The New Year is nearly upon us. It is the time of year when many individuals start to prioritize for the upcoming days, weeks and months. For some of us it is personal goals for achievements (some people like to call the resolutions…I prefer the word goal), while others while others have hopes in their professional aspirations.
As a leadership coach, one of my roles is to guide my clients as they develop goals for both business and personal gain. In this role I am asked to help clients articulate the direction they wish to go and then monitor the progress they are making. Additionally, many of the students who come to me for coach training also have certain goals in mind as they study and learn the practice of NLP and discover how to apply it to their lives and coaching practices.
While in our coach training programs, like the three week Summer Intensive program that we offer every July, I often discuss Yale University’s 25-year longitudinal study of goals which started in the 1950’s. In this study, an entire graduating class was asked if they had goals, if those goals were written down and if there was a specific plan for the achievement of the goals. Only 3% of the population had written goals and had a plan and a timeline for how they would achieve them.
After 25 years, the group of students was contacted again with a follow up questionnaire. The survey found that the individuals in that 3% group were more satisfied with their lives, had better family relationships, better friendships and felt happier and more fulfilled. Incidentally, that 3% was also had a greater net worth than the other 97% combined.
When I ask my clients if they find value in goal setting, the answer almost always comes back as a resounding “YES!” In fact, most people believe that setting goals of one sort or another is important. However, the sad fact of the matter is that that importance is often not translated into the actionable steps of actually writing them down. For whatever reason, we are unlikely to put goal setting on the “to do” list.
Coaching is one way to help set get those goals set. By its very nature, leadership coaching is a time to reflect on “what is” in the present and make plans for the future. But sometimes even this effort is met with resistance. One of the reasons clients may hesitate to make plans is that it seems as if life never goes according to plan. And, this is very true! The sad fact is that a client will sometimes consider their efforts a failure if reality does not precisely match the plan.
As a coach, it is crucial to convey to clients that there is value in making a plan and creating goals, but that life will introduce other possibilities. The plan is a skeleton that will be filled out by actual events and you will know more about the next steps once you have taken the previous ones. Many times, if you adhere to the original plan, you will not take advantage of new knowledge that becomes available from the change in direction. The bottom line is, that whenever you are involved in setting goals or making plans, it is important to step back and make sure your goals serve your highest values. Stephen Covey, author of the 7 Habits books, suggests that climbing the ladder is the easy part. The real trick is making sure the ladder is leaning against the right wall.
With that in mind, my wish for each of you is that you take the time to reflect on all the lessons learned in 2015 and look forward to 2016, eager and ready to not only make goals, but also adjust them as the year and your life path takes form. At ALCN, it has been our privileged to work with so many wonderful people this year as the sought to create and reach new goals!