Years ago my friend Alwyn Cosgrove taught me a simple trick about goal setting.
“Craig,” he said in his rollicking Scottish accent, “The key to success is not setting big outcome goals, it’s about setting the right process goals.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We can’t control the outcome,” Alwyn said. “For example, your weight loss clients can’t control whether or not they lose 20 pounds. All they can control is the actions they take every day to get them closer to the outcome goal.
Those actions are called process goals, and if you set the right process goals, you’ll do everything you possibly can to be successful.”
Thanks to Alwyn (pronounced Allen), I’ve been teaching the importance of process goals to my fitness readers and business clients for years.
Too bad I didn’t always follow that advice myself.
You see, each year I’d make a big mistake when setting my personal goals. Suffering from repeated delusions of grandeur, every December 31st I’d write the lofty goal of reading 50 books in the next 12 months. This is the mythical “book per week” goal that so many of us have, and like a Unicorn, it’s never spotted amongst mere mortals. Not surprisingly, each year I’d fall short and beat myself up over my failure.
My disappointment was irrational. Why should I feel bad for reading 15 books that were 800 pages long? Would I have been any smarter if I had read fifty hundred-page pocketbooks?
I was going about my reading wrong. I couldn’t completely control the number of books I read. After all, as a business owner there were so many other things to read, including online articles (curse that Mark Ford for writing so many good ones!), business reports, magazine articles, and copies of my own new books that required proofreading.
Halfway through this year I smartened up and committed to a process goal of reading 20 minutes per day. That’s something I could control. Instead of being frustrated that I wasn’t plowing through book after book, I simply focused on reading a little each day.
Because of that mindset shift, I didn’t feel disappointed if my reading rate was only two per month. As a result, I managed to get through about 35 books this year. It wasn’t the mythical 50, but I don’t feel bad about not hitting that number.
The idea of setting, and focusing on, process goals is one that you must apply to every area of life, from getting healthy to getting wealthy, and reading books, of course.
But more importantly for you today, I’ve gone through all the books I read and narrowed down a top 10 list for you today.
These are the best books of 2016 — for me. Not all of these books were published in 2016. Some are classics. One had been kept hidden from society for over 50 years. Another is over 2,000 years old. The information though, can help you make progress in all of your process goals today.
#10 – Conscious Living by Dr. Gay Hendricks
Certain books and quotes often seem to show up at just the right time in our lives. I had this book sitting in a drawer for months. One day this fall I decided to start reading it, and found a quote that neatly summarizes the feeling I’ve experienced during my recent career transition from the fitness industry to the ‘Perfect Day Formula’ industry.
“A field of grace seems to form around us when we commit ourselves to something that satisfies our souls,” Dr. Hendricks wrote. “Invisible pathways open up through the universe. We meet people who are on a similar path, and we are given forms of assistance that seem like Magic.”
9) The book that was hidden away for 50 years!
This book is from a famous author. I’m sure you’ve read his bestseller. But you might not have heard about this book, released in 2012, where he recounts his fun and entertaining battle with the devil.
8) The Art of Living by Sharon Lebell
Each year I read this book at least once, and am always struck with a new A-ha moment from its wisdom. It’s a short translation of the biggest lessons from the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus.
This year I was reminded, “It is not the thing that bothers us, it is our perception of the thing.”
Epictetus is teaching us that we control our internal response to external events. No matter what happens in our lives, good or bad, we are the masters of our emotions.
This is the best book to read if you are struggling with Comparison Syndrome (i.e. envy or ‘keeping up with the Joneses’). I like to read a page each morning, and liken it to reading a horoscope. The advice always seems to apply to the problem of the day.
7) Enchiridion (The Manual)
This is a short manual of Stoic philosophical advice compiled by Arrian, a student of the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus. It was Epictetus who inspired my to write my book, and this book is more advanced than The Art of Living, but simpler than The Discourses (the full recorded teachings of Epictetus).
6) The book that shows you how to CONTROL and DOMINATE your life.
I would be remiss not to mention this game-changing book!
5) Surprise Book of the Year – Tribe by Sebastian Junger
This book surprised me. It came recommended from a few business friends, and so I incorrectly assumed it was about marketing. Boy, was I wrong. It’s about building stronger communities, bringing people together, and even helping American soldiers with PTSD assimilate back into society. It’s a quick read and full of neat information.
4) The Mind-Gut Connection by Dr. Emeran Mayer
I have a personal interest in books about digestive issues, and over the past two years have read Clean Gut, Gut, Healthy Gut, and several other books with the word Gut in the title. If I ever go on Jeopardy, I’m praying for a category called, “Gut Potpourri.”
The Mind-Gut Connection was my favorite from this category in 2016, and it’s a must-read if you struggle with any digestive issues. Not only will you understand what’s going on right now, and get specific suggestions to fix your issues, but you’ll also discover how your digestive issues are probably caused by stressful events you experienced as an infant decades ago.
3) Ready, Fire, Aim by Mark Ford, founder of ETR
Hands down this is the best book for small business owners ever written. It’s more instructive than The E-Myth, it’s more practical than Think and Grow Rich, and it’s based on more real-world experience across multiple industries than any other book out there.
Many of my business colleagues refer to it as their “Business Bible” and they read it every year. You should too.
2) Time Collapsing by Ed O’Keefe
Ed’s a long-time friend of mine and ETR, and in this book he delivers the manual on how to best use your time to live life well and even build a successful business. This isn’t a book filled with fluff or theory. Ed has built multiple 7-figure businesses while helping raise 7 healthy and happy kids with his wonderful wife. If you want the manual to getting more done and making more money, this should be at the top of your reading list for 2017.
1) The Body Keeps the Score
Bedros Keuilian bought this book for me. I couldn’t put it down. It was a page-turner, not unlike the Stephen King novels I read as a teenager. No surprise it has over nine hundred 5-star reviews on Amazon.
Written by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, he explains (similar to The Mind-Gut Connection), how traumatic mental experiences from our past influence our physical health decades later. The book illustrates remarkable healing methods, starting with treating PTSD in soldiers returning from Vietnam to helping children of abuse overcome trauma through interactive and experimental therapies.
If you are a coach or consultant and you work with people that just can’t seem to get the results they deserve, you must read this. So many people are subconsciously sabotaging themselves.
This fascinating book helped me develop a greater level of empathy for my fitness readers that struggle with obesity and eating disorders, as well as with my business clients that just can’t seem to break through their own imposed glass ceilings.
And frankly, it’s helped me better understand — and overcome — my self-limiting beliefs.
I’ve bought copies for many of my friends and I highly recommend it to you, too.