Jan. 16, 2022

How to Begin by Michael Bungay Stainer; how to change your life with a worthy goal

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About the book

We unlock our greatness by working on the hard things. Instead of doubting yourself, fearing you’ll make a mistake, and feeling like you need to play “small” so you don’t disrupt the status quo, start showing up for yourself so you can show up for the world. Don’t regret a life half-lived. Stepping up and pursuing your dreams is hard … and it’s exhilarating, and it’s important. Let me show you how to get clear, get confident, and start anything that matters.


About the author

Michael Bungay Stanier is the author of six books which between them have sold more than a million copies. He’s best known for The Coaching Habit, the best-selling coaching book of the century and already recognised as a classic. Michael was a Rhodes Scholar and plays the ukulele badly. He’s Australian, and lives in Toronto, Canada.



Big idea #1 — Set a worthy goal

This is the bulk of the book. You go through this process a few different times to refine and improve your worthy goal.

The first phase is purposely messy and probably quite dull. And you test this first draft of your goal on whether it’s thrilling, important, and daunting. 

Round two of the iteration, has you adding some active words and verbs, before testing it again. A final refinement has you scoring the goal on how thrilling, important, and daunting it is, each out of seven. If the score is low (<18/21), your goal needs a bit more work. You might need to add a word, or make the goal bigger, or maybe more constrained, or specific. And then voila, you have a worthy goal.

Big idea #2 - The pain of reality

As any good coach would, Michael has you taking a good, hard look in the mirror. The book takes you through examining your habits, your false starts, your patterns and behaviours, and your ‘mosquitoes’, as he calls them, that buzz around you and follow you around, whatever it is you try to do.

This is an exercise in self-awareness and compassion, not self-loathing. You might go through this and realise some uncomfortable truths about your tendencies and things that may have set you back in the past, but it’s very much about being aware of them, and then being able to work with, or around, them this time.

The next part is about painting a picture of your future, whether you do, or whether you don’t, see through this worthy goal. This is really useful to see the true opportunities and opportunity costs, of doing or not achieving this goal.

One of my favourite exercises in the book is the idea of defining You2.0, which really hones in on what you want yourself to look like when you’re operating at your very best, versus operating at 85%. It’s such a great way of thinking back to situations where you really thrive, and what that looks like, to give yourself the boost that you can rekindle that again.

Big idea #3 — Set yourself up to succeed

As with any good goal setting book, there’s a big emphasis on setting yourself up for success. This includes having the right people around you; the people who are going to nurture you and you need a bit of nurturing, give you a bit of a kick or a nudge when you need it, or who you can aspire to and who can teach you. Ultimately the people who can both support and challenge you along the way.

The other piece is around awareness. There’s a lot of activities in here around really knowing thyself, understanding where you’re likely to trip yourself up, and where you’re likely to not be as effective as you could be in reaching your worthy goal.

Finally, thinking about experiments and practices. Michael talks a lot about how to take small first steps. Which isn’t necessarily a new idea, but a nice one to think about in terms of getting this worthy goal moving in the right direction, especially if it’s a bit daunting (as it should be).



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