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September 2019
David Carry

Do you know your critical elements?

Big wins don’t happen overnight – they are the result of careful planning, dedication and hard work. However, we can break down the winning process into a series of critical elements, with each element representing something that must come true in order for our win to be achieved. If we were to take away just one of these critical elements, the win would not be possible.

Every win has a different set of critical elements. For example, Helen’s end win was to get more active and lose weight. This meant that her critical elements included reducing her calorie count and increasing exercise.

By identifying these critical elements, Helen was able to increase her chances of achieving her win by focusing in on these two crucial points, which were within her control at the very outset. Without these critical elements, Helen knew that she would not reach her win. With them, success was in her control and if she made the right choices, practically inevitable.

Identifying critical elements

Helen’s weight loss journey is a great example of what makes a critical element ‘critical’. She understood that unless she made a firm commitment to reduce her calorie intake and increase her exercise, she was not going to lose weight. This fact is borne out by science, and through Helen’s own life experience.

Helen had tried and failed to reach her win many times in the past. Once, an ankle injury prevented her from exercising more regularly; while a summer of weddings and parties meant that she was unable to stick with her healthy eating plan on a consistent basis. Once we understood which critical elements Helen needed, it was just a matter of creating clarity around what was required to fulfil them.

To do this, we needed to think about knowns and unknowns. For instance, Helen knows that she has a string of weddings coming up where she will be tempted to drink and eat too much – this is a known risk. She does not know that she will injure herself, so that becomes an unknown risk that stands in the way of her end win.

How do you factor in the knowns and unknowns?

The knowns are the clearly identifiable obstacles which stand between us and our win; while the unknowns are the unpredictable events and issues that can lead to a sudden change in our circumstances. This process requires a real honesty of self. We need to be able to probe the knowns and unknowns right at the beginning of the planning stage because then we have more time to understand what the unknowns really are, and how we can protect ourselves from them.

For Helen, this involved using a calorie-counting app to help her stay on target. She learned that by skipping the dessert, and switching from white wine to vodka, she was still able to enjoy herself at the weddings without overindulging. To avoid the unknown risk of injury, she began attending a yoga class once a week, and added ten minutes of stretching to her daily exercise regime.

Every win hinges on the existence of a few critical elements. If we can identify them from the outset, we can spend time drilling down into each element and examining our own specific knowns and unknowns, eliminating every major risk along the way. By following this plan, we are giving ourselves the best possible chance of success, and the confidence that we need to reach that win in the end.

To learn more about critical elements and how they can be instrumental in creating confidence and propelling you towards your end win, pick up our book from