Chapter 7. Setting Goals & Measuring Progress


Chapter 7 - Setting Goals & Measuring Progress

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[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=”Chapter Summary”]This chapter is all about setting the course for a happy marriage. We’ll learn why goals are important, and you’ll learn how to set effective goals for your marriage. Plus we’ll do a couple exercises to help you make those goals a reality.[/thrive_text_block]

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Part 2:

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If you had to cut down a tree, would you rather use an ax or a baseball bat?

Obviously the answer is an ax.


Because when you focus energy into a small point, the resulting force is more powerful than when it’s spread over a wider area. An axe takes the full strength of your arms and puts it all into a knife-edge. You could never punch a tree down with your fists, but you could cut one down in a matter of minutes.

Okay, okay, I don’t need to convince you how axes work – the question is, how does this apply to your marriage?

When you set clear goals, it’s sort of like focusing the full force of your willpower into a potent knife-edge. Put simply, setting goals lets you get more out of your time.

Most of you have probably heard the story of the Harvard class of 1979. In case you haven’t, here’s how it goes:

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In 1979, researchers asked each Harvard graduate one simple question: “Do you have clear goals for your future?”

  • 84% had no goals, either written or unwritten
  • 13% had clearly defined goals, but not written down
  • 3% had clearly defined goals written on paper

… That’s it. Then 10 years later in 1989, the same researchers followed up with the ’79 class and asked them another simple question: “How much did you make this year?”

The answers were astonishing:

  • The average Harvard graduate made $115k per year
  • The 13% who’d set clear goals, but not written them down, made 2x more (on average) as the 84% with no goals
  • The 3% of the class with clear, written goals made 10x more than the 84% with no goals. Every single millionaire was in the 3%.


Now, if you do a little research, you’ll find that most people don’t believe this Harvard study ever actually happened (just Google “Harvard goals study myth”). But, even if this particular study is fictional, countless other studies have shown the exact same result:

Setting clear, written goals is proven to make you more likely to achieve them. Whether you want success in the corporate world or in your marriage, setting goals will help you get there.

By the end of this chapter, you’ll know exactly how to set goals in your marriage and increase your chances of getting your wife back, but first let’s answer some basic questions about goal-setting.

Why Are Goals Important?

Okay, we know that setting goals increases chances of success, but why?

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First and most obviously, setting goals gives you a clear objective to work towards. This is especially important in a struggling marriage.

Right now, it’s hard to imagine what a happy marriage with your wife feels like. It’s easy to get stuck in the struggles and problems that you’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis. But, when you set goals for your marriage, it makes it easy to imagine a better life.

When you take the time to think about what your ideal marriage looks like (which we’ll do later in this chapter), you’ll always have that image and feeling to motivate you and keep you going.


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Setting goals makes it much harder to slip into bad habits.

Your goals will serve as a plumb line – something to measure your actions against. If you’re ever doing something that’s not in line with your goals, then you’ll have a much easier time getting back on track.

For example, if your goal is to be a more confident leader and you find yourself falling back into old habits, then that pre-existing goal will force you to recognize what you’re doing wrong and change it immediately. You’ll have a little voice in the back of your mind saying, “This action does NOT fit with my goal, so why am I doing it and how can I change it?”

Put simply, goals keep you accountable. They force you to recognize when you’re not doing something that gets you closer to achieving them.


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Inevitably, you will fail as a husband. You’ll mess up. Something will go wrong.

I’m sorry to say it, but it’s the truth.

It’s not the end of the world, but it will feel like the end of the world in that moment. You’ll get depressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, discouraged, or all of the above.  Trust me, it’s REALLY easy to get “stuck” in that negativity. It’s easy to let it spiral out of control, until weeks later you realize how much time you’ve wasted.

Setting written goals and keeping them in front of you makes it much easier to avoid that negative spiral. When you recognize yourself veering off course from your goals, or when something goes really wrong, just fall back on your goals.

How do you fall back on your goals?

It’s easy – set aside time to review your goals and get them back to the forefront of your mind. You’ll remember what you’re trying to achieve and why. And, you’ll be able to trust that in the end, your goals will get you where you want to go.


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Several recent studies have compared knowledge retention between college students who type their notes in class and those who write them down on paper.

Without exception, the students who write down their class notes with a pen and paper perform better on tests and get higher grades than students who only type their notes on a computer. Why?

Because writing something down, using your hands to put it on paper, cements it in your brain in a way that nothing else can.

So, we write our goals down because it makes them part of you. When you write your goals down, they become sticky – they become much harder to forget about.


The Power of Visualization

The other big reason that we set goals is to harness the power of visualization.

Before you roll your eyes, no, I’m not talking about the kind of stuff you to read in The Secret. I’m not talking about projecting a “positive aura” or “sending positive thoughts to the universe” to get what you want.

I’m talking about literal visualization – you see yourself doing something really well in your head, then it makes it easier to do that thing really well in real life.

Competitive weightlifters do this all the time. For example, let’s say a weightlifter is attempting a new personal record on the bench press in a competition… Before ever touching the weight, he’ll visualize himself completing the lift. He’ll imagine what it feels like to lift the bar off the supports, how heavy it feels in his hands. He’ll visualize the feeling of his muscles contracting as the bar is lowered to his chest, and what it feels like to push the bar back up with proper form and perfect muscle control.

This type of visualization works. It yields real results. Scientists have shown that this method of visualization can help students increase test scores, employees improve productivity, salesmen make more sales, and athletes perform better on game day. Pickup artists even teach single guys to use visualization to get more women.

This type of visualization is like pre-programming your brain for success. And today we’re going to apply it to your marriage, starting with two simple visualization exercises.

Visualization Exercises

[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=””] Materials: 3 sheets of paper (or the PDF worksheets linked below), a pen or pencil
Time: 30 minutes[/thrive_text_block]

Exercise #1. Live a Day in Your Ideal Marriage

Download the PDF worksheet for Exercise #1

By this point, you should be starting to get a solid idea of what a good husband and a healthy marriage looks like.

Grab a piece of paper and a pencil. You’re going to close your eyes and visualize yourself living out a day in your ideal marriage. Then you’re going to write down exactly what that day looks like, start to finish. It doesn’t matter where you’re at in your marriage right now, I only want you to think about where you want to be when everything’s said and done.

What marriage do you want? What will YOU do in a day inside your ideal marriage?

We’re going to write down exactly what that day looks like, start to finish. This is hard to explain without just showing you an example. So, here’s what I’d write for mine:

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I wake up early in the morning; the clock says 6:30. My wife is still asleep. I smile and roll over in bed to cuddle with her while I snooze for a few more minutes. I get out of bed as the sun rises, and enjoy the quiet of the morning in my office before everyone else wakes up. It’s a beautiful day.

Soon, my wife wakes up too. She comes into my office to give me a kiss and say good morning, and to give me my morning cup of coffee. I smile and pull her into my lap, and we simply embrace for a few minutes.

By 7:30, it’s time to work. I get started writing and calling clients in my office, while my wife makes breakfast for us and our daughter. She has it ready for me by 9:00am, as she always does. I decide to take a break from work and eat with her; we chat about our plans for the day while keeping an eye on little Eden.

After breakfast, my wife encourages me to get back to work. She asks if I need anything, like another cup of coffee. I smile and say, “No thank you cutie,” before heading back into the office.

During the day, the confidence I have in my marriage spreads into the rest of my life. My interactions with clients are professional and friendly, and the words I write come easily from my hands onto paper. I’m productive and focused.

My wife brings me lunch around 1:00pm, which allows me to keep working without interruption. I make sure to express my appreciation for her hard work, and I praise the tastiness of her cooking.

Before I know it, I’ve done everything on my to-do list and my work day is over. I finished a little early, so I invite my wife and daughter to go on a walk. After all, it’s a beautiful day! The sun is shining and warm. We spend most of the walk entertaining our daughter, but the occasional knowing smile we share tells me that I’m living the dream life.

When we get back home, I offer to help cook dinner. We put Eden in her play pen and watch some old episodes of Friends on Netflix in the kitchen while I tell her about what I did during the day. She does the same, and shares a couple funny stories about our daughter.

We all sit down together for dinner. Smiles everywhere. The food isn’t fancy, but it’s delicious. By the time dinner is over, it’s getting close to Eden’s bedtime. She wants to play with Daddy, so my wife does some crocheting while I entertain our daughter. When she’s all played out, I retreat to my office for 15 minutes or so to plan my work for the next day while my wife gets Eden ready for bed.

Finally 8 o’clock rolls around and I come put my daughter to sleep. I read her a bedtime story from our big book of Aesop’s Fables, and my wife and I each give her a kiss before turning out the lights.

Both Michele and I are tired by the time Eden’s asleep, but there’s one thing left to do. We hop in the shower together and one thing leads to another… In another half an hour, we’re even more tired than when we started 😉

The day ends with us in bed. I’m reading a book and Michele is crocheting while watching TV. It was a good day with a good wife, and the last words I say to my wife before turning off the lights are, “I love you.”

I fall asleep knowing that it’s only getting better from here.


Whew! Yours doesn’t have to be that long, but it should be long enough to get you through the entire day in detail.

Need some help getting started? Start by answering these 6 questions:

  1. How did you wake up? What is your morning routine?
  2. How did you spend your time during the day?
  3. How did you go to bed?
  4. How did you feel during each part of the day?
  5. What decisions did you make during the day? And how did you make them?
  6. How does your wife improve your life, and how do you improve hers?

Currently, many of you reading this may be separated or dealing with a distant wife. Obviously, it would be impossible for you to live out your ideal day tomorrow. For the sake of this exercise, pretend your marriage is perfect – how would you spend your day in the best relationship you’ve ever had?

That’s what I want you to write down.

Exercise #2. Pull Out The Golden Nuggets

Download the PDF worksheet for Exercises #2 & #3

Once you’ve worked your way through your entire good day, we need to figure out exactly what it was that made this day so good. I like to call these your golden nuggets – they’re the things that really made this day shine.

On your second sheet of paper, make a list of all the important parts of your perfect day. List down everything that you did and that your wife did during this day that made it stand out as a truly perfect day.

For example, here are the key points I took out of my ideal day:

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  • I wake up early before everyone else to collect my thoughts.
  • I’m very affectionate and appreciative towards my wife.
  • I work hard; I’m deliberately productive and focused.
  • I feel great about my marriage, and I know that I am loved.
  • My wife enjoys doing things for me because she knows how much it helps me, and she knows that her helping me makes it easier for me to help her.
  • My day isn’t over when I’m done working… Even though I’m tired, I actively look for opportunities to spend time with my wife and daughter.
  • I offer to do house chores like dishes without being asked.
  • I’m clearly aware of my position as leader of the marriage, and I take my leadership responsibilities seriously.
  • I’m actively involved in parenting; I engage and play with my daughter.
  • My wife and I are attracted to each other. We’re not super models, and we’re both tired after a long day, but we don’t let our fatigue keep us from intimacy.


Again, these are just my own examples. Your important points may be different. But write them down because we’ll need them for the next exercise.

Exercise #3. Document Your Worst Day

(PDF worksheets linked with previous exercise)

This exercise is the opposite of Exercise #2. This time, you’re going to document your worst day.

In the last exercise, you were a great husband in a great marriage. This time, you’re a bad husband in your current marriage.  Throughout this day, you make all of the mistakes that you have a bad habit of making.

Because this is such a negative-feeling exercise, I don’t want you to go as in-depth for this exercise as you did in the last one. Remember, visualization has real power, so you don’t want to overly visualize this bad day. Instead, we’re just going to list out the specific differences or contrasts between this worst day and your ideal day.

Here’s how to do it:

Go through your golden nuggets – your list of key points – from the last exercise and write down the opposite.

For me, this is what my ‘bad day list’ looked like:

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  • I wake up late, after my wife is already up. I have no time in the morning to collect my thoughts.
  • I’m distracted and stressed, so I’m not very affectionate or appreciative.
  • I procrastinate, and don’t get as much done as I know I should. This lack of focus leads to even more stress.
  • I don’t think about my marriage at all… It’s not that I’m thinking about how unhealthy my marriage is, it just doesn’t pop into my head at all.
  • My wife doesn’t make me coffee or cook me breakfast. If she does, she doesn’t do it with a happy heart because I’m not appreciative or she can tell that I’m slacking off.
  • After I’m done “working”, I’m too tired to engage with our daughter or help with house chores. At least, that’s what I tell myself so that I can spend the evening in my office browsing the web or watching Netflix.
  • My wife has to ask me to help with house chores. She doesn’t ask nicely and it feels like nagging.
  • I don’t think about my position as leader in the marriage. Again, it’s not that I’m actively trying to be submissive, I just don’t consciously embrace my leadership role.
  • I let my wife do most of the parenting; I don’t try to give my wife a break from parenting.
  • My wife and I aren’t particularly attracted to each other and she’s exhausted from handling Eden all day long without a break. She certainly doesn’t see me as the leader and I’m not interested in being affectionate, so nothing happens in the bedroom.


See what I did there? I looked at each point on my list of golden nuggets and I wrote down the exact opposite…

The first day I woke up early with a great attitude; the second day I woke up late and felt rushed.

The first day, I had a clear awareness of my priorities as a husband, so I was affectionate and appreciative from the very start; the second day, I always had something else on my mind, so I didn’t prioritize affection.

See how I did that?

Keep both of these lists to reference as your Marriage Scale, which we’ll learn more about in a sec’.

One last thing to note about this ‘worst day’… Even though my wife was also a worse wife on this second day, her failures as a wife stemmed from my failures as a husband. My poor decisions and bad habits led to her having a worse day, and therefore being a worse wife.

Even though I didn’t actually close my eyes to visualize my “worst day”, these points paint a pretty clear picture. You can easily tell that this day is much worse, both for me and for my wife. And yes, I’m guilty of having days like this! I bet you are too.

Now, going all the way back to the original point of this chapter, how are you going to use these two lists to set clear goals and measure progress for yourself as a husband?

Why, I’m glad you asked!

These Two Lists Form Your “Marriage Scale”

Your Marriage Scale

In case you’re reading this on a mobile device and can’t see the image clearly (sorry about that, here’s what’s going on…

Imagine a 10-point scale like the one pictured above:

  • 1 is your absolute worst day. On this day you hit all the negative points from Exercise #3. 
  • 5 is your average day. On this day, you did some things right, but some things wrong.
  • 10 is your best day. On this day, you did all of your Golden Nuggets from Exercise #2.

This spectrum from 1 to 10 is your Marriage Scale.

At the end of each day, score yourself from 1 to 10. Based on your thoughts and actions alone, how did you do for that day? Were you closer to your ideal day (10) or your worst day (1)? Give yourself an honest score.

Your weekly goal is to score more days closer to 10 than to 1.

That’s it.

That’s how simple the Marriage Scale is. You can use this scale as a simply and easy-to-use daily and weekly goal.

The idea is that over time you’ll train yourself to have EVERY day closer to 10 than to 1. And the more days you get closer to 10, the closer you’ll get to living out your dream marriage.

Obviously, it’s impossible to be 100% honest when scoring yourself. But a perfect scoring system isn’t the point here… The point is to get you to take each day one at a time, and to have clear guidelines to evaluate your progress.

This scoring technique is extremely powerful, and I’ve personally used this type of best day / worst day scale in both my marriage and my job to help me make the most of each day.

Looking at the Big Picture

The Marriage Scale is perfect for evaluating daily and weekly progress in your marriage. However, most of us also have long-term goals for the next months, years or even decades. And if you don’t have those kind of goals, you probably should.

Yes, daily, short-term and mid-term goals are the most important, so that’s why I want you to prioritize the Marriage Scale. Most goal-setting experts recommend reviewing your short-term goals at least once a week. Setting long-term goals is important, but ultimately they’re more likely to change over time anyways.

That being said, long-term goals are still valuable, and you should at least take the time to think about them. It’s good to have clear goals written somewhere for each of these four time frames:

Dreams (5 years+) – These are your REALLY BIG goals. These are the ones that are so far out of sight that you can’t see a clear path to them yet. For example, someday I want to celebrate my wife and I’s 50th anniversary. That’s my dream.

Long-Term Goals (1 – 3 years) – These are your biggest concrete goals that you’re working towards right now. For example, your long-term goal might be to get your relationship with your wife on solid ground with no more talk of separation.

Mid-Term Goals (3 – 12 months) &
Short-Term goals (1 – 3 months)
– I group these both together because you think about them in the same way, even though they’re for two different time frames.

Your mid- and short-term goals are the individual steps that will get you to your long-term goals. For example, you might set a six-month goal of becoming a better communicator with your wife, or a one-month goal of being more affectionate. These short-term goals are things you’ll have to do on the way to achieving your long-term goal.

Daily & Weekly Goals – These are the baby steps you’re going to do RIGHT NOW to get you to your short-term goals. For example, you might set a daily goal of having one affectionate encounter with your wife. Or, maybe your daily goal is to stop making apologies.

Remember that getting a good score on your Marriage Scale should probably be your primary weekly goal.

How to Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

I’m sure that some of you have heard about SMART goals before. If not, here’s what you need to know:

SMART is an acronym for a set of 5 rules that you should follow when setting goals for yourself. In my experience, SMART works best for setting mid-term and short-term goals. Here’s what each letter stands for:

Specific – Your goals should be very clearly defined. You want to set goals that tell you exactly what you’ll do, why you’ll do it and who you’ll do it with.

Measurable – Ideally your goals are measureable by some metric. Your goals shouldn’t be subjective; there should be a hard number or condition that you can look at and say, “I’ve met my goal,” or “I still have work to do.”

Achievable – Have you ever heard the saying, ‘shoot for the moon and at least you’ll hit some stars’? The truth is that an unrealistic goal won’t do you any favors. Yes, your goals should be challenging, but if you can’t realistically see yourself achieving your goal, you’ll quickly lose motivation and slide backwards into inaction.

Achievable also means that your goals should be under your control.

This is really important! Don’t set a goal like “I want to get my wife back in three months” because you can’t directly control what your wife does. Those kind of goals – the kind you can’t control – are okay for long-term goals because you make those goals knowing that they can change. But, your mid- and short-term goals should have to do with your own leadership and lifestyle, ie. things you CAN control. Make sense?

Relevant – Is your goal worthwhile? If you achieve your goal, will it have a meaningful impact on your life or marriage? When your goals are highly relevant to both your current and future life, you’ll remain motivated to achieve them.

Time-bound – A number of studies have found that setting deadlines increases the likelihood that people complete their goals. If you give yourself an open-ended goal with no clear end-point, you make it a lot easier to procrastinate meaningful progress.

With SMART in mind, here’s an example of a BAD goal:

“I want to fix my marriage.”

This goal is not specific, not measurable and not time-bound. Technically, it IS relevant, but only in a big picture kind of way, and it’s not achievable because it’s not under your control.

Here are some good examples of SMART goals you might use in your marriage right now:

  • “For the rest of this month, I want to have at least five ‘good days’ on my Marriage Scale each week.”
  • “For the next two weeks, I’m going to do 20 minutes of extra housework each day to show my wife that I value her time.”
  • “I will make sure that I stay positive and calm in every conversation with my wife until she either moves back in or finalizes the divorce”

Each of these goals are specific, measurable in some way, achievable and directly under your control, relevant, and time-bound.

[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=”Key Takeaways from Chapter 7″]

  • Setting goals is one of the best ways to create confidence in your future, and to make sure you get what you want out of life and marriage.
  • Complete the 3 visualization exercises we outlined in this chapter.
  • Create your Marriage Scale.
    • Visualizing what your ideal day and your worst day looks like will allow you to accurately evaluate your progress as a husband, and give you a clear standard of leadership to strive for. Your goal right now should be to have more good days than bad days each week.
  • Remember your key habits that you identified from the visualization exercises for future reference in Chapter 14.
  • It’s important to set clear long-, mid- and short-term goals, both for yourself and your marriage. Use the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting system if you need help putting your goals into words, especially for mid- and short-term goals.

[thrive_link color=’blue’ link=’’ target=’_self’ size=’big’ align=’aligncenter’]Go to Chapter 8. Attraction & Its Role in Communication[/thrive_link]


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