As a coach and / or NLP Practitioner you’ll find that you’re always dealing with clients; their goals, their problems, their challenges, aspirations they have and hurdles they want to overcome. It’s natural and its part of what you do to help release their potential and become more resourceful. In most cases this will mean that clients will present you with a goal – or that you will help identify one. But are goals the whole story? Can we become too fixed on goals and is there something beyond goals that clients are really aspiring to?
Over the years that I’ve been a coach, speaker and trainer in this field of personal development I’ve discovered there are two ‘wins’ that emerge from working with clients. The first is that they achieve their identified goal; be it a new job, giving an excellent presentation, sealing a business deal, promotion - or whatever it may be. Then there is the more subtle but profound ‘win’ of that client being more at peace with life, themselves and others.
And interestingly it’s this second ‘win’ that is often more powerful and prolonged. It is this that means that whatever may happen in life that they feel most resourceful. And it’s this - that NLP and indeed any type of personal development or healing - is all about.
The reality of life is that clients and their objectives will change. Their circumstances will change. Things they feel they may want may change – and this may change as part of the greater insight they may gain working with a specialist such as yourself.
So if we are overly focused on goals both parties may become frustrated and we may miss the real magic that can emerge for the client. This shifting relationship to goals is a very natural occurrence as grow and as what is important to us unfolds to us.
It is not just you or your client that will shift. It’s not just that their circumstances or yours may change. It’s that life as a whole will constantly change. The environment will change, the economy will change. The sector that you and your client operate in will change. And so this too means that we need a more fluent approach to goals and what type of support is really needed.
Over the last 12 months we’ve seen the most extraordinary changes on the world scene economically, environmentally, politically and in our societies. Our goals and aspirations do not occur in a vacuum and it’s important that we can respond accordingly.
The first thing is to accept and begin to become comfortable with the fact goals dreams and aspirations may well change. That is true of your client and yourself. In fact whilst writing this article I spoke to Leigh, a coach who I am coaching who was concerned that her goals to update her website and kick off her career are behind schedule. She’s having work done on her home and she’s had internet access problems.
All this has slowed her down – her goals are behind schedule. This is the reality of our lives; things happen, events will occur, timetables may need to change. I reminded Leigh -- who has very focused on her goal - that this is part of life. I reminded her that the challenges she faced with wanting to complete her ‘goal’ by such and such a time is the same as it would be for many of her clients and that her ability to embrace this would help her support clients when such events occurred in their lives I told her I had learned that ‘life is the ultimate timekeeper’.
I also shared with her that when I had started out as a coach I was very focused on ensuring clients did what they said they would when they said they would. But then I learned that not only do life events happen, but also clients may themselves shift their goals, change their goals, let go of their goals, alter goals. This means that the goalposts are rarely fixed. They are moving all the time.
Many years ago I coached Fred a personal trainer who had long dreamed of setting up his own gym. He had a few of business coaching sessions. After about the second session of mapping out his goals he was excited and buoyant. When he came for his third session he seemed deflated. He said he had been walking around the city and felt overwhelmed. I told him ‘whether you achieve your goals or not are of no consequence to who you are’.
I then symbolically tore up my notes and told him that whether he pursued his goals or not was his own gift. Around 18 months later I bumped into him on the tube train and he announced that his gym was now up and about to launch. I was amazed. But I realized that releasing the pressure of having to reach goals may have played a big part in freeing Fred to be himself and to do what was always in his system to do. The state we’re in: We live in a world driven by things that we should do, be and aspire to be. From gaining educational or vocational qualifications through to achieving career and business goals. And between this there all sorts of social, relationship and aesthetic ideals.
It can be overwhelming. It is a major conscious and unconscious factor that leads us to setting goals. It is also a major contributor to the stresses and pressures that we have about the burden of carrying that we feel when we fall short of them. In other words – at a society and personal level - goals may not always be the entire solution and in fact can even be part of the problem. Could perhaps coaching or NLP help bring about a different kind of state of being?
There is also another dimension to this. In fairytales there’s a myth of a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow. In real life there’s a similar myth that when you gain that new job, relationship or promotion that you’ll gain lasting happiness. I see it in many ‘successful’ people that I’ve coached who have status, success and stuff but who are unfulfilled.
Many become consumed by setting yet more goals feel burned out by the whole pursuit. Many are looking for ‘something’ else. Indeed many have achieved all sorts of personal, professional and family goals and are consciously or unconsciously looking for something else. If we merely are focusing on goals we may miss this real magic beyond the rainbow.
All this points to the importance of understanding what resides before, beyond - and between - our goals. When you sit down and actually ask people what they want, while they may mention lots of things that relate to gaining status, material things, physical attributes, after they’ve listed these things they will usually say that they want these things in order to gain ‘happiness’, ‘peace of mind’, ‘fulfilment’ and being ‘content’.
So if these are the things that we really want – and if the goals and achieving them are not the whole story or the whole answer – shouldn’t we spend some more time in this area beyond goals?
This means that the goals may not be the real prize. I remember that when I did my NLP training the theme of ‘space’ was probably the most important to me. It was more important than any tangible goal. It was this feeling that made me feel most centred, connected and in tune with myself and life.
In fact it was so important to me and useful for clients that after creating my traditional coaching tools I produced ‘Space, Stillness, Silence’ to help those who needed less noise and clutter not necessarily more goals. I am not alone for many clients that you may meet goals may not be the prize.
In fact a business owner I’m currently coaching realised that first of all we just needed to still his noisy mind. Whilst he has business and personal aspirations what he really wants most is to arrive at a place of being at peace and this has nothing to do with goals. In time we may pick up on his goals – if necessary - but from a far more empowered space.
Interestingly many coaches, NLP Practitioners and other therapists, hypnotherapists and spiritualist utilise relaxation techniques and meditation. These tools and techniques often give us a break and take us away from our busy mind goals to a place where the mind can relax, where the body is honoured and can be at ease - and where both can get back into harmony. Walks in nature and sleep can often have the same benefits.
The mere awareness of our programmed de-fault toward goals can be useful. So the tools and techniques that you are trained with may well be very useful indeed – especially together with the mindfulness that goals in themselves are not necessarily the whole picture. It’s not unusual that the techniques that you may use are therapeutic enough without either yourself or your client needing to then add many - or sometimes any – expectations or outcomes on top.
So listen deeply to your clients. Listen to what they say and to what is unsaid. Is their goal a ‘thing’? If their wish is more about peace, space, contentment or such then it’s worth gently exploring what ways they feel that this can be arrived at. Interesting you may both enter a new powerful space when this exploration happens. A space beyond a client with a problem and a practitioner with a bag of tricks to solve them.
Sometimes concerns dissolve. Sometimes practical things may help support this space beyond goals. Ask them what is it that makes them feel at peace and relaxed. Invite them to explore what works for them. In some cases relaxation techniques, meditation, quiet contemplation or quiet walks in nature are what works well.
Others may be drawn to other pursuits or simply ‘being’. And ironically in some cases having a few less goals and remembering to embrace life itself – which is what resides before, between and beyond goals - may be most liberating.
Tags:aspiration become consumed beyond goals Challenges change change environment Coach Goals moving goal posts NLP overwheling problems rainbow myth Rasheed Ogunlaru resourceful weight of goals
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