The goal setting book you never thought you needed

Many of us are lost. Despite the availability of Google and Apple Maps, we are often likened to a deer caught in the headlights. The latest book by bestselling author Michael Bungay Stanier, How to get started: start doing something that matters, not only does it help you get off the ground, but this is possibly the best book on goal setting and goal achievement.

Using his wonderfully self-deprecating humor and omnipresent wit, Michael asks a clear and straightforward question from the start: What is your laudable goal? He aims to help you not only find, refine, and achieve a goal, but he also wants the goal (s) to be “exciting, important, and intimidating.” As you can see, Michael doesn’t mess with language.

Language and humor aside, Michael artfully walks you through the book through a nine-step process integrated into a three-phase goal setting and completion approach. Also think of Michael as a companion on your trip. He’s literally by your side in the form of comic book icons, providing you with tips and tricks (and undertones of pop culture) along the way.

There are also spaces in the book for you to complete tasks that will improve the way you set (and do) your goals. Also bring a pencil to your reading sessions. I found myself correcting some of my initial thoughts as I progressed through the book.

As a bonus, Michael provided all kinds of great spreadsheets with the click of a QR code. So take a look, as they are quite handy.

The three phases and the nine stages of the process that make up How to start are the following:

Phase I: Set a laudable goal

1. Find your focus

2. Test your ambition

3. Claim your goal

Phase II: Get involved

4. See where you are

5. Weigh the status quo

6. Weigh the trip

Phase III: crossing the threshold

7. Take small steps

8. Remember your best self

9. Don’t travel alone

Michael and I sat down to discuss the book, and you can watch this short interview in its entirety below:

Michael’s vulnerability is also fully on display throughout the book. It’s one thing to write a book about goal setting, but it’s another to point out the ups and downs, ups and downs of two unique experiences in the author’s life.

First and foremost, Michael sets himself a laudable goal of creating a top-notch new podcast. By drinking your own champagne, that outrageous goal becomes a more laudable goal – in the midst of writing the book – to become: “launch a new podcast that is in the top 3% of all podcasts within 12 months.” I won’t spoil the outcome in this column, but following Michael’s journey of goal setting and completion is heartwarming as a reader.

Second, Michael also reveals his ambition to hand over the reins of the company he founded several years ago, Box of Crayons, to a new CEO. The goal is ultimately defined as “a gracious, generous and confident model of power transfer”. This business example provides the reader with a different context of goal setting and completion, which many teams or organizations will no doubt appreciate.

Michael has a unique writing style that often softens the blow of your underlying inadequacies. I have used the book to help me reset what I do with my own business – going through the nine step process to be much more specific about a business that should be exciting, important, and intimidating.

How to start also contains a wonderful nod to believe and express your best. The “This / Not That” section – found in 8e Step “Crossing the Threshold” – prompts you to ask what manifests in you “when you are in your game and when you are slightly behind?” This handy tool is useful when aiming to achieve the goal, in knowing full well what can help or hinder you from accomplishing it.

In short, How to start is an excellent book. In fact, it is partly a book, partly a workbook, partly a field guide, but above all partly a behavior change manual. This is the type of book that is sure to get you started and reach a goal.


Check out my 4th book, “Lead. Care. To earn. How to become a leader that matters.”Thinkers50 Ranked # 1 Thinker, Amy. C. Edmondson of Harvard Business School calls it “an invaluable roadmap”. A self-paced online leadership development masterclass is also available. Almost 100 videos through nine practical lessons in leadership.

Comments are closed.