A Coaching Power Tool Created by Vernon Stinebaker
(Agile Coach & Business Coach, CHINA)
Being: the nature or essence of a person. Apple English Dictionary
Most coaching models encourage goal setting as a key component. “If you’re not setting goals, you’re not coaching” is a common mantra found in many coaching books and programs. Indeed, establishing goals and committing to them is fundamental to the client being able to move forward and grow.
A problem can arise, however, when the client meets the goal. In essence doing is transient. We set a goal, we meet the goal, and then all too often we forget it and move on because that goal is now done.
Yo-yo weight loss and gain is a good example. We set a goal, commit to it, and with sustained effort we achieve it. However once the goal is done and as we continue our developmental journey we establish and commit to new goals, and with the shift in focus — which inevitably brings new busyness — we lose focus on earlier goals, after all those have now been met, and in doing so we may easily revert to old behaviors which result in the re-emergence of the original problem or behavior.
A problem here is the transient nature of goals, in a pure sense. Take the SMART goal template as an example. This template encourages us to set goals that are:
These characteristics are valuable; however, if not applied properly they can contribute to the goal being brought to a finite (binary) state of completion. In fact, many objectives extend beyond reaching the established goal. For example, continuing with the weight loss scenario, we might set a SMART goal like “I will lose one pound per week for the next 10 weeks”. Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. A good goal. We commit to our goal and work diligently to accomplish (doing) it. 10 weeks later, we’re awesome!!! Not only did we meet our goal, we exceeded it. Down 12 pounds. Happy, excited, and energized to attack our next challenge. We check that goal off of our list, and we move on. A few months go by and we step on the scale. What!?! Our weight is back where it was before we started. What happened?
Beyond the nature of transient goals, beyond the doing, there is being. Being is every present. It is manifested in our behavior. It is who we are.
Typical goals may help us get things done, but they may be ineffective in addressing who we are. Following this approach, we may be doing things but not becoming who we want to be.
(Being. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being)
Inquiring into being brings us towards the quintessential question:
Who am I?
And in the context of many coaching conversations:
Who do I want to be?
There is also an underlying philosophically challenging question:
Can I change?
And, if so:
How can I change (such that I transition from a state of doing to a state of being)?
In the book Immunity to Change (Kegan, Lahey 2009) the authors share the results of a medical study in which heart doctors told seriously at risk heart patients that they would die if they did not make changes to their personal lives. The results were only one in seven patients were actually able to make the identified changes.
Through their work Kegan and Lahey (2009) share a model which helps individuals progress from unconscious immunity – where they are stuck – to unconsciously released — where the desired behavior has become innate: basically transforming from doing to being.
Dr. BJ Fogg (Tiny Habits, n.d.), a human behavior researcher at Stanford University identifies three things that can change behavior:
- An epiphany
- Change your environment (what surrounds you)
- Take baby steps
Dr. Fogg notes that creating an epiphany is difficult, but options B and C are practical. He has conducted experiments with over 40,000 people applying option C through his Tiny Habits® program.
The good news is that rigorous research-based results indicate that people can, indeed, change. Furthermore, rigorously tested models to instill change are available. Finally, the amount time and energy required to effect change is much less than might be anticipated.
We can shift from doing to being.
Realizing that change is possible is the first step in making change. Through the mindful practice of baby steps (Tiny Habits®) or similar approach or through the application of a more involved model such as the one presented by Kegan and Lahey (2009) we can work to change our behavior, to change who we are, to change from doing to being.
As coaches we need to practice ourselves that which we might help others discover. Through self-discovery we may uncover underlying beliefs and assumptions within ourselves that we were unaware of and, with this new insight, be better equipped to sense underlying assumptions that our clients might be holding that we can help them shed light upon.
Back again to our weight loss scenario, we might realize that our stated goal isn’t really our objective. We don’t want to lose weight (a goal), but instead our real objective is to be healthy. Understanding the underlying desire – a state of being – as opposed to the goal would allow us to shift our focus from the transient towards the transformational; and with that we can establish structure which will help us in our transformation. For example, we might decide that we will climb one flight of stairs each day and support that with a small celebration that reinforces the positive progress. While we are still doing something our focus is, appropriately, on what we are becoming, not exclusively on what we are doing.
As we do this we gain confidence in our ability to transform; to become who we want to be, and through this confidence we will be better positioned to support others in their own transformation journeys.
- Who do I want to be?
- What underlying beliefs or assumptions are keeping me from being who I want to be?
- What baby steps can I take to begin my transition?
- What support structures do I need to be successful?
Goal setting is fundamental to change; however, in its common form the emphasis on accomplishing the goal may lead to short-term results but failure to achieve and sustain the underlying objective that the client actually hopes to accomplish.
For transient objectives, things that can be complete once and the objective met, doing may be an appropriate approach. However, when the client’s goal is a sustainable change in behavior traditional goal setting may not be an effective approach. In these cases, helping the client expose underlying beliefs or assumptions and establishing structures that will enable long term transformation may be a more effective means of supporting the client.
Familiarity with models such as those referenced in this Power Tool as well as our own mindful practice can allow us to build confidence and gain insight that can be applied as we listen to our clients. While we stay with the client agenda our own experience and self-awareness form the lens through which we perceive the world. This perception may help us co-create a space where the client becomes aware of their own underlying beliefs or assumptions which are keeping them stuck in their current behavior. Once the client has achieved awareness they are in a position to begin considering how to move forward in changing their behavior, to transform into who they want to be; to be able to lead full and meaningful lives.
With experience, knowledge, and models we’re in an effective positon to help our clients on their path to discovery and transformation. From doing to being.
- What is the ideal you?
- What are your underlying assumptions?
- What do you need to become the ideal you?
- What’s holding you back?
- What is the first simple step you can commit to?
- How will you celebrate success?
Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. L. (2009). Immunity to change: How to overcome it and unlock potential in yourself and your organization. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
Tiny Habits®. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2016, from http://tinyhabits.com/