Step 1: Know What You Want
It’s very easy to identify things you’re NOT happy with and to get stuck in that negative state of mind. At this stage, coaches often hear comments like “No one at work takes me seriously”; “I need to lose weight, but I can’t”; or “My boss is so frustrating.” But if you want things to change, then you need to identify what you DO want and WOULD be happy with.
Unfortunately, while “know what you want” is easy to say, a surprising number of us really don’t know this – and simply telling us to figure it out won’t help. And if we don’t know the direction to take, where we end up may be no better than the place we left! Other people have only a vague idea of what they want, and they never take the time to be more specific. This means that they have a certain amount of success, but, because they’re never fully committed to one particular direction, they can only get so far. To get past this, coaches encourage their clients to explore this problem to find its real root cause. For example, Sally may feel that her career is going nowhere because “no one takes me seriously.” She might discover that this is because she takes on all of the small tasks in the team, and, because of this, she doesn’t have time to work on the big ideas that would show her potential for promotion. Often, people start out feeling that they’re “victims,” and that the source of their problem lies outside their control. For instance, a frustrating boss won’t go away, or weight can’t be lost. But these people may find that their own attitude or response is contributing to the problem. With the root cause identified, “what you want” is the reverse of that situation. Your new thoughts become “I am focused on important tasks”; “I am clear about what I should and should not do to lose weight”; or “I am relaxed about my boss changing his mind.”
Step 2: Set a SMART Goal
In “The Little Book of Coaching,” Ken Blanchard and Don Shula say, “A broad target that’s easy to achieve leads to the puddle’ of mediocrity.” So, the next step is to express “what you want” as a clear goal. This might seem like an unnecessary step, but it’s really important. A properly defined goal statement will act as a motivator. It will help you prevent yourself from backing out of things you SHOULD be doing, but perhaps don’t really WANT to do. Use the SMART acronym to help you structure a goal. SMART stands for:
Setting a time frame is particularly important, because it’s easy to delay dealing with difficult issues. Choose one that’s both realistic and challenging: if it’s too easy, you’ll get bored and give up, and if it’s unrealistic, you’ll feel overwhelmed… and give up. The secret is to choose a date in the future that you know you can reach – this should be a date that will stretch you a little, but not add to your stress. Write your goal down. This helps you clarify your thoughts, and it helps you see your progress as you look back over the various steps you’ve set for yourself. This way, you can see if you’re on track or not.
For example, Melanie is frustrated by her boss. She might set this goal: “By the end of the month, I’ll have learned how to respond calmly and positively whenever Alex asks me to rework something. Then I’ll do the work, understanding that it’s an opportunity to impress him.”
Step 3: Take Action
Determine what needs to happen to move you toward your goal: Do you need to get a particular qualification, or sign up for a course?
- Do you need help from someone like a personal trainer or mentor?
- Do you need to let go of someone or something?
- Step 4: Be PassionateMake sure that what you’ve chosen to do is something you really care about, and really want to happen – otherwise, you know you won’t do it!
Also, notice if you’re holding back a little. Sometimes, we can stop ourselves getting too excited about an outcome because we doubt we can do it. If a lack of self-belief or the fear of failure is holding you back, try the following exercise:
- Think about how you react, feel, and think when you’re worried and uncertain. Notice how you stand, the thoughts that go through your head, the language you use, and the feelings you experience.
- Think about how you react and feel and think when you’re certain of success.
- Notice the differences between the two states – they will be very obvious!
- Now think about your new goal. While you’re doing this, breathe, stand, and talk the way you do when you’re certain of success. You should find yourself approaching your new goal with much more conviction and determination.
- Keep replaying memories of successes from the past, and focus on those while you plan your goal. Until you see yourself as successful, and until you remind yourself that you’ve achieved many things in the past, you’re unlikely to achieve your goal to the degree you really want. This is because many of us seem to have a natural tendency to focus on the negative, and on our perceived failures.
Step 5: Be Persistent
Do you often give up when you hit an obstacle? Do you see it as a sign that you’re not meant to continue, so you stop?
If this is the case, then it’s worth remembering success stories from the past such as Colonel Sanders, who created Kentucky Fried Chicken. He didn’t fulfill his dream until he was 65 years old. It’s said that when he tried to sell his chicken recipe to restaurants, he was refused 1,009 times before he heard his first yes. And what about Walt Disney? He was turned down 302 times before he got financing for his dream of creating “the happiest place on earth.” So, if you hit obstacles and doubt whether you should continue or not, decide if your goal is worth having. If it is, then be persistent. If it isn’t, go back to Step 1.