3 Tips for Personal Transformation from Marshall Goldsmith


A few weeks ago I reached out to author and top 50 thinker, Marshall Goldsmith, about his process for personal transformation and reaching goals. Having watched his Inc.com video. I was curious about the “32 questions” he asks himself each day.

My email interactions with Marshall were brief—as he travelled around the world from Hydrabad to Chicago to Panama City—but they were powerful. We shared our tools for personal transformation. His toolbox includes a list of 32 questions on a minimally formatted Excel spreadsheet. My similar process covers about 5 pages in a word document that I shared in 2013 with forty other Certified Executive Coaches.

Through our email exchanges, I was astonished to discover the striking similarity between our tools for personal transformation. Specifically, we both understood the importance of carving out time to practice them daily in order create a new habit(s) that would facilitate reaching our goals.

It may seem daunting to ask yourself the same questions every single day. However, to bring about personal transformation that is specific, deliberate and focused, you need to ask yourself benchmark questions to measure that change; questions that are related to the new habit you want to train yourself in; questions that uncover your behaviours and actions towards reaching those goals – which quite frankly, keeps you honest and aware of what’s going on in your grey matter. You are able to track your personal progress in each category over time. It’s an accumulative process. Over time, it becomes a really powerful tool that creates a process to achieve personal as well as professional goals.

Below, I’ve outlined three “take aways” from Marshall’s experiences with personal transformation that resonate with my own experience and process. He has kindly given me approval to share them with you:


If you’re serious about change, you need to practice it daily and make yourself accountable to that change. How can you do that? Marshall Goldsmith’s way—as described at his Inc 5000 talk- he hires someone to listen to him answer the 32 questions every day. He then audits his answers on a simple Excel sheet at the end of every week. (I’ve seen it, so I know it’s true.) It’s a short and a sweet list that helps him to track how he’s progressing in every area of his life from the personal to the professional. His notes on life’s details range from flossing to business writing, from creating a quality moment with someone important to ensuring he’s working on his goals. All his efforts are diligently tracked. He is accountable for everything important in his life—on a daily basis.


We can only truly control ourselves. This idea is the essence of the old Buddhist parable, The Empty Boat, as reference by Marshall in his article “Don’t Let Them Make You Crazy.” If we allow our own progress to be sabotaged by external factors that are beyond our control—like someone who makes us crazy—we only have ourselves to blame. To facilitate his own self-evaluation, Marshall asks daily questions such as ‘Did I do my best to…’ This way of thinking positively focuses his thoughts on personal performance and finding solutions to reach his goals, rather than the distractions of external influences.

Conscious awareness: 

When you practice your tools for change diligently and consciously, you’ll gain greater awareness of how you attain your goals. Step-by-step, day-by-day, thought-by-thought, action-by-action, overtime, you’ll develop a personal process to achieve anything you set your mind to accomplish. Through trial, error, and a lot of tweaking, you’ll uncover what works and what does not work for you. Take the challenge to develop your own individualized process for reaching your goals. By developing the habits to make achieving success in any area of life part of a routine practice, you too will take on Marshall’s motto of “Life is Good.”

More information and editorial pieces from Marshall Goldsmith can be found in his wonderful library.

Caroline Stokes is founder of FORWARD Human Capital Solutions.  FORWARD does things differently for people in digital organisations who demand inspiring talent solutions for transformative results.

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