The One Simple But Essential Ingredient for Achieving Your Goals

“Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute! Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Only engage, and then the mind grows heated. Begin, and then the work will be completed.” ~Jean Anoulih

Here it is — that week between Christmas and New Year's when you hover in the netherworld between holiday indulgence and the fresh, clean slate of the coming year. Your mind peers forward at the possibilities of change and renewal before you tuck your head under the covers and proclaim like Scarlett O'Hara, “I can't think about that right now. . . I'll think about that tomorrow.”

Well tomorrow is only a few days away, and whether or not you put stock in New Year's resolutions or see the value in setting goals, can you acknowledge the invitation of possibility laid out before you in the fresh, clean slate of 2011? I believe this invitation beckons all of us with the hope of a better life, one more closely aligned with our ideal.

That clean slate contains the promise of a better life, but it also whispers the threat of dreams unfulfilled and goals once again left to fallow. We have all experienced this scenario before — we begin the year with enthusiasm yet end it “not with a bang but a whimper.” If we don't set goals or resolve to make change, then we don't have to hear that sad whimper this time next year.

In this interim week, I invite you to take a moment to see the promise of the year to come with new eyes.

Rather than fear the possibility of failure, embrace the promise of success and begin to cultivate the one essential ingredient that will ensure that the seeds of change you plant now will actually take root and grow throughout the year.

Before I explain this essential ingredient, I'd like to present some ideas for planting the seeds for change and success. In his book Supercoach: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone's Life, Michael Neill suggests that “the most important choice you can make is what you choose to make important.”

He reminds us of the 80/20 rule first pointed out by the 19th-century economist Vilfredo Pareto, who noticed that 80 percent of a nation's wealth was controlled by 20 percent of the people.This anomaly applies to our efforts at achievement and change as well.

80 percent of your most meaningful results derive from 20 percent of your efforts. When you put your focus on that 20 percent, you will make profound, positive change in your life.

Michael Neill suggests that you:

  • Make a master list of your tasks or goals. Include everything you can think of to make your life better and move forward.
  • Add the number of items on the list, and divide that number by 5. The result will be your 80/20 percentage. If there are 20 items on your list, your 80/20 number will be 4; if there are 50, then it will be 10.
  • Chose from your master list of tasks or goals the 20 percent of actions you want to focus on.  Which ones would fall away?

This exercise allows you to examine the multitude of things you could be doing with your time, and narrow that down to the ideas and actions which will lead you to 80 percent of your achievements. It forces you to focus on what matters to you most, so you aren't distracted or confused by what matters least. (Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has written an outstanding book called Focus which provides specific guidance on this point.)

However, even when you are clear about your primary actions, have you noticed you often still “don't have the time” to move forward on them? Or perhaps you fear taking these actions because you are afraid that “you just don't have what it takes” to follow through.

Both of these are flawed assumptions, and that leads me to the one essential ingredient to actually achieving the goals or taking the actions that fall in your 80/20 list.

The one essential ingredient for achievement is boldness. Boldness is your willingness to follow through on your priority actions regardless of the circumstances that life throws your way on any given day.

It is that quality that propels you to “just do it,” as the Nike ad commands. You may think that you don't have the capacity for boldness, but I guarantee that you already use it all the time. You just might not be applying it to your 80/20 priorities, and here is where you must begin to see things through new eyes.

  • If you purchased a plane ticket, you would do everything in your power to catch the plane, and you'd plan the rest of your schedule to make that happen.
  • If you had an appointment with your boss for a promotion, you wouldn't let the dirty dishes in the sink stop you from getting to that meeting on time.
  • If you were told that your diet must change or you will have heart attack, you would change your diet.

You use boldness all the time, but you hold these actions differently in your brain.

You view them as actions that must be taken because the positive elements of the result far outweigh the negative elements of the actions required to achieve the result. There is external motivation supporting your internal motivation for the desired result.

My friend Steve Chandler, an extraordinary coach and writer, tells the story about his own efforts to lose weight. He knew he needed to lose 20 pounds. He knew he would look and feel better if he did. He had the internal motivation, but he needed boldness to make it happen.

So he created an external motivation for himself. In a staff meeting, he announced to his associates that he wanted to lose 20 pounds in six months. He promised he would give each of the ten staff members $1000 each if he did not reach his goal. He put $10,000 on the line. He lost the weight.

This is an extreme example of boldness, and Steve Chandler is an “advanced boldness master.” You don't have to put $10,000 on the line to create external motivation and take bold action. Begin with small, manageable actions while applying the “boldness ingredient.”

Here are some ideas to help you add boldness to your daily actions so that you will begin to overcome inertia and excuses:

1.  Create the list above of goals and tasks that you want to achieve in the first quarter of 2011.

2.  Narrow the list to your top 20 percent — the goals that are most important to you.

3. Pick one action for one goal that you wish to accomplish TODAY.

4. Get a sheet of paper and write the action at the top of the page. Then write the goal that this action helps you to achieve. And finally, write down the positive results of achieving that goal. For example, if the action is to take a walk, and the goal is to lose weight, then the positive results are looking better, feeling better, and being healthier.

5. Determine the time during the day in which you will take this action. Write it down on your calendar.

6. Create an additional “bold” motivation to make this action non-negotiable — like a plane ticket. E-mail a friend to tell them your plan. Announce it to your co-workers. Allow nothing else to get in the way of your one daily bold action.

7. Work to change your mental view of your one daily bold action. It is like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, catching a plane. Only emergencies get in the way of this daily action.

8. As you get more accomplished at bold action, create space for two actions a day — one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

9. Work through your goals this way, taking one or two simple but regular actions toward them every day. The actions can be simple and manageable, but non-negotiable.

10. If the goals require increased challenge or effort (like an exercise goal), build those challenges into your daily actions in small, manageable increments. Be realistic in the actions, but unwavering in the commitment to them.

If you should falter, and you likely will, don't use it as an excuse to stop or a reason to decide you can't take bold action. You can. Just start again. Take small actions on a focused 20 percent of your goals. Reinforce these daily actions with bold commitment. This time next year, you will be greeting 2012 not with a whimper, but with the bang of real achievement.

If you would like to make significant progress on achieving the life of your dreams, please check out my course, Discover Your Passion: A Step-By-Step Course for Creating the Life of Your Dreams.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 26 comments

Great post!
I am so excited to start on my goals this year! I am starting a few days early! Thank you for the great advice!
.-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Getting an Early Start =-.

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Jennifer,
    I’m so glad you liked it. An early start is a good sign! I hope you are bold. 🙂


This advice must be in a self help book..published..( eyes looking at you…) Because i wrote everything down. Be back with the result. Nice work…

    Barrie Davenport

    Thank you Jonathan. Please come back with the result! Writing it is great, but testimonials are even better.


Hovering in netherworld, I am enjoying your description. I am looking forward excitedly, while boldly trying to be realistic. I have a habit of doing more than I can possibly accomplish. Your post reminds me of one I have simmering in my head too 🙂
.-= Marci´s last blog ..8 Unexpected Gifts that Defy Gravity =-.

    Barrie Davenport

    I guess the netherworld sounds a bit dark. It’s a pleasant netherworld! Just one thing a day — the rest is gravy. Then you won’t feel so overwhelmed. 🙂


I am making my first bold step tomorrow. I work in the ICU. I am a good nurse but don’t have EMT or emergency background but I do have heart, compassion, knowledge and chutzpah. Last week, I ordered a “business card.” It reads: “Bobbie Beach RN, ###-####, If you have any questions or comments about my nursing care, please, let myself or my manager know. We want you to have a very good experience at (my hospital). We believe caring is a privilege. Thank you for your trust.” On the back I ask, if it is more comfortable, for written comments. I will start handing these out to my families tomorrow evening when I go back to work – just got them in the mail today. I have not asked permission. This is congruent with our hospital’s mission. It not only will assure my patients of my sense of responsibility for their care, it makes me be on my toes so I know what is going on & helps motivate me to stick to my study plan.
.-= Roberta´s last blog ..Twelve Days of Christmas =-.

    Barrie Davenport

    Well Roberta, that’s downright amazing! If a nurse gave me one of your cards at a hospital, I might just have a heart attack. (Just kidding.) But really, you encounter nice nurses and really bad ones, but I’ve never encountered one who puts her dedication in writing and hands it out. Bravo to you! Let us know how it goes.


I just signed up for one conference to submit my memoir to publishers in San Diego in January, and the World Domination Conference to meet Leo Babauta and Chris Guillebeau, whom I met on his book tour in LA. I gues I’m going for it in 2011. Thanks for the motivational post on making goals.

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Gusty Writer (love the name!),
    Congratulations! You are doing bold things. Leo and Chris are wonderful, inspiring people. I may see you at the World Domination Conference. Hope 2011 is mind-blowing for you!

Tess The Bold Life

Barrie,This is wonderful. One of my daughter’s went from being in sales to becoming a manager a few months ago due to bold action. She kept putting herself in front of the right people and taking one bold step after another. I’m going to forward her this post because her self doubts are surfacing.

Another story that comes to mind is about my granddaughter who was delaying getting her driver’s lisence because she had convinced herself she couldn’t parallel park last summer. Hubs and I took her out to practice a few times after her parents became to frustrated. Hubs was losing his patience when I asked him to step out of the car and allow me to try with her one more time. I then told her she had to convince herself she could learn to park and explained how her belief gets in the way. Then I said pretend I have a million dollars and I’m going to give it to you as soon as you park the car correctly. We drove around the block one more time and she did it perfectly. She then practiced a few more times and the rest is history!
.-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..The End of Limits- How to Flourish in the Face of Fear =-.

    Barrie Davenport

    Those are wonderful, inspiring stories. Congrats to your amazing daughter. I know you are proud. I hope she continues to ride the crest of her current boldness! You are a patient and smart grandma, and I know you will both remember that lesson for a long time. Thank you for sharing.

The Vizier

Hi Barrie,

I agree with you that this last week of 2010 is an important time that we should not waste. We have to make plans for 2011 if we want it to be a great year for us.

I have never heard of Michael Neill’s Supercoach, but from what you have shared, there are a lot of good ideas to pick up. In this day and age, we are faced with endless choices and limitless possibilities. It is pretty easy to be overwhelmed if we just go with the flow. To complicate matters, not all the choices available are beneficial for us. This is why Michael Neill’s quote that “the most important choice you can make is what you choose to make important” makes perfect sense to me. Unless we are clear about what is important, we will end up being confused by the multitude of choices. By applying the 80/20 rule, we can focus on the most important choices and lead more focused and productive lives.

Ah your essential ingredient for achievement reminds me of Napoleon Bonaparte. There is no doubt that he brought about a lot of suffering and destruction. But if we just focus on his bold actions, he exemplifies all that one can achieve through sheer audacity. Furthermore, he was not naturally bold and he forced himself to learn to be bold. So I fully agree with you that boldness is an essential ingredient for achievement. Without it, there is much we cannot achieve.

Thank you for sharing your 10 steps on being bold and overcoming inertia. We could all use a little more boldness in our lives. 🙂

Irving the Vizier
.-= The Vizier´s last blog ..The Art of Shaping the Future =-.

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Irving,
    As always, thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comments. You always highlight historical characters that intrigue me to learn more. Now I want to go read about Napolean! I guess the one caveat to bold action is that it should be ethical and legal! I think Napolean lost sight of that.

Galen Pearl

I love this week between Christmas and New Year. The hectic part is over, the quiet reflection/anticipation time is here.

Your encouragement to “start again” is so important. For whatever reason, we are so quick to judge ourselves as failures and give up. Any number of successes can be overshadowed by one slip up. Accepting ourselves as we are and giving ourselves credit for our effort and successes is so important. Every moment is a new opportunity.

Thanks for a great end/beginning of the year message!
.-= Galen Pearl´s last blog ..Preparing the Ground =-.


You’re so right. I love this week between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s the perfect time to not only reflect on the past year, but to look forward to the new year – and using Pareto’s Law is a great way to do just that.
.-= Marnie´s last blog ..Are We Lying to Our Kids =-.

Offbeat Woman

Hi Barrie, I read this post earlier today and loved it….it really made me think hard about my blog (and my novel), the direction I want to take and the ‘focusing’ skills that I will somehow have to conjur up in my chaotic world to make it all happen. I came to the conclusion that ‘Being Bold’ about the actions I need to take is hugely important to me at this time, and thatI need to alter the focus of my blog somewhat, for reasons which will eventually become clearer, in order to be in a position to fuel it with the full weight of my ‘passion’. Although I started ‘Offbeat Woman’ in August, I am planning to launch it officially in early January, and having seen your kind offer in facebook regarding your course, I can tell you that it would be wonderfully beneficial to me at this stage as I aim to knit together a loose picture of what’s happening in my life in order to bring each separate thread into sharp focus. You are so kind to make this gesture Barrie and no problem if someone else gets it…as I mentioned to you before I intend buying it anyway just as soon as my credit card gets back in shape after the Christmas trouncing.
.-= Offbeat Woman´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Your Authentic Self =-.


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