I told her that that sounded like the perfect goal to me.
“But I thought I needed to have a big, dramatic, ambitious, wildest-dream type of goal for coaching to work?”
It’s a common misconception. I do coach people to reach their big, dramatic, ambitious, wildest-dream type goals – like setting up their own business, finding the job of their dreams, getting super-fit, travelling to exotic far-off places, learning to play a rare mus
ical instrument, going to university after years away from education….but only because those goals are important to them.
I also coach people to take the smallest steps in the direction of happiness, and I consider those steps to be every bit as important as those on the more glam
orous, high-profile path.
In fact, I’m never concerned by the size of a person’s goal – only that it really matters to them. If they love what they’re going after, it’s a sure sign they’re on the right track. Going for a “big” goal only because they think they should – because mum, dad, teachers, society, friends, or the media told them they should – is to choose a very difficult road, and one that often leads from a false start to a dead end. Likewise, going for an artificially “small” goal because they’ve convinced themselves it’s all they can manage (because they couldn’t possibly get what they really really want) can quickly lead to discouragement, demotivation and despondency.
Do either of those scenarios sound familiar to you? If so, in either case, you’re going for the goal you think you should be going for, not the one that you genuinely want. And if you’re not going for your goal, you’re setting yourself up to fail.
The ideal scenario is to pick a goal – regardless of its size and complexity – that’s absolutely right for you: one that stems from your genuine interests and talents; that makes your heart sing and your imagination soar; that moves you towards living a life you’d genuinely love to live. Once you have the goal, turn it into a step-by-step plan of action. Then, gather support around you from friends, loved ones, the organisations you’re involved with, and – most impor
tantly – from yourself.
Combine the right goal with a good plan and solid support, and there’s no stopping you.
Of course, life isn’t always that simple. As my client made clear (and she wasn’t the first) not only do we often have misconceptions about what makes an appropriate goal in life, we often don’t have a clue what our goals are in the first place – or how to find them. And even when we do, we don’t always know how to get started, or how to get the support we need.
What to do?
Don’t despair. There are ways to: find out which goal is right for you (and you may have more than one); get motivated to start; gather all the support you need; get in the right frame of mind to make progress; and overcome obstacles along the way.
Don’t waste any time worrying about whether you are being ambitious enough, or whether your goals fit anyone else’s criteria of what a good goal should look like. One of the most important discoveries you can make in life – if you want a happy one – is the discovery of what you genuinely love to do. “I want to spend more time in the garden” is as powerful a goal as “I want to earn £1 million”, if it’s the goal that comes from your heart.
Remember: no goal is ever too small, as long as it’s your goal…
Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson - Universal Press Syndicate, 1986