciplined about pre-week planning. And that is the catalyst for achieving our goals and our vision which takes it down to the daily and the weekly level where really the rubber meets the road.  


Now to get started, there are a couple of things that can be helpful. If you haven’t already done this, you can go to, and you can get some free templates of everything we’re talking about here. So, your investment can be zero, if you want it to be. It’s an investment of time, it’s an investment in ourselves, if you will. So, go to, you can get on there a free vision and goals template, a free pre-week planning template, as well as an entire roles and goals example of what it looks like what we would consider being as well written as we could ever come up with. And so, it’s all there. All it takes is the time to actually put in and do this and really get focused. And the truth is – you’ve probably heard us say this, and it’s a good reminder for all of us – that only 1% of people have done and implement these three habits consistently. And so, by doing this, there should be a power that flows into your life. There’s this internal alignment with really what matters most and what we can control in our sphere of influence. And that’s what’s so empowering about this. Let whatever happens, happen out in our society. If something’s going to happen, and we can’t control it, okay, great. What we have control of is how we’re going to approach that. What are we going to do to be in what we call figuratively quadrant two – if you’ve been through any of our training – and it’s these three habits that will do exactly that. So, I’m just briefly going to walk through each one of these and how to bring them into alignment so that 2021 can truly be one of our best years ever, again, regardless of what may show up.  


Now before we get going, if you have a Becoming Your Best planner handy, this is a good time to pull that out if you’re in a position to do so. Pull out your Becoming Your Best planner and open it up to the initial pages where we talk about vision goals and pre-week planning. If you don’t have a Becoming Your Best planner, and you use a paper planner, you can get one on This is a perfect time to get one because we’re going into the year, it’s the natural time when we’re thinking about this.  


Alright, so let’s jump into these three habits. The first one, like I mentioned, is to develop a written personal vision. And the reason why this is the starting point, the first of the three habits, is because this is identifying our purpose, our vision, our why. And there was a study done by Harvard in a separate book written on this, The Five Predictors of Longevity. Number one is relationships. Number two is to have a purpose – in other words, what we’re talking about, right here, a vision. And then, numbers three, four, and five are diet, sleep, and exercise. Well, when we’re talking about a vision, it doesn’t have to be some grandiose thing. Elon Musk has some pretty good examples of grandiose visions, which are awesome: get people on Mars again, take people to the Moon – those are all amazing. Well, here’s the thing, you may be thinking, “My vision is not going to change the world.”, and it doesn’t have to. Our personal vision is about us, and it doesn’t have to change the world. It just has to change your world. And there’s a big difference in that, right? And so, what we’re talking about here is planting the seed because your personal vision is the seed of your legacy. Think about that, what happens when we plant a seed in fertile soil? Well, it has a chance to grow. Well, what if we never plant the seed? Then it doesn’t even have a chance to grow. So, this is about planting the seed and identifying what your vision is.  


We’re going to take that up a notch, and step a little higher. So, the way to do that, that we invite people to do this, is to not only look at just a random vision but rather to divide your life into the five to seven roles that matter most to you. So, for example, if you’re in a relationship, partner or spouse; if you’re a parent, a parent would be one of those roles; whatever title you use in your current job or position; and the most important role is personal or self. So, most of these other roles look outward, personal is the role that looks inward. That’s the inner core of each one of us. So, what are your five to seven most important roles? And articulate what those are; actually physically write them down. Now, preparatory to getting into your actual vision, there are a few questions that will help you reflect on what you may want to include in your vision, and this is just to get the juices flowing, if you will. So, think about these questions, and even far more powerful, is not just to think about them, but actually write down your answers to these, get some creative ideas flowing, if you will. So, here’s a few questions that will get you going in the right direction towards thinking about what you would include in your vision. Here you go. In 10 to 15 years from now, what are some things that you want to have accomplished, and where do you want to be? What does your life look like? Here’s another question. Think of the mentors or influencers in your life who have had a significant impact, and what were the characteristics, the traits that you admired about those people? Did they listen? Did they respect you? What was it that they did, that made you admire them so much? And odds are, those are the type of characteristics that we want to adopt into our vision. The third question – in 50 years from today, how do you hope other people will look back and talk about you? What will they say about you whether you’re alive or not? When they say, “Jill was, or Adam was…” What are they going to say? And again, how we want people to talk about us and think about us, these are things that may be included in our vision. How do we treat people, for example? So, really consider the answer to those three questions, write down some thoughts. There’s more you could ask, but those are three very simple ones that get your mind thinking about the right things.  


And then, like you’ve already done, you have your life divided into five to seven different roles, personal being the most important. Now identify the vision for each of those roles and use words such as “I am”, or “I will”, not “to be”, or “someday”, because that puts it out there in this nebulous future. Rather, we’re creating the mental reality prior to the physical reality. And so, what does the very best version of you in that role look like? And this is the destination. So, I flew F-16s. What we’re having here is the destination, and once we have the destination, then we can develop the flight plan to get there. And this is the destination for each role. And I’ll just give you one example. I don’t have any notes in front of me, this is just purely right off the cuff. In my role as husband, this is my vision, “I am a kind and caring husband who always helps Tanya feel like a 10. I am totally faithful in thought and action, and I constantly strive to compliment her, serve her, and be the husband of her dreams.” Now, is that how it goes every day in our house? No, of course not. But that’s why we have the vision. My goals, my pre-week planning, everything else is done in that context of what the vision looks like in that role of husband. Now is that a pretty high bar to set? For me, absolutely it is. And that’s the thing, your vision will become your internal compass, it will become – as many people say, and rightfully so – your North Star. And that’s why we start with this habit of developing a written personal vision. It becomes ultimately our guide for each role. And imagine how great that would feel going into 2021 and being a part of the 2% of people who have a written personal vision, in other words, a clear why and a purpose. And you don’t need money for this, you don’t need some degree. Anybody can develop a written personal vision – it just takes a little bit of desire, and the right mindset, and the willingness. So, that’s habit number one.  


Habit number two is, once we have that vision is to identify our roles and goals for 2021, this upcoming year. And since this podcast will be around for years to come, substitute in whatever year if you’re listening to this out in the future – 2022, 2023, and so on. I’ve been doing this every year for 22 years. And the intent is, now we’re getting more specific. So, if you could imagine a high level, the 30,000-foot view, that’s the vision. It doesn’t need to be specific nor measurable. That’s more of an emotional feeling, it’s a target, it’s a desired outcome. Now, we are going to get specific. In the roles and goals, there’s a real power that comes with focus because we are 90% more likely to accomplish something when we have a clearly written goal. Now notice, I said clearly written. This is not a New Year’s resolution. Most people, as I mentioned earlier, without realizing it, are setting themselves up for failure when they come up with a goal. And so, the words we use matter. It wasn’t until my fighter pilot days that I really learned the power of every single word that goes into an objective or a goal, and why they will either set us up for success or potentially, failure.  


So, here’s how to do it. I know you’re thinking about this already. Again, if you haven’t done it,, download the template along with a bunch of examples, they’re all right there, and then just mimic that with your own life. So, here are some things to be thinking about. Number one, use the same concept of roles. So, use the same five to seven roles that you already used for your vision and start with the vision. What is the vision for each role? Number two is to come up with specific, measurable goals in each role. And I would suggest one to four goals is the right number. We all have limited time, bandwidth, and resources, so the question is “What really matters most?” And here’s another way to think about this as you think about each of your roles. If I asked you at the end of 2021 and I’d say, “[Your name], how would you measure success in that role in 2021?” And that, then, should lead to what the goal becomes. So, as a husband or a wife, how would you measure success in that role in this coming year? What does that look like? How about as a parent? How about in your current job or financially? How about personally? We talked about your health and your mental development, your emotional development, how would you measure success in those different areas in this coming year? And that then becomes the lead into the goals. So, one to four specific, measurable goals in each role.  


Now, I say specific and measurable. Here’s what I mean: you should never see the words more or better in your goals. The goal should be one sentence. A lot of common mistakes I see are that people make this big, long, two, or three-sentence goal. No, that’s not it. That could be more in the vision, but the goal is a very clear and concise statement. If you take weight as an example – one of the most common ones – people oftentimes say, “I want to feel healthier or lose more weight.” No, that’s not a goal. You can even say “Lose 20 pounds.” Well, that’s slightly better, but it’s still not there. Far better – if you’re talking about weight – is “Be at x weight by x date.” So, you see how that’s a clear, neutral target? It’s not positive, it’s not negative. It’s just a target, and it’s very clear, it’s very specific, and it’s measurable. Now, might there be a lot of emotions around this? Yes, there could be a fear of failure, there could be some other things, and I acknowledge that; that’s real. But it’s better to shoot for the stars and hit the moon, if you will, than to not shoot at all. And that’s what we’re doing, is identifying what matters most. And even if we only achieve 70-80% of the goals that we set, hey, guess what? It’s been far better than if we didn’t set anything at all, and just winged it day to day, if you will. So, this is about articulating what are your specific measurable targets for the year.  


And here’s the third tip – when it comes to your goals – is don’t set a goal that eliminates flexibility. In other words, set a goal that allows you to have the flexibility to miss some days or even weeks. So, for example, New Year’s resolutions, here’s what we see all the time. “Oh, man, I’m gonna feel so good this year. I’m gonna exercise 30 minutes every day.” Okay. Well, what happens if a person misses one day, as worded? Broken, failed. And our subconscious mind keeps track of those failures, if you will. And if they start showing up enough, what do we do? We quit looking at them. This is why 85% are broken by January 15th. “I’m going to read for 15 minutes every day.” Great. What happens if you miss one day? Or, “I’m gonna go on a date every week.” Okay. What happens if you miss one week for any reason? Broken, failed, as written. So, we want to give ourselves some flexibility. There’s a great word: average. Average allows us some flexibility. “Average five workouts a week” is very different than “Work out every day for 30 minutes.” Or, instead of averaging five workouts a week, you could come up with a health target, “Run a 10K or run a half marathon by x date.” You could even get more specific, “Run a 10K in less than x number of minutes by x date.” So, the whole point is we want to give ourselves a clear target. Think fighter pilot target. The more specific we are, the more likely it is to be achieved. Now, we also don’t want to get ultra-specific, because that then becomes the plan. And the goals are not the plan, the goal is simply the target of what we want to achieve or accomplish. So, that’s what we’re looking at. We could go a lot more into detail. Simply by setting the goals, though, you’re doing what nine out of 10 people have not done. So, this puts you into a pretty strong category of people getting that level of focus in your life. So, now that you have your vision, that’s habit number one. Number two is now you have your one to four roles and goals or goals per roles, and goals going into 2021. So, you already have this great alignment and focus. There are no more words like ‘more’ or ‘better’, you have some flexibility within the goals. One more thought on this. So, rather than “Reading 30 minutes every day”, maybe use “To read 12 books by December 20th” because there’s some flexibility in that. So, that’s the power in having that level of focus.  


So, now that you have the vision and your roles and goals, it’s really the third habit. This is the keystone, the one that holds the whole arch together, if you will. This habit, number three, is the greatest predictor of success, productivity, and well being of any habit that I’m aware of. If someone grabbed me in a supermarket and said, “Rob, share with me one thing that would change my life”, without hesitation every time, my answer would be pre-week planning. We’ve developed a very specific process and way to do that’s simple, yet extremely powerful, and touches on every area of our lives. So, let me walk through just briefly what that is. And for those listening who already do pre-week planning, let this serve as just a simple review, reminder, mental trigger, if you will, that help us think about what can we do to even make this better than we’re currently doing it.  


So, typically, with pre-week planning, most people will set aside 20 to 45 minutes, somewhere between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening because once you get to Monday morning, we’re in the thick of the fire. And pre-week planning got its roots from the term pre-flight planning – my fighter pilot background. Because think about this: a pilot typically spends – especially a fighter pilot – one to seven or eight hours of mission planning. Now, what would happen if a fighter pilot said “You know what? We’re just gonna go out there and wing it today. Forget pre-flight planning, we’ll just see what happens and give it our best shot.” It’d be chaos, right? Well, how many of us go into our weeks without a plan and expect a different result? So, just like a fighter pilot, or a pilot does pre-flight planning, this is the same thought process with pre-week planning. We align our weeks around what matters most, in alignment with our goals and our vision. So, sitting down for 20 to 45 minutes on a Saturday or Sunday.  


Let me walk through really the four steps on how to do this because what you’re doing with pre-week planning – which is different than sticky notes, to-do lists that by nature are reactive – what we’re doing here with pre-week planning is being very proactive about our life, being very intentional. And we will either lead a life by design, or we will live a life by default. And so, pre-week planning is shifting out of reactivity into proactivity, and identifying what matters most. So, here are the four steps. Number one, you sit down, and you glance and review your vision and your goals every week. And if we miss a week, is it a big deal? No. But the thought process is nearly every week, we’re looking at our vision and our goals as part of our pre-week planning. So, can you imagine already the alignment that creates in someone’s life, if they’re that aligned with their vision and goals? Remember I said earlier, less than 1% of people do that, have a written personal vision, have roles and goals, and do any form of pre-week planning in alignment with those. So, this puts you in a very statistically small part of the population, and there’s a real power that comes with it. People will look at you differently. I promise, anybody that’s doing this already knows that people will look at them and say “What’s changed about you? Something is different. You’re doing things that you didn’t do before.” That’s exactly right, that’s what will happen as a result. So, that’s why step one is to look at our vision and our goals first as part of pre-week planning. Step two is the same concept we use with our vision and goals, we’re going to look at our roles. What are the five to seven roles, with personal being the most important? Step three is to sit there and have a personal brainstorming with yourself every weekend, “What matters most this week in this role?” And just inherently, can you imagine how powerful that is to do that? To really look at each role this week and say, as a husband, or a wife, or as a father or mother, what matters in that role this week? What could I do? What are my specific action items or goals for this week? Well, maybe it’s to write a note to my daughter, maybe it’s to go out on a date with my spouse, maybe it’s to play basketball with my son. These may seem like small things. Once you start adding them up over the course of time, it makes us realize a shift from what we would call transactional to transformational. Things are better than we left them. We’re controlling what we control, we’re spending our time on what matters most – in other words, we call it Q2. There’s a huge shift that happens in our lives. And that brainstorm – let’s call it a brainstorm – that you have with yourself with each role over the weekend is such a powerful process. And the fourth step is to simply assign a time to it.  


So, for those using the Becoming Your Best weekly planner, it’s great, you assign a time in the planner. For those that use something like Google or Outlook, you simply take that action item and assign it a time in your electronic calendar. Great. The process stays the same, regardless of what you use. And it’s important that you leave room for flexibility within your week. Things are going to pop up that we didn’t plan for or expect. That’s what we call Q1. When those Q1 things pop up, it’s low stress, it’s no problem, we’re equipped to deal with them, and we can shift things around as necessary because we’re in Q2, we’re proactive. We’re scheduling our priorities rather than prioritizing our schedule. And there’s nothing like this in the world right now. There is no other place, there’s no other process like what we’ve just described in these three: developing our written personal vision, our roles, and goals, and then taking it down to the weekly level through pre-week planning. It is such a powerful chemistry of excellence in those three habits.  


Now, pre-week planning is a discipline, and our book that’s coming out at the end of April – it’s called Do What Matters Most – encompasses what we just talked about, on this podcast, the big three: vision, goals, pre-week planning. There’s a phrase we use in there, and it’s just perfect for pre-week planning. And it’s how we would define the discipline. And our definition of discipline is this: It’s doing the right thing at the right time, regardless of how we feel about it. Think about it, whether it’s exercise or reading or pre-week planning, there’ll be times where Sunday will roll around and we’ll say “Oh, pre-week planning. I don’t want to do pre-week planning today.” Do the right thing at the right time, regardless of how we feel about it. That’s it, that’s discipline. That’s having the mindset and the willingness to maintain this habit that is a life-changing habit.  


We could devote a whole separate podcast and go for hours just sharing different stories of people who have used pre-week planning. Our friend, Doreen, says she treats the entire weekend as a pre-week planning process. In other words, as ideas come for each role, she puts those in, by role. And she said by the time Monday rolls around, most people are like, “Oh, Monday blues.” Her comment was, not her – man, she can’t be more excited for Monday because she’s so thrilled about what her week looks like. She’s put all this thought into her different roles, and she’s just thrilled about it. That’s the power of pre-week planning, especially when it’s aligned with our goals and our vision.  


Some of you have heard this story, but I’ll share it again, just because it’s such a powerful story about how important pre-week planning is. There was a Pepsi executive – my father was doing the training with them, and one of these executives went through the activities. This was a ‘do what matters most’ training and so, vision, goals – all that was done – and now they were doing pre-week planning. Well, under the role of father this executive who was around 60ish years old, greying hair, wrote “Call my son.” And my dad asked him, “Okay. Well, why would you write ‘call my son?’ Why?” His comment was because seven years ago, he and his son had gotten into an argument, and they hadn’t talked since. We’re like, “Whoa, this is a big deal, obviously.” So, my dad asked him, “When will you do it?” And he wrote in there, “Wednesday at seven o’clock.” Okay, great. Well, six months later, we were back with that same team, and this guy ran up, shook my father’s hand, and said, “I’ve got to tell you, I was scared to death that day to call my son, but because it was in my pre-week planning, I did it. I picked up the phone, I called him.” And he went on to say “It was amazing because as soon as we started talking, we couldn’t even remember what we had argued about seven years ago.” And he said, “Now we talk every week, and we are best friends.” Isn’t that a cool story? Now, here’s what’s amazing about this: that executive found out that on that call that he had two grandchildren who he didn’t even know existed. Could you imagine? And there are two ways to look at this story. One, you could say “What a tragedy that he didn’t make that call in seven years.” That’s one way to look at it. The other way to look at this is what a blessing that he made the call and he made it because he was still able to go show up in his son’s life. He could still go show up as a grandfather. He still had that time and thank heavens he did. But the truth is, he’s not different than most of us in so many ways, because how many times do you think he thought about making that call? In his own words, he said, “Every morning I knew I needed to make that call.” The next thought was, “I’ll just call them next week, or even tomorrow.” And pretty soon days turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, and it’s been seven years. Well, maybe it’s an exercise for us, maybe it’s physical, maybe it’s something with a relationship that we need to take care of or work on or build. We’ve all done the same thing as this Pepsi executive in different areas of our lives.  


And this is why having that holistic look with our vision, our roles and goals, and pre-week planning will touch on every area of our lives. And here’s the thing: a person is 40% more productive, in their professional role when they have a balance of success stories in the other areas of their life. When there’s something serious going on in their personal life or in their relationships, that’s a real distraction from everything else. And that’s why the combination of these habits is so powerful because we’re looking through each one of our roles, and really identifying what matters most at the annual level in our roles and goals, and every single week when we do pre-week planning. What matters most in this role this week? Is it a note? Is it lunch with an employee? Is it the call to an important client? Is it reaching out to a friend who I haven’t talked with for years? In the role of a friend, for example. And so, this is why I’ve said over and over and over: people will look at you differently. When you make the time – and notice I used the words ‘make the time’ – to implement these habits, everything about your life will improve. How could it not? If a person identifies their vision by role, identify specific targets and roles and goals, and then every week is saying “What can I do in that role that really matters? With the personal role being the most important. In other words, what can we do to take care of our own health, our own mind, our own stress and emotions, and our own spirituality? Having that kind of brainstorm, and then assigning times to those different action items, is something that a very small statistical portion of people do, and it’s why we would say that a transformational leader makes time. Well, it’s a lot easier to make time if we have a process within which to work. And that’s why these big three habits come together to create that chemistry of excellence.  


Well, let me wrap up with this. And before I get to this quote, again,, if you don’t have a planner yet, and you want a planner, now’s the time to get one. Don’t procrastinate this another day, take control of your life, start leading it by design, regardless of where we are today. I met amazing people whose lives are so good in so many ways. Doesn’t that mean we could still do better? I mean, that’s the intent of being here in this human existence. We can develop, we can grow even beyond where we are today, regardless of our starting point. So, if you haven’t gotten the planner, is a great place to get that. So, let me finish with this, and then we’ll tie this in, and we’ll wrap it up for the day. One of my favorite quotes goes like this, and it says “One ship sails East, and another West. By the self-same winds that blow, ’tis the set of the sails and not the gales that determines the way they’ll go.” In other words, we all have this wind that’s blowing, so to speak, at our back, it’s there. And the question is, will we set our sails to catch that wind? And in my experience, these three habits that we’ve just discussed, the big three – vision, roles and goals, and pre-week planning – these are three extremely powerful habits that will help us set our sails to catch that wind. They will improve our health, our relationships because we become very intentional about what we can control. What are the actions that we can do that will make a difference? Our job performance will improve, which oftentimes turns into a financial result. And every other aspect of our life will improve when we apply these big three because literally, we’re setting our sails to catch that wind.  


And so, my hope is that going into 2021 – let’s see, we’ve just taken 30 minutes together – that we become very intentional about setting our sails. How do we measure success in each of our roles for this coming year, that then translates into our goals? So, we have this real focus of alignment, and then who knows, what’s coming, you’re going to bring? We don’t know. But what we do know is that we’re aligned, that we’ve identified our vision, we’ve identified goals that we can control that are real targets for us, that will help us grow our relationships, ourselves, and every other aspect of our lives. And that by doing pre-week planning, regardless of what shows up, we’re in the driver’s seat. We can flex, we can pivot, we can adjust, we can make some pivots here or there whatever needs to be done, we can do it. And that’s why these are so powerful.  


So, I hope that rather than setting a New Year’s resolution, we’ll toss that term, never use it again. We’ll kick 2020 – rightfully so – out the door, we’ll learn the lessons that it has to offer and focus on the good, and now we shift our sights forward. We learn the lessons from our past, we develop our vision and goals, which allows us to live in the present and enjoy each day. And that’s the power of these habits, and that’s the whole spirit of Becoming Your Best. So, thank you so much for taking a few minutes today. I’m excited for you. I hope with all of us that this can be a great year that we can focus on what matters most, that we can start showing up for ourselves and start showing up for the other people in our lives in ways that maybe we haven’t in recent months. And that this coming year can be a great year. So, between us, our entire team, we wish you a wonderful day and a happy New Year. 

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