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The secret to achieving goals


Lost track of the number of New Year's resolutions you've made, and broken, over the years? The secret isn't so much willpower as the ability to select goals that are important, achievable and to stay focused, says Brad Waldron.



My 2009 New Year’s resolution - no resolutions! Is that what you think this New Year’s resolution will be?

"Keeping score on yourself is one of the best motivators you can have. It develops a personal intensity and keeps your focus on achieving ‘little wins’ – success happens when all the little stuff adds up."

It was certainly mine. I tend to have too many ‘wants’ come the new year - shed excess weight, commit to a sporting hobby, do yoga, hang out with friends I’ve neglected because of work, go skiing. The list goes on and on. I get overwhelmed by the amount of things I want to achieve. I become a labourer of all but master of none.

Does that sound familiar?

If you want to see your resolutions come to life or set yourself some clear priorities at work, here are the four key principles to make your desires come true:
1. Identify and focus on the wildly important
2. Create a compelling scoreboard
3. Translate your lofty goals into daily and weekly actions
4. Hold yourself accountable

Let’s use the example of ‘weight loss’ to show how it works. Not very business like, but I’m willing to bet we all know someone who’s trying to lose weight and get fitter.

Identify and focus on the wildly important

Our mind performs best when we focus on one thing at a time. Now, I know there is a perception that gender separates our ability to multi-task, but our mind works best when there is absolute clarity of focus.

The word ‘wildly’ is used purposely. We probably have a lot of things we are interested in doing in the New Year – but we rarely do them. When first joining the gym you may have found that you did some demon workouts. But over the months the gym became your new charity – you paid money, but stopped attending. This happened mainly because it wasn’t wildly important.

Ask yourself: “What is wildly important to me? What matters most in what I want right now?”

Brainstorm a list from a professional and personal perspective. Your personal list may look something like this:

  • Lose weight

  • Get fit

  • Learn to sail

  • Get back into rugby

  • Improve my French

  • Get out more

  • Build the wall

  • Visit my family

Now - prioritise which are the ‘wildly important’ goals. Your brainstorm list may all be important, but you will only follow through on the goals that matter most to you.

Create a compelling scoreboard

Keeping score on yourself is one of the best motivators you can have. It develops a personal intensity and keeps your focus on achieving ‘little wins’ – success happens when all the little stuff adds up. Look at the countless examples in sport where improved performance is based on beating your personal best. In the example of weight loss, you don’t suddenly wake up one morning to find one stone missing from your butt and tummy. It comes through a managed series of small wins.

List a wildly important goal then create a scoreboard with these three elements:

1. The Current State: 15 stone, 7 pounds; 23% body fat
2. The Target State: 14 stone, 10 pounds 18% body fat
3. The Deadline: 31 March 2009


 1 Jan7 Jan14 Jan21 Jan 31 Mar
Body Fat23     

Put the scoreboard in a visible place – for example, on your mirror at home, or as an icon on your computer screen. Just make sure you can always see your score.

Translate your lofty goals into daily and weekly actions

Once you have identified your wildly important goals and posted your scoreboard, you must translate your goals into actions.

The easiest way to translate your goals is to ask, “what do I do about it?” Brainstorm all your options. Then select the ways that appeal to you most and commit to an action plan. Using the weight loss example, your brainstorm list may look like this:

  • Exercise

  • Cut sugar

  • Say no to coffee

  • No white bread

  • Have healthy snacks at home

  • Throw out bad foods

  • Research diets

  • Find a gym

  • Do a weekly walk in the country

  • Ride to work

  • Get to the gym

  • Alkalise my diet

Now translate them to actions for example:


Research a gym5.2.09Clear cupboards of processed foods5.2.09
Ask friends what gym they go to and why5.2.09Get guidance on what foods I need from Gillian6.2.09
Allocate personal membership budget5.2.09Do a new shop for healthy alternatives8.2.09
Visit three gyms12.2.09Buy a juicer8.2.09
Make decision and Join12.2.09Plan my weekly eating plan and cook ahead9.2.09

Hold yourself accountable

To achieve anything great, you must stay intensely focused. Most people give up on goals just when they get 'near enough'. Sound familiar?

There must be a system in place to make corrections, overcome barriers and raise your motivation levels. You might like to do the following:

Give yourself little treats when you achieve the goal
Ask people to check in with you
Keep reviewing your score card
Surround yourself will people who are on the same journey

Ultimately, the New Year could mean a new you - if you’re up for it.

Brad Waldron is co-founder of learning and development company, Oxygen Learning Ltd. Oxygen is running a free event on the 5 March. To find out more, visit and click 'See Us Live'


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