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One sure way to achieve goals

One sure way to achieve your goals

One thing I have observed throughout my life is if you want to fully achieve something, give it your full attention. This means all you focus needs to be on the task you are currently working on. This is very easy to say, it is very easy to understand.

But why do we never ever seem to achieve this kind of focus… this dedication?

It’s because it’s difficult. We are often stopped by roadblocks and bumps on the road. And before we know it our new year resolution is long forgotten in February.

How can you focus on one task or one goal when you know there are heaps of other goals and tasks vying for your attention?

How can you achieve your goals?


Make Small Changes

Making small changes to our lives often lead to big achievements, that is what behavioural science teaches us.

In their book Think Small: The Surprisingly Simple Ways to Reach Big Goals that authors point us towards something called nudge theory. This theory suggests small changes can lead to big results.

Nudge theory was named and popularised by the 2008 book, ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness’, written by American academics Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein. The book is based strongly on the Nobel prize-winning work of the Israeli-American psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

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The theory expands this thought to patterns in our peer’s behaviour. Which I won’t dive into here. However behavioural science offers seven steps to nudge you towards change and these are pointed out by the authors (Owain Service and Rory Gallagher) :

  • Set the right goal
    • It should make you happy or end with you being happy once achieved.
  • Sustained effort over time, set rules for getting there as simply as possible.
  • Appoint a referee to monitor your focus. Someone you can trust to help you and someone who is not too soft on you.
  • Incentives to help you push towards your goal.
  • Seek help and team up with others for better results.
  • Actionable feedback.

The takeaway message?

Getting the small details right will help you achieve your goals. Understanding why you have failed in the past is key. If we set clear rules and guidelines for our goals and tackle one at a time, we can do it.

We should plan out the details of our goals and they should be achievable and measurable.

But we should also use the tools around us, the people who are making good choices, the people who are good for us and won’t just tell us what we want to say. That is very important.

Organise Tomorrow Today

I recently paged through a very interesting book called Organise Tomorrow Today and had a moment which really struck home with me. The authors note that it’s just not possible to focus on more than one goal at a time if you want positive results!

Have you ever felt you want to achieve so much, but find you get so little done? I find this all the time.

Even if I make a list of goals, it is so difficult to achieve all of them. I sometimes attempt to do all of the tasks together.

And more often than not, many or all of them are not achieved. I realised this during the 2020 COVID lockdown (one of the many lockdowns). This time around I would focus on one task at a time and it works so well.

And I believe this will assist you to achieve your goals too!

If we return to the book I mentioned above. My feelings seem validated.

The authors [Jason Selk, Tom Bartow, Matthew Rudy] note that “it’s a fact that our conscious mind can only process between five to nine concepts at a time”. This is called channel capacity. George A Miller came up with the concept in 1956.

The concept is very interesting. It states that no matter how much data you are looking at, pictures, colours etc – there is only so much information you can process at any given time.

This is your working memory.

A variety of researches are examined from the standpoint of information theory. It is shown that the unaided observer is severely limited in terms of the amount of information he can receive, process, and remember.

Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63(2), 81–97. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0043158

How does this apply to me?

This theory the above author states are a scientific fact and is actually your working memory. It seems to be that tackling one goal or task at a time is not only efficient but It is all we as humans are capable of!

The authors note that ignoring this fact could mean mistakes or your conscious mind could shut down.

I think I understand this. Currently, I am studying some online grammar courses (well overdue), I’m learning Portuguese, studying personal finance, and I’m working on this website. Not to mention I work as a computer engineer. It’s not possible to do all these tasks at once.

To bring this back to the name of this website. If you open too many applications the computer freezes and you need to reboot!

For me that would be sitting down to do some work – but ending up staring out the window for an hour!

The takeaway

Commit yourself to changing just one thing at a time.

However, the author in my opinion is not actually stating we should not have many goals or targets. Of course, we will have many of these. They are stating that at any one point in time we must be fully focused on the given task, in order to give it due consideration.

That will make that goal achievable.

Which task should I focus on?

That is up to you. But the bigger question is understanding which goal is important and good for your life and which are the goals we think we want but are in fact bad for us.

I looked through a number of books when writing this article, to try and connect with what has been working for me. I hope it has helped you. The suggestion here is to do a good bit of reading and planning.

If you are reading this and deciding on your new year’s goal make it achievable, something you know you can complete and then move to the next project.

Oh! And good luck


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John Ryan

I write mainly about tips to achieve your goals as well as technology and personal finance. Click here to contribute an article >>

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