This issue of goals is a fascinating discussion I always have with my new coaching clients. What is your reason in coming to me as a coach? Often – really often – I hear that there is a ‘problem’, and the expectation is that I should say what the person in question should do. Literally, in fact, ‘just tell me what I should do’. There is a rather rude awakening when my new client understands that that is not at all what coaching is about – quite the opposite. Coaching is basically me asking open questions with the aim that the person I am coaching will find their own answers and solutions. That is what is powerful about coaching and is the foundation for a sustainable outcome. As an individual, you have your own insights and are also responsible for using them to make progress towards – your GOAL.

Not having a goal makes it difficult to define where you’re going. You have one or more problems, but the focus should not be on that – it should be on what you WANT from now and going forward. You’re tired of carrying excess weight around and don’t want to be tired and lacking in energy any longer. So the goal is to lose weight and have the energy to exercise. We’ll make it even more specific and measurable, writing down that you are going to lose 10 kg and have the energy to run 5 km without stopping, and you’ll achieve it within, let’s say, 6 months. There’s not much wriggle room there, is there? Specific, measurable and time-bound – exactly as I have written before on the SMART goals model.

Yet many of us have several goals in life, dreams about things, big and small, that we want to make come true – and there’s a risk that there is so much you want to do that you end up achieving nothing.

So how do you actually prioritise? What is really important?

  • Start by making a list of your goals. There are a number of exercises for doing this but start by writing down 20 goals that appeal to you. Let them pour out of your heart and soul, everything from moving house, changing jobs or starting to exercise to trying out a new hobby. You might even include buying your dream car, earning your first million or daring to invite your good-looking neighbour out on a date. You get to decide.
  • The next step is to rank your goals from 1–20 where 1 stands for the one that feels most current right now, and so on. Don’t listen to the little voice in your head that says it would be unrealistic to move house now if it is at the top of your list – just write it down.
  • Take your top 5 goals and define why they are important to you. This is an essential part of setting goals: that you are aware of the purpose – why you want to move to another place or lose weight by next summer, for example. Maybe it’s because you want to feel lighter so that you’ll be able to run further and be able to run a marathon one day. Basically, there is a value attached to this, that you prioritise being physically fit and want to take care of your health.
  • Now it’s time to think about what you need to do to achieve your top goals. This is the challenge: to be in the here and now and do what you can in a small way to achieve your goal. Not to think that it’ll never be possible to move house because the children are small, that you’re never going to get a new job in a new town or that you can’t afford to buy a place to live. Even if in practical terms it’s not possible just now, you can still start your journey to get there – THAT is the point, that you DO something proactively, such as starting to look at the property market, saving money, looking for jobs or going on courses that will make you attractive to future employers.

Too many people set aside their dreams and goals before even trying to take a step towards them. Plus, it is actually a fact that nobody gets to the top overnight – it takes sacrifices, planning and time. That is why the goals you strive to achieve first need to be those that appeal to you most, which are based on your innermost dreams and longings and go hand in hand with your values about what self-realisation, success and progress in life look like. You set up interim goals on the way so that you retain motivation and focus. And don’t be surprised if what you set up as goals at the outset change over time – that is a part of the process – BUT be mindful that you don’t tend to constantly create failure for yourself by never following through. It is quite common – for all sorts of reasons – for a person not to allow themselves to go the whole distance to achieving something. 

So what are you waiting for? Get going with pen and paper, your mobile or a computer – whichever you prefer to write on. Invest a few hours in yourself and your own personal development. It’s the most important investment you can make in your life. Dare to set the goals you most want to achieve and start your journey towards that life that you dream about.

Hugs from your coach!