Why can’t I stick to my goal?

Our award-winning coach, Kim Morgan, helps a woman examine ways to set realistic targets in a sustainable way


Why can’t I stick to my goal?

Coaching session 1 – “I need someone to hold me to account”

Sally* was a successful entrepreneur. She had been voted local businesswoman of the year and laughed as she told me she was a ‘minor celebrity’ where she lived. She loved life. She was ‘happily divorced’ and had great relationships with her adult children. She socialised a lot, had a penchant for Champagne, belonged to a walking group and did amateur dramatics.

I was entranced by Sally. She seemed to have her life ‘sorted’. People seek coaching for all sorts of reasons and not always because they need ‘fixing’; sometimes they have coaching to ensure that they remain successful. What had brought Sally here? Was there an aspect of her life which was not going well?

I congratulated Sally on her success. ‘Thank you,’ she replied, ‘but there is one part of my life which I can’t control. I set goals and get what I want in all areas, except one – and it drives me mad. I need to lose three stone and I can’t make it happen. I want someone to help me lose weight and hold me to account.’

I asked Sally some questions to help her reveal the nub of the problem: ‘When did weight become an issue?’ She said she had been overweight for 10 years. ‘What have you already tried to tackle it?’ Sally launched into an hilarious account of diets, boot camps, gym memberships and slimming clubs. I was confused by her light-heartedness. I wasn’t sure if her humour was a smokescreen to cover her real feelings, or whether she didn’t care as much as she said she did. Then, I asked: ‘How important is it to you that you lose weight, on a scale of one to 10?’

‘I don’t know,’ she said, serious for the first time. I asked her to reflect on the following questions: ‘What do you gain from being overweight? What are the costs of the weight to you?’

Coaching session 2 – What’s the real objective?

Sally had done a lot of thinking since our last session. ‘You really made me think about what my goal actually is,’ she said. ‘I am comfortable with my appearance. I like being “voluptuous” and am body confident. It’s not as if my weight increases all the time; I have been the same weight for years. I thought I should lose weight but now I realise that I have a new goal.’ Sally proudly and confidently stated: ‘I want to do more exercise and improve my flexibility, stamina and strength.’

‘How important is improved flexibility, stamina and strength to you, on a scale of one to 10?’ I asked. ‘It’s a big fat 10!’ she exclaimed, laughing at her choice of words.

Sally saw her GP for a health check and was given the go-ahead to embark on an exercise programme. She knew that she wanted exercise to be a social activity, so she had signed up for yoga classes with a group of friends. Sally had bought every member of staff in her business a fitness tracker and set a company goal to walk the number of steps it would take to reach New York. The person who did the most steps would win a flight there.

Sally was brimming with ideas about how to achieve her goal, including donating money to her chosen charity when she reached certain fitness milestones.

Coaching session 3 – Someone in your corner

Working with a motivated person makes a coach’s job easy and, over the next few sessions, all I needed to do was provide Sally with support, and to celebrate her achievements with her. She approached working towards her goal with vigour.

If a client tells you what their goal is, it is tempting to accept this at face value and rush into target-setting for it. But it is an important part of a coach’s job to take the time and trouble to test the client’s declared goals from different perspectives. How important is it to them? Is it really what they want? What are the benefits? What are the costs? What gets in the way of achieving their goal? Often the most valuable thing a coach can do is to enable their client to re-evaluate and reformulate their goals, in their own unique way, and in their own words.

*name has been changed

Getting it right the first time

Tell me what you want – what you really, really want!

If you have set yourself a goal to achieve something but it is not happening, ask yourself the following questions to help you find the appropriate goal for you:

  • Why am I doing this? For what purpose?
  • What would be the long-term benefit for me?
  • What would be the long-term cost of not doing it?
  • How will I know when I have achieved my goal? What will I see, hear, feel and experience?
  • Is there any good reason not to do this?
  • By saying ‘yes’ to this, what am I saying ‘no’ to?
  • If I say ‘no’ to this, what am I saying ‘yes’ to?
  • What support do I need? Who can I ask for help?

Be a realist, not a perfectionist

Accept that there will be some days when you don’t stick to your goals. It happens to everyone – even the most motivated people. If you want to be successful in achieving your goals in the long term, be a realist and not a perfectionist. Expect to have the occasional relapse and build in some contingency for those days. Plan ahead for the difficult days. Ask yourself now, in advance, the following questions:

If I have a bad day, what will I say to myself? (It is useful to develop a response so that you treat yourself with kindness and don’t beat yourself up.)

  • What would I say to someone else who is in the same situation?
  • How will I get back on track?
  • How can I make the most of my relapse day?
  • What could be good or useful about it?

Celebrate your successes

Imagine you are at point A and want to get to point B. When you get to point B, do you immediately start aiming for point C? When you get to point C, do you carry straight on to point D, and so on? If you don’t stop at each point to look back and acknowledge your success, you will find yourself forever moving the goalposts and you will never feel you have ‘got there’. Many of us keep going without stopping to see how far we have come and how much we have achieved. Unless we pause and celebrate them, we will never really internalise our accomplishments.

For more from Kim, go to barefootcoaching.co.uk; @BarefootCoaches

Photograph: iStock