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The Importance of Owning Your Goals

This is an article about client- centered goal setting and not about health care. However, spending 25 years in the health care business taught me something about the importance of setting  goals in collaboration with a client. For openers, in the absence of a measurable goal, you didn’t get paid by the insurance company. More importantly though, it helped a client and his or her family, navigate the waters of recovery.   Even if the individual had sustained a severe brain trauma, it was still beneficial to engage the family, and the client as much as possible, in the goal setting process.  It always improved motivation, sometimes a lot, and sometimes a little depending on the level of injury, but it was always important.

Proper goal setting translated hopes such as, “I want him to get better” to actual steps that would bring about change.   “I want him to get better” became “I want him to be able to eat at his favorite restaurant. From there, the steps to reach that vision could be constructed.  Perhaps the client needed to be able to get in and out of a car.  Or maybe he had to practice reading a menu so he could successfully order food at the restaurant.  Those activities became the steps toward making the hope a reality.

My new career as a coach draws on some of these same principles of goal setting.  The idea and the vision are always important but the more specific you can be about what you want, the easier it is to get there.   Equally critical is the motivation piece.  The motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic or a combination of both.  Usually, the more the goal resonates with one’s personal values or internal visions, the more powerful the motivation to reach a goal will be.  That isn’t to say that every task will be a joy but if it can get bundled into the framework of an overall goal that a client owns, the unpleasant nature of certain tasks can be minimized.

One the hardest parts about making a vision a reality is that visions feel so good.  Ideas and dreams are energizing.  Getting specific about the dream and setting forth goals to make the dreams come true can be a bit more difficult.  Where do you start?  Why do you want to do it?  What strategies and activities will lead you to successfully completing the goal?  How will you know you have accomplished the goal successfully?   These are the questions that a coach can help you answer.  The coach is a collaborative partner that helps lead you to greater insight, improved motivation, and ultimately success.


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