A leadership coach shares the exercise he uses to work on becoming a better person in minutes a day

Man sitting on a couch writing
Write down a list of questions about the areas of your life that are most important to you. ‘Writing’ by Ant PDX, © 2016, Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Marshall Goldsmith gets a phone call from the same woman every morning.

She doesn’t say much — she’s really there to listen as Goldsmith reads off a list of 32 questions and answers.

Goldsmith is a leadership coach and the author of multiple books, including “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” He has been named multiple times to the Thinkers50 list of influential management thinkers.

He recently sat down with Ramit Sethi, bestselling author of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich,” to discuss his career and, specifically, what he’s learned about behaviour change.

One of the best ways to change your behaviour, he said, is the “daily questions” ritual.

Goldsmith uses it in his own life — in fact, he hired the woman mentioned above to call him up and simply listen as he reads off his answers to 32 questions about his behaviour the day before.

The first six questions, he told Sethi, are what he calls “active questions,” something his daughter, a professor of marketing, helped him come up with. Those questions all start with “Did I do my best to …”

Specifically, he asks if he did his best to:

  • Set clear goals?
  • Make progress for achieving my goals?
  • Find meaning?
  • Be happy?
  • Build positive relationships?
  • Be fully engaged?

Ramit sethi and marshall goldsmith
Ramit Sethi (left) and Marshall Goldsmith. YouTube

On his website, Goldsmith writes that he scores himself on a 1-10 scale, comparing yesterday’s effort with previous days. He also explains that it’s important to ask whether you did your best to be happy, as opposed to whether you were happy, for example.

“If I wasn’t happy,” he writes, “I could always blame it on some factor outside of myself … Adding the words ‘did I do my best’ injected the element of personal ownership, of responsibility into my Q&A process.”

Goldsmith shared with Sethi some other questions on his list: “How many times yesterday did you try to prove you were right when it was not worth it?” and “How many minutes did you walk?”

He told Sethi these questions are challenging partly because “you can’t blame the fool that wrote the question.” Moreover, you know the questions are important and all you have to do to get a high score is try.

Goldsmith offered some guidelines for anyone who wants to create their own daily questions ritual:

  1. Start with an Excel spreadsheet and write down a series of important questions (you can have more or fewer than 32) about your experiences with friends, family, and coworkers.
  2. Then create seven boxes across, one for every day of the week. Every question is either answered with yes/no or a number.
  3. At the end of the week, create a report card.

“In my years of answering daily questions,” Goldsmith writes on his website, “I have never yet had a perfect day.”

The goal, it seems, is making progress toward your goals, as opposed to ticking off every last one, and realising that there will always be areas where you can improve.

The full interview is available to premium users on Ramit’s Brain Trust. You can watch part of the interview here:

NOW WATCH: These aspects of your handwriting reveal a lot about your personality