Craig Ballantyne | Don’t Just Set Goals – Achieve Them

Having an ambitious goal is all well and good, says my guest this week Craig Ballantyne, author of The Perfect Day Formula and creator of related business coaching programs and workshops. But, cautions Craig, a goal without a plan will get you nowhere. It’s all about preparation and consciously putting the right elements in place so you have a clear of what you must do… a support system to keep you motivated… a source of professional advice in case you get stuck… and the right push: to compel you to get to work now.

He calls them the 5 Pillars of Success. And in this episode, Craig explains how to use these simple but effective strategies to achieve breakthroughs in your business and personal life.

Listen in to learn…

  • Why normal planning isn’t enough… and how to take it to the next level
  • How to create tangible action steps to achieve your “big picture” goals
  • Where to find the “paid pain the ass” who will keep you on track
  • Two types of accountability that ensure you don’t slack off
  • Ways to transform your values into goals that will change your life

Mentioned in the show


We’ve got a great guest on, Craig Ballantyne. He is the author of The Perfect Day Formula and he’s been a contributor to Men’s Health Magazine for over seventeen years. His gift of vision, clarity, and the ability to see what’s the next step for coaching clients has helped him transform the lives of over seven million people physically, financially, mentally, and emotionally in the last few decades. I got to say, I’m one of the ones he’s transformed physically, which maybe we’ll get to, but today he’s teaching high performance entrepreneurs to increase their income and make more time for their personal lives through his Perfect Life Workshops and brand new Work Life Mastery Program. Craig used his methods himself to overcome crippling anxiety attacks and is currently working on his next book, which I’m looking forward to. Craig, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.

Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here.


The Perfect Day Formula


It’s great to have you on and you’ve done so many different things from health and fitness to business and I’d love it if you could just give everybody who’s here a little bit of background on how you got to this point so they’ve got some context.

I did start out in the fitness world and I have a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and I wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach in the National Hockey League of all things. I’m Canadian and that’s what we do. Play hockey and we train for hockey. In 2000, I got a lucky break. I started writing for Men’s Health Magazine and that put me down the path of realizing, I wanted help busy guys who had dumbbells in the basement. Then from there I realized, I really love helping these guys in more areas of life. I started helping women in more areas of life and I started coaching other entrepreneurs. Then I started writing my book, The Perfect Day Formula. Now, I mostly coach entrepreneurs about how to get their vision created for their life based on their values and then put in the action plans into place to help them achieve their big goals and dreams. A lot of it is business coaching these days across dozens of industries and I really love helping these high performers

Your book is absolutely fantastic. I read it when it came out and we’ll dive into more of that. There’s so much good stuff in there. It’s really a great resource. I’d love for you to share with everybody a little bit from your background. We all go through, as we’re running businesses and expanding in different areas of our life, we run into these roadblocks that get in the way and we’ve got to push through them somehow. What are some of the things that you’ve done over years to stay unstoppable? To push through when things get tough?

When I was training people online and having these weight loss transformation contests, I discovered these five things that successful people have in place to overcome anything and I call them the Five Pillars of Success and they have been planning than ever before. Professional accountability, positive social support, a meaningful incentive and the big deadline. When I put these into place in my life, I was able to overcome anxiety. That was stopping me, but I had these five pillars in place that allowed me to become unstoppable through that. It’s allowed me to build businesses, build relationships, really do anything and it’s helped my coaching clients do the same whether they want to lose weight or build muscle or whether they want to build a business of their own. When you put those five pillars into place, they’re quite simple. They actually work for changing any habit or overcoming any obstacle in life and it’s served me well.

You talk about them in the book and I’d love to break them down and go through each one. Let’s start with pillar one and start with this idea of planning and preparation. You talked about better than better planning than you’ve ever done before.

It’s really important that it’s phrased that way. It’s better planning and preparation than ever before because we’ve all had goals where we struggled to achieve them and we thought, “Why is this not working?” Then when we go back to the drawing board, we put in place a better plan, more specificity, more details. When we do it that way, we have success. For example, weight loss is really a great example for all of these things because it’s so clear in most people have dealt with it in the past. Imagine if you woke up on January 1st and said, “I want to lose twenty pounds.” That’s not a plan. You need to plan out your workouts. You need to plan out your nutrition. You need to plan out your sleep. You need to plan all of these habits. When you do that, when you plan out your meals for the week, that’s when people start seeing success, and it’s the same when you’re growing a business. If you just sit there and think, “I want to boost revenue by 20% this quarter,” that’s not a plan. You got to go and dive deep into your quarterly planning in order to put the action steps in place and know who needs to do what. It’s that better planning and preparation than ever before that really helps people succeed, Steve.

 It's that better planning and preparation than ever before that really helps people succeed

It’s that better planning and preparation than ever before that really helps people succeed


As you’re working with your coaching clients, how have you applied that in a business context? What are some examples of ways that they’ve used that to achieve bigger results?

With all my coaching sessions, what we do is we do a 90-day plan. We start with an outcome goal. Now, an outcome goal is something numbers-based. I want to make an extra 25 sales this quarter or something like that. We don’t actually control the outcome goal. We just control what we do to get there and those are called process goals. Once we’ve identified the outcome goal for the coaching client, we go and set three major process schools. Say you wanted to do 25 more sales, you don’t control whether or not you close all those sales, but you do control the fact that you contact 100 of your best past customers and ask them for referrals and you can control that you speak in front of ten groups that have the right customer for you and you can control that you will go into your database and send whether it’s print newsletters or direct mail to a thousand clients. You know from past experience that if you do all of these three things, you’ll get as close as possible to getting those 25 new sales.

That’s the first step that we do. Then we break it down even more. We know that we’re going to do in the next 90 days. That’s our quarterly plan with really big process goals. We then break it down into a 30-day action plan. Starting with what do you do in the next 24 hours to move ahead? 90 days is still an abstract leap, but if we say, “What can we do in the next 24 hours?”We can make that list of 100 people that were going to contact next week. “What can we do in the next 72 hours?”We can start contacting 25 of those 100 people.””What can we do in the next seven days, this that, and then what can we do in the next 14 days, 21 days and 30 days and now we have very tangible action steps and that’s how we break it down in our coaching sessions.

Something you said there has come up again and again as we’ve talked with successful entrepreneurs. In fact, I think Steve Sims probably said it best a couple of episodes ago. He said, “Anytime I’m trying to do anything, whether it’s plan a wedding at the Vatican or whatever it is, the first thing I do is I think who am I going to call and I got call them as fast as I possibly can.” Take that first step and get into action. That sounds like that’s a big part of what you’re doing in this process.

People want to see progress because progress gives you momentum and motivation and there are studies on employees that show if they don’t see progress in the work that they’re doing, that’s when they disengage. That’s the same for high-level entrepreneurs. That’s a really great quote from Steve and it’s really awesome that you had Steve on your show because that guy is amazing.

He’s awesome. Planning and prep is the first pillar. Second pillar is professional accountability. Talk a little bit about that and where that fits in.

Professional accountability. It’s like having a coach. I like to break this pillar and the next pillar down using running a marathon as an analogy. If you’re running a marathon, you need professional accountability, you need a coach. A coach is going to give you two things that nobody else will give you, and that’s expert advice and they’re going to hold you accountable like nobody else. If you say, “I miss my training session.” Most people will go, “Don’t worry about it. You’ll get it tomorrow.”A coach will say, “That’s unacceptable. What are you going to do to make up for it? What can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future?”That level of accountability is really the secret ingredient for success. Professional accountability is all about having the right coach or mentor in place.

It’s really important. I’ve had one for a long, long time. I always call it my paid pain in the ass because you need somebody. You need somebody to come and when you’re running a business, you’re not accountable to anybody really if you think about it other than yourself. I’ve always found that I’m a poor accountability partner for myself. You talked about having professional accountability rather than going and getting, getting a peer. Why is that so important?

This actually came from a study in the weight loss world that I’ve found way back in 1999 when I was still a graduate student and it was a study from Stanford University and they found that people in a weight loss who we’re accountable to a professional meaning, a doctor or a nutritionist, got better results than being accountable to just a friend. I can’t remember the exact reason why, but I think it’s something to do with the relationship and also the accountability that the professional would give versus the friend because we’ll talk about that in the positive social support pillar too. Then the third thing that I think is really, really key in accountability is making sure that you’re accountable to someone that you do not want to disappoint. You can be accountable to somebody who you really don’t care what they think and at the end of the day, you’re going to slide on that accountability. If you’re accountable to somebody who you look up to as a mentor and a friend and you say, “I don’t want to disappoint that person.”That is really what’s going to hold you accountable, which is what’s working with the coach that you have.

The third piece here or the third pillar is social support. And I know that ties in very closely with the second pillar. How do they relate and how are they different?

The positive social support, I call it like having cheerleaders for your life. When we had our coach for running the marathon, he gave us the workouts, he told us what to do, but the cheerleaders are just the people on the side of the road. They’re not going to give you expert advice. Keep on going, Keep on going is not expert advice, but they’re going to lift you up when you’re feeling down. This works really well in the weight loss world when people go into these bootcamp environments. They go to a gym where there are other people that are supporting them. They’re not going to get expert advice from those people, but they’re really going to be lifted up on those days when they have low mental energy. It’s the same with the environments that we can create at work. We can be great leaders and really build cohesive culture in our businesses and that provides positive social support for everybody in our business. You’re always looking for that and then it goes to the classic Jim Rohn quote, which is, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and if you spend time with positive, likeminded, successful people, then you’re going to end up that way too.

It can make a world of difference in just giving you a little bit of confidence that somebody else believes in what you’re doing and is behind and that can be hugely, hugely important. I got to tell you, the fourth one is one I’ve always struggled with, this fourth pillar you talk about incentive. I like to just, “I don’t need to do anything. This is just part of the job. I’m running a business.”Talk about the role of incentive and why you think that’s so critical in this?

In the weight loss contests that I would run, people would take a before photo after photo, very classic. You’ve seen these in magazines all the time, but what we also had them do was write a 300-word essay of the changes that they had made over the twelve weeks. I also had a forum where people would post their progress and you’d noticed a lot of people drop out after about two weeks. Only about 25% of the people that start one of those things finished. The people that would drop out, we’re doing it for the money that I was giving away to the winners and they would drop out because the money wasn’t meaningful. What I found in life is that money and stuff generally isn’t meaningful to people. What was meaningful to the people that finished the contest and that won the contest that I ran was that they were doing it for a bigger purpose and usually for somebody else.

Most guys who finished the program said, “I’m doing this to have more energy for my kids. I’m doing this so that I’m around in twenty years when they graduate college,” right now their cholesterol was really high and they were very unhealthy and they were doing it for the kids. That was the meaningful incentive. I find that that is what keeps us going through troubled times. Buying a new pair of jeans or buying even a nice fancy car, that’s not enough to keep you going through the hard, hard times that we come up with in weight loss contest or in business. It has to be meaningful from your heart and your mind more than your pocket book. That’s what I found. That was a big lesson because I used to just call it the incentive. Fourth pillar, just having an incentive, but then I realized it had to be meaningful.

That’s such a key thing because I’ve done the whole incentive thing before on goals. Say, “I’m going to go play golf someplace that I really want to play golf,” or, “I’m going to go buy this or that,” and at the end of the day, it’s not that important. It sounds like it all comes back to people having somebody that this is going to be meaningful for if you achieve it.

It all comes down to something that I say about life. At the end of our lives, we’re not going to look back at all the money and stuff that we had. We’re going to look back at the people that we spend our time with and the experiences that we had with them. Most of those experiences will be $50 experiences, not $50,000 experiences. Sitting around the fire at the cottage or whatever it is that, that is really the big experiences that we’re going to be most grateful for. It’s just a mindset shift and then it’s really like, “What am I doing this for?”That’s when I work coaching clients. Before we get into any business planning, the very first thing that we cover are values. What are the values in your life? Those are going to dictate your goals and how you spend your day and how much work you are willing to do and where you’re going to draw the line in life.

We’ve been through planning and prep, professional accountability, social support, incentive, and the fifth one is, I think the most important, the big deadline.

It is the most important one and the big deadline has to be there because we’re humans and we procrastinate all the time. I always like to use the joke of Christmas. Christmas is December 25th. It’s going to be December 25th next year and every year after that, but it’s always December 24th when the mall is most packed because humans, we just wait until the last minute. The deadline helps us in three ways. First of all, it spurs us to action. If we wake up on January 1st and say, “I want to know to achieve this goal this year.”This year is such a long time. It’s very abstract and it doesn’t get us going. If we say, “I want to make ten new contracts or get ten new clients before the end of January, now we’ve got a deadline and it’s going to get us off our butt and going. That’s the first way it gets us. The second way is about halfway through whatever we’re doing. Whether it’s transformation or whether it’s a sales goal, we’re like, “I have to go and do the hard work again.”

You’re halfway through and you’re like, “I’m on the home stretch now. I’m going to keep going.”If it was to the end of the year, you’d be like, “How am I going to keep going through that?”The deadline helps us keep going through tough times. Then finally, as we get closer and closer to the deadline, we actually move faster. If anybody runs say a business where they do lots of sales with deadlines, you see this all the time. People will wait until the final day of the sale and you’ll probably do like 50% or even more of your revenue in a sale on the very final day and often in the very last few hours because that’s our stupid human trick is to procrastinate. You always have to have that deadline for both yourself and for your customers if you’re in a sales business.

I find that without the deadline, it’s impossible to create any urgency, whether if it’s for me or for anybody else. It’s so easy to kick the can a little bit further down the line and then nothing gets accomplished.

There has to be meaningful consequences in there too because you can set a deadline and not hit it. If nobody else knows about it, well it’s almost like you didn’t have the deadline in the first place. That comes back to having that accountability and putting meaningful consequences in place with your deadline.

We’re here with Craig Ballantyne. We’ve talked about the five pillars that you lay out in your The Perfect Day Formula book. I know there’s a lot more in the book and I know you’ve got a lot of other things happening. What’s going on right now that you’re most excited about that you want to share with folks?

We started a lot of coaching programs based on the book. We started something called Our Perfect Life Workshops, which are small group coaching environments with high performing entrepreneurs and executives and authors and even sometimes some actors in there. Then I also had my first big event based around The Perfect Day Formula, it’s called the perfect Life Retreat. We had 265 people there. We had Lewis Howes as a guest speaker and I take people through these worksheets. It’s not like a traditional seminar where you sit there and you take 40 pages of notes and then you get home and you’re like, “What do I do with all these notes?”We actually do all of the work there, including the 90-day and 30-day blueprints. I just love putting actionable advice into place because I know that people are just so busy these days, we don’t get a lot of opportunity to do that. Our life is reactive and when we’re reactive we struggle. If we’re proactive and we do that planning, that’s when we succeed. Even if we’re just proactive in planning our days, that helps us get ahead of the curve and feel way less stressed and we end up being more successful.

 Our life is reactive and when we're reactive we struggle. If we're proactive and we do that planning, that's when we succeed.

Our life is reactive and when we’re reactive we struggle. If we’re proactive and we do that planning, that’s when we succeed.


I find when you can get out of your environment into a workshop and go through and do that planning, I find that’s the best way to do that mid to long-term planning because you suddenly are clear. Something about getting on an airplane or getting in a car and going someplace. It clears the mind of all this baggage that that’s in your work environment.

That’s true and it’s actually the way that the brain works. Most people get a lot of ideas in the shower, they get the ideas when they’re going for a walk and it’s because our frontal lobe actually operates differently outside of our work environment. Remember the classic image of Newton sitting under the tree and the apple hitting him on the head and Edison also used to go to the park and just sit there and think. It’s because these guys knew the secret that you need to be out of your work environment. If you go back to like Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin and the great composers a couple of hundred years ago, they all went for two or three-hour walks and that’s where they came up with their ideas and then they did the work the next morning and then they went for a walk. You’re right, being in that airplane, sitting in the airport, you’re going to get all these fresh ideas and clarity because you’re outside of that regular work environment. That’s before you even get to the event and then you go to the event and you’re surrounded by high energy people and you’re like, “That person’s doing that, then I can do it too.” You raise the bar and then you have all those ideas that you get on the airplane and you go home and you start putting them into place and you end up at home just with an action plan and you’re like, “That was a transformative game-changing weekend or a single today because I got all the clarity.”

I’ve watched her work for awhile. The thing that I appreciate about what you do is you take what is a seemingly complex process and you boil it down. I know you’ve done that with your rules for living. You’ve got your twelve rules for living. I assume those are still in play for you since you wrote the book. It’s funny when you write that stuff into a book, you have to carry that forward.

That’s one of the reasons why I do that stuff. That’s public accountability. I’ve got some things in there. I have this one rule that I’m a polite and courteous British gentlemen and I know that just sounds ridiculous to some people, but I have a bad habit where if I’m in a grocery store, my instinct is to race old ladies to the front of the checkout line, but if I have that rule, I can’t let anybody catch me doing that. I have to be polite. I have to like help her unload her groceries. That’s how I want to be. By putting that rule out there, it helped me follow it and I also use that to stop swearing several years ago because I used to swear like a sailor and I thought this is of no value to anybody. I put that in my rule where people can call me out on it. Nobody likes to be a hypocrite. When you share stuff in public like that, it’s very valuable. Again, I learned that from the weight loss people. The people that would post their before photos immediately when they started the contest, those were the people that stuck to it because they didn’t want to be seen as the hypocrite who gave up.

That’s a powerful strategy. Talk a little bit about these rules and I’m not as concerned with the content of the specific ones that you live by because I think everybody has to come up with their own. Where did that come from? What gave you the thought that, “I need to create these rules to live by and write them down.”

I just sat down and I started writing the principles by which I live my life. I call them all sorts of things. The rules for your life, your personal philosophies, your commandments, whatever they are. Everybody tends to have about five or six of them. If somebody always goes to church on Sunday, that’s a rule for their life or I always get home at 5:30 every night to have dinner with my entire family. That’s a rule for my life. Most people have several rules they’re operating by, they’ve just never written it down. I highly recommend that people codify it because it’s not about what I do. I’m not influencing your rules, but it is important for you to put them down so you see this is the right operating system for me. I like to use the analogy of an iPhone.

An iPhone has a lot of rules in it and the iPhones rules allow it to have a very powerful operating system. You can call people in Japan, you can watch videos, you can do all these amazing things on an iPhone because it has rules and operating systems in place. Most people think, I don’t want more rules for my life, Craig. I’ve already got rules from the government here and the business regulations here. That’s because we don’t want rules imposed upon us. We’re rebellious. We don’t want to be told what to do. When we put our rules in place and we give ourselves some boundaries and guardrails and it keeps us out of trouble and keeps us on the path to success and that is the power of this operating system. That’s why I encourage people to at least keep an open mind when they read about it.

I think beyond keeping you out of trouble, it simplifies life. There are certain things that you’re likely going to do over and over and over again. If you’re intentional about it, that’s the one thing that I got out of the book the first time I read it. I re-read it over the weekend. It just struck me again. I keep seeing this in different places and hearing it from different guests. This whole idea of intentionality. If you can be intentional about how you’re approaching life, business, whatever it is, you’re going to tend to be more successful because you’re actually proactively thinking about what you want and thinking about your actions. That’s totally different than what most people do. What most people do, they just wake up, “It’s a Wednesday. What am I going to do now?”

It is the proactive versus reactive. I’ve made a video on YouTube. There are two types of people in this world, proactive people and reactive people and you want to be a proactive person.

I know you’ve got some new programs and I know that the book is still going strong. If people want to find out more about the work that you’re doing, what’s the best place for them to go and find out more about you?

I think the best place to get started is to read the book and you can get a free copy. Just pay the shipping and handling at Then we also put out a daily newsletter full of great content

Great newsletter by the way and congratulations on acquiring that already great business. I’ve been a reader for years. It’s fantastic. I really recommend the book to everybody. I read this a couple years ago when you first came out with it. The things that are in there are not shared in a lot of other places and I think you’ll find as you go and read it, it’s really unique. It’s Craig Ballantyne, thanks so much. I’m glad we had the opportunity to do this.

Thank you so much, Steve.

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