In coaching, I work with clients who for many and various reasons are having trouble with positive forward movement in their lives.  They feel “stuck,” and just can’t seem to accomplish the goals they set for themselves.  They desire positive change, but don’t seem to be able to bring their efforts to fruition.   That’s where the coaching relationship begins.

In a coaching relationship, we start by going through the process of clearly identifying the goal(s) that the client wants to reach or the change that the client desires to make.  This means the client has to get rid of ambiguous generalities and focus on the specifics of what she wants to accomplish and why she wants to accomplish it.  The client’s goal needs to be clearly defined so that she knows what she’s working towards and what can possibly keep her from being successful in her efforts.

A clearly defined goal creates a picture of the client’s desired end result, and how she plans to achieve that goal. Over the ensuing sessions, the client will return to that image and plan as a reminder of what her efforts and resources are working towards.  It will also help her make necessary decisions along the way – i.e., any decision that the client makes will either aide her progress or impede her progress in reaching her goal. In addition, the specifics of this goal will serve as a measuring stick to help the client know if she’s on track at different checkpoints throughout her journey and whether or not she needs to make necessary adjustments.

To clearly define a goal, there are some basic things to evaluate:

  1. Why do you want to achieve this goal?  In other words, how will your life change once you have obtained the desired result?  What will reaching this goal mean for you and for your lifestyle, now and in the future?  Are you working on this goal because you feel it’s important, or because someone else thinks it’s important for you to achieve?
  2. What are the resources that you will need to reach this goal?  What people, equipment, etc, do you have to have in order to make this happen?  In what quantities (dollars, time, etc) will you need these resources? How will you secure these necessary resources? When (at what points along the way) will you need the necessary resources?
  3. What obstacles can you identify that might keep you from achieving your goal?  What obstacles have affected your efforts in the past?  How did you handle those in the past?  Did a specific obstacle keep you from achieving this same goal in the past?  What are possible solutions to the current obstacles that you’ve identified?
  4. How will you reward yourself for reaching this goal?  How will you feel once you’ve reached this goal and how can you use this success to help you reach other goals?
  5. What is the first step that you can commit to doing, immediately, towards reaching your goal?  When will you start and complete that first step?

Studies show a direct correlation between how much writing is done about a specific goal and the percentage of success in obtaining that goal.  The more you think through everything that’s involved with a goal, the more likely you are to be successful in achieving it when you take the first step and start actively working towards it.  As not only humans, but also victims of our own need for immediate gratification, we tend to jump -head first- into the process of working towards a very generic goal. (That’s also a trick we use to avoid accountability, by the way.) We lack a formal action plan on how to achieve our goal because we haven’t done the necessary preliminary work – or rather the necessary “project planning”  – we needed to do to nail down our steps to success. The result is that when we hit the first or second obstacle, we leave the goal behind.  We haven’t thought about how we’ll keep ourselves on track or what we’ll do when we start feeling discouraged – so we’re unprepared and we tend to give up or postpone additional efforts.  Many times, due to our lack of proper planning about the goal, we cast it aside and then a year later bemoan the fact that it was yet another thing that we didn’t accomplish.

Goal setting and achievement is incredibly rewarding. It changes lives.  However, it isn’t easy….it involves very specific thought, very specific planning, and direct accountability.  If it was easy, more people would be successful at it. (Think failed New Year’s resolutions………)