Where does goal setting belong in the coaching process?
Goals are not where you start; they simply are just not.
If you have to start with goals, and I believe that you don’t, at least begin by asking a person how they got to their goals. You ask something like, what is it that you think these goals will give you if you accomplish them? What are you looking for these goals to provide for you or for others? What do you think this goal will do for you? How will its accomplishment make you feel? In fact, what is it that you think a sense of accomplishment will do for you?
Ask, “WHAT IS IT THAT YOU THINK THIS GOAL WILL DO FOR YOU IN YOUR LIFE?”
The second question is to ask if these goals are in any way aligned with a person’s real strengths and talents. I do not believe that everyone can accomplish anything they choose to and I think when we tell people that we, as coaches, are not being ethical.
We have ways to test people’s strengths and talents that at least give us some indication of where their real abilities might be. But that is just the start.
Parents can tell their children that they can be anything they choose to be. Teachers can encourage their students to reach for the stars.
But professional coaches had better be more careful in these making these promises, so closely tied to their fees, and inherent in their ethics and values.
Can we tell people to dream and to vision? Most certainly. But these dreams and visions come from a process of learning to live in an UpSpiral, and about how flow affects that nature of what we image in our vision.
I know there are exceptions of people accomplishing great things against great odds; there are a lot who don’t. There are those who reach their impossible dreams only to find out that the dream was impossible in giving them what they expected that it would, and they feel betrayed and as though life is meaningless.
I do think that the process of accomplishing a goal and leaving it behind, gleaning what it has taught, and discovering to what new endeavor it points is valuable. I don’t mean to undermine that as a process of learning.
See your process of accomplishing goals as the “open door” of learning, novelty, insight, and allow that to move you to take the next right step. If you’re really tuned in, that step is likely somewhere right in front of you, at hand, ready for you to seize upon it and move ahead.
What I do mean to assert here is that coaches have an ethical responsibility to educate their clients in the formulation of goals and visions that are sound, achievable, and truly personally fulfilling. We may be cheer leaders for winning but the pom-poms of superficially understood metaphysicsand neuroscience need to be surrendered for real research in coaching that is both a science and a craft and a skill.
The issue that underlies the formation of goals is meaning-making. How do we make meaning? These “meanings” are different at different times in our lives, so a knowledge of developmental issues is important.
Oftentimes goals are attempts at making meaning when the absence of meaning has not been squarely faced.
How many times I have had a client simply write down a goal and see it in front of them for them to know it isn’t what they really want to do, it’s just confabulated filler?
Goals are an essential component of the coaching process, but only when they are preceded by the necessary foundational work in the neuroplasticity of the positive mind, which pokes at what’s meaningful, what’s most personally significant, all of which take form in written goals and action steps.
© Dr. William K. Larkin