A Coaching Power Tool Created by Victor Ng
(Executive Coach, SINGAPORE)
We all want something in life. It seems like everyone wants to rich. Someone wants to be loved. Someone down the street wants to be famous. We live in a world of wants.
Goal-setting is one of the most critical skills to achieve personal and professional success. In an important study conducted by Harvard’s 1979 MBA Program, researchers found that only 13% of its graduates had goals. Only three percent of them had goals clearly written down, accompanied with plans to accomplish them.
10 years later, the 13% who had goals were found to be earning twice as much as those who had no goals. As for the three percent who wrote down their goals and plans, they were earning about 10 times more than the other 97%.
This coaching Power Tool is designed to help clients move from their limiting perspective of “I Want” to the empowering perspective of “I Will” in the pursuit of their goals.
“I Want”: An Expression of Aspiration
I want to be a CEO someday.
I want to make a difference to the world.
I want to create game-changing work.
When we start our goals with “I want”, we are expressing our intent for something we aspire toward. Ambition is a powerful thing. But an articulation of ambition without a commitment to action is only a half-goal.
“I want” is a glorified wish. It is passive and does nothing for our confidence. It is passive and commits no action. It joins a long list of our wants and does not help us focus. It lacks motivation because it does not exclude the option to fail.
“I Will”: A Commitment to Action
Now see the difference when we have an “I will” perspective on our goals:
I will be a CEO someday.
I will make a difference to the world.
I will create game-changing work.
When we start our goals with “I will”, we declare our commitment to our ambitions. It is no longer an intent we are expressing – it is a promise. An eventuality. A certainty.
“I will” is a near-win. It charges us up with confidence. It is active in that it promises action. With it, we take control of our destiny. It gives us focus. It motivates us because it makes us feel like we cannot fail. It is positive and helps us visualize our success.
Why do so many people hesitate to set their goals with the confidence and certainty of “I Will”?
The Fear Of Failure
Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.— Louis E. Boone
For many people, the fear of failing is greater than the potential reward of succeeding. Fear of disappointment, fear of judgment from others, and fear of self-judgment can be overwhelming. It is less fearful for them to say “I Want” than to go all-out with an “I Will” — even if that means they lower the chances of achieving their dreams.
Take the fear out of failure by changing the way you see failure. Failure is oftentimes the way to success. It’s a delay, not defeat. It’s a teacher, not a punisher. Many of the world’s success stories began as failures. The heroes behind them succeeded despite failure, even because of failure.
A Goal Too Daunting
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. — Henry David Thoreau
A well-set goal is one that challenges you but is attainable. We go easy on ourselves with a goal because it feels too daunting, and we could feel inadequate by taking it on with an “I Will” mindset. While we may not like to be vulnerable in the face of challenges, that vulnerability forces us to draw strength from where we did not know existed. This accelerates our growth.
Break down your goal into a series of smaller and more achievable goals. A marathon runner would know; he does not simply run to the finishing line. He runs to the nearest lamppost ahead. Then to the next one. He completes the marathon by running from lamppost to lamppost.
Settling For The Comfort Zone
Most everything that you want is just outside your comfort zone. — Jack Canfield
Many people do not commit to new goals because they are convinced they are fine with the status quo — even when they are not. This happens because we are wired to resist change, making us prefer a familiar dissatisfaction to an unknown improvement.
Make a list of things that you have makes you comfortable. Compare that to a list of things that you do not have but are willing to work for. Commit yourself to the top three things. Work out a plan to achieve them. The comfort zone is the safest and most dangerous place to be. Change, before change finds you.
Surrendering To Fatalism
The more a person seeks security, the more that person gives up control over their life. — Robert Kiyosaki
We say “I want” because it relieves us of any responsibility to do anything — after all, it is merely expressing our desire for something. It is convenient to adopt a casual “it happens when it happens” attitude. However, the reality is nothing happens unless we do something to get what we want in life. If we surrender the power to set our life’s direction, life will exert its power on us.
Take control of your life. What do you most want to improve about your life? What is a small change you can make today? Who do you want to be one year from now? You would need to channel your energies and abilities in a meaningful direction for the outcome you want.
I’ve come to believe that all my past failures and frustrations were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy. — Tony Robbins
You could remember the last time you said “I will” and for whatever reason, it did not turn out well. The ghosts of past failures may continue to haunt your house of dreams. The one way to exorcise them is to bravely set new goals and accomplish them. The memory of past disappointments may hold you back, but let the expectation of future success drive you forward.
Revisit your past experience, painful as it may be. What did you learn? What changes in approach must you make? How can this experience move you closer to your desired outcome? Fortune favors the prepared mind. The most successful people have resilience — and that is not built on success, but how you respond to past failures.
Lack of Motivation
Success is the sum of small efforts — repeated day in and day out.— Robert Collier
“I Want” is taking the easy route, but there is nothing easy about achieving goals. Sometimes it all comes down to grit and effort. Those who are not prepared to put in the work are rarely successful or happy. If you cannot find yourself motivated, maybe you have not found the right goals.
Decide if you want to be passive or successful, for they are mutually exclusive. On a Venn diagram as two circles, they would be a mile apart. Review your goals objectively. Are they inspiring you? What’s stopping you from working hard on them? Which goals are worth your effort?
James is a middle-level executive in a large consultancy company. For years, he has had ambitions to grow into a managerial role. “I want to be a department manager,” he would tell his friends and family when they ask him about his career.
The problem was, James knows what he wants but he does not know how much he wants it.
An opportunity came up to lead his department on a corporate social responsibility project, one that involved a big budget and drew much attention from the management. James knew that if he volunteered to lead the project, his success on it would mean a great chance for a promotion. On the other hand, under-delivering would sabotage his chances and possibly get a bad performance review.
While he was a capable executive and valued by his managers, James feared that if he messed up the project, he would jeopardize his current position — something he was very comfortable with and enjoyed. On top of that, his confidence was affected by a previous project that he under-performed on, due to unexpected circumstances.
He was “stuck” because his goal of being a manager never progressed from “I Want” to “I Will”. Realizing his career was at the crossroads, James decided to seek out executive coaching. I was able to help expand his self-awareness to understand his fear of failure from previous experience. He then understood how that compounded his aversion to venturing outside the comfort zone of his current position.
We created an action plan that not only strengthened his resolve to be a manager, but infused him with regular motivation every step of the way.
With a ready plan, James eventually did take up the reins of the project. He then sought out the mentorship of two of the company’s senior managers to guide him. He also involved a few of his peers to share the project’s ownership. The plan worked perfectly and the project was an overwhelming success. He was promoted to department head the next month. It fulfilled his dream and made him a more confident, resilient executive.
When working with a client on goal-setting, a coach can use a wide range of techniques and tools to help create an empowering mind-shift. The basic ones include:
Listening and Establishing
Trust The savvy coach would listen intently to the client (James, in this case) right at the beginning as he articulates his unfulfilled aspirations. By actively listening to his tone of voice, pace and volume of speech, the coach can pick up hints of energy, motivation, and confidence levels behind the client’s goals as he begins to express them with “I want”.
Coaching from a non-judgmental position is essential to help the client open up and trust the coach with his self-doubt and insecurities about approaching the goals. When the coach is fully present with the client, they can form a partnership to co-create progress toward the client’s goals.
Exploring Underlying Beliefs
The first step to help the client make the shift from “I Want” to “I Will” is to simply invite him to explore his self-awareness. What is important to him? What underlying, limiting beliefs are holding him back? What past experience continue to affect his choices about the future?
There could be deep-seated beliefs that prevent the client from committing to his goals. “I’m not good enough”, “Something always goes wrong”, “Success is reserved only for a lucky few”, or “I’ll only end up disappointed”. The coach has to explore and sensitively challenge these potentially destructive beliefs to unlock the “stuck” mindset the client may be in.
Visualization is a proven, powerful technique in creating focus on a goal. Invite the client to picture in as much detail as possible, his vision of success and what he would have done to achieve it.
The client could feel energized, motivated, even vulnerable after the visualization exercise. The skillful coach will listen for not just the client’s description of success, but also to the shifts in energy and emotion. These allow the coach to know how to best support the client toward his goals.
Creating Action Plan
Having the client commit to an action plan becomes especially important to complete the shift to the “I Will” mentality state. The coach would co-create with the client a road-map to achieving his goals. What specific steps are necessary? What is the time-frame for the plan? What possible obstacles exist? Is the plan motivating to the client?
Putting accountability into the plan is paramount for success. What will the client do to stay committed to the plan over time? Which action steps are critical to success? How can the coach hold the client accountable?
The supportive coach will use encouragement and positive acknowledgment to build up the client’s confidence and self-belief. A good coach would also motivate the client, possibly by asking him to imagine how to celebrate each small win.
In summary, a coach plays a critical role in supporting and challenging the client to commit to (and achieve) his goals. A good coach can become the powerful partner a client needs to push himself from “I want” to ‘I WILL”.
What goals do you have for far too long?
What experiences or emotions are holding you back?
Who can help you to overcome the obstacles to your goals?
How much do you want to achieve your goals?
What will you do now?