Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.
If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.
We may call them goals, objectives, or desired outcomes. Whatever we call them, people often seek out a life coach because there is something that they want to “do”.
Perhaps they want to start a business, write a novel, or lose weight. Or maybe they want to shift their perspective, identify an obstacle, or generate new ideas. Individuals have different goals, different ways of approaching goal realization, and different challenges to face. However, there are some common themes that can provide us with the context to support them as coaches.
As part of my the research for a book called 10 Hungry Tigers, I conducted an online survey related to goal setting and realization. My intention was to get a better understanding of the types of goals people set, why they set them, what keeps them motivated, and what key challenges they encounter. This research paper provides an overview of what I learned from the survey responses and offers suggestions on how to apply this information as a coach.
The demographics of the 127 self-selected respondents can be summarized as:
- 70% female; 30% male
- Ages teen to 60+ (no predominant age demographic)
- Diverse educational background and income levels (no predominant demographic)
Does Writing Down Goals Really Make a Difference?
There are rumors that both Yale and Harvard conducted studies proving that graduates who had clearly written goals earned were more likely to be successful and earn significantly more than their peers. Online research reveals that those studies were never conducted. However, a recent study by Gail Mathews at Dominican University did show that those who wrote down their goals did accomplish significantly more than those who did not.
So what did my survey show?
Based on the survey results, it’s more likely that individuals have written professional goals (46%) than written personal goals (24%). Written goals combined with a little pressure from the boss appear to create a higher likelihood for success – 85% of those who responded accomplish at least half of their professional goals each year.
Personal goals are a different story. Only 48% of respondents state that they accomplish at least half of the personal goals that they set for themselves annually. However, there is a strong correlation between the percent of personal goals accomplished and writing them down – 73% of those who wrote down their goals accomplished at least half of them; only 35% of those who did NOT write down their goals managed to reach the same level of goal realization.
So why does writing down goals make a difference? Writing down goals “forces you to clarify what you want”. (Hyatt, 2011) Written goals provide focus and enhance sense of commitment. They also give an individual something to measure their progress against, and provide a milestone to let them know when they’ve reached the desired outcome.
Coaching to Goals Tip #1: Encourage your clients to write it down! Whether part of your intake process or an invitation extended during a session, asking your client to write down their goal(s) can be an important step in making them a reality. Written goals give them a destination so that they can choose a direction to move in.