‘Goals’ are highly overrated! Don’t fall into the Goal Trap!

Often times coaches work with clients who are extremely ‘goal-focused’. Achieving goals becomes their identity and reason for living. They believe that setting and achieving goals is the characteristic of successful people. For them, success is defined in terms of the goals they’ve achieved. (Most dangerous scenario: a goal focused client working with a goal obsessed coach!)

 This seems to be a very simplistic and risky way to define success. A ‘goal-focused’ life is likely to set one up for frequent disappointment, frustration and only fleeting moments of gratification. No matter how much these folks achieve, there will always be something else or something more. Thus, no matter what you have, it’s never enough.

 The irony is that they focus on goals that are usually set by someone else (boss, the Board, HO, parent company…) and in their burning desire to achieve at all costs, they tend forget what’s really important for them – as individuals, family members, professionals – as human beings. They lose connect with their values. They (and often we as coaches) confuse values with goals.

 For coaches, the risk is that if we mirror the client’s goal focus (i.e. obsession) we too can quickly get caught up in helping her/him focus exclusively on goal achievement. Especially, if we too are a ‘goal-focused’ person! Unfortunately, many coaches are not too clear on their own values and goals; therefore, they struggle with helping their clients appreciate the differences between the two. They are hesitant to talk about a ‘values orientation’.

 A values orientation is treated as a ‘soft factor’ and not required for achieving ‘hard-core results’ or ‘bottom-line numbers’. Many of our clients (and perhaps many of us?) believe this. It’s a fallacy! Living by one’s values does not mean one gives up on achieving goals – it just brings in an appreciation of what one has now rather than always focusing on what is not yet there.

 Starting point? Before we help our clients chart these difficult waters, authenticity demands that we (coaches) struggle through this process first. Let’s work this through together in the coming weeks…


 Check out details of our ICF accredited 125 hour ACTP Executive Coach training program being held in October and December in Bangalore, on this website’s ACTP/ACSTH page. Why not use this as an opportunity to visit India / Bangalore?

 Reference: The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living by Dr Russ Harris

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