How to Reach Your Goals : 4 Important Questions

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Everyone has goals. I truly believe that. Even if people don’t openly express them, they are there, deep down. Find a new job, earn more money, lose weight, learn how to play the piano, get fit, read more books, learn a language. But somehow, we don’t always reach the goal or we give up along the way. So, what can we do?

As a coach, people come to me with various issues but ultimately behind them all is normally the desire to achieve or change something. After all that’s what coaching is about, to enable and encourage positive change. Once we’ve established what it is the person would like to change, I normally ask the following four questions regarding that particular goal:

Goal

Question 1: What?

What is the goal? The most important thing here is to keep asking this question until you have something specific. Vague goals are difficult to reach as they have no benchmarks. How do you know when you’ve really reached the goal? And of course, the goal is sometimes too big and rather overwhelming. For example, “I want a new job“. What type of job? Where? By when? “I want to get fit“. How fit? How quickly? How will you know when you are fitter? Repeatedly asking the question “What?”, should result in a specific goal which is measurable and has some kind of timeline.

Question 2: How?

How are you going to achieve the goal? What’s the plan? What resources are you going to need? This is where the goal becomes a real plan with details. The answers to “How?” should be used to create a plan with steps and a timeline. After all, a goal without a plan is just a wish!

Question 3: Can I?

Can I really do this? Do you really believe deep down that you can achieve this goal? Do you have the time, resources and ability to get this done? If not, can you make the time, get the resources and train yourself to get this done? A lack of self-belief from the beginning means we often mentally give up before we’ve even started. If the answer to “Can I?” is “No” then the next question is “Why not?“. Then go back to “What?” and perhaps modify the goal.

Question 4: Why?

Why do you want this? What is the real motivation here? Is it coming from you or is it pressure from someone else? Why is this goal important to you? If there is no motivation or the motivation is not truly your own, chances are you won’t stick to the plan.

Two Examples

When I go through these questions with my client, we often find that at least one point is, what I call, the wobbler. The question that can’t be answered or only partly. That doesn’t mean we give up on the goal. We simply work on the wobbler or adapt the goal to stop the wobbling. Let me give you two examples from own life to explain what I mean.

Marathon

When I hit 30, I decided I wanted to run a marathon. The London marathon to be exact. Up to that point, the furthest I had ever run was 5km and not particularly quickly. During nine months of training, I often wondered if I would really reach my goal. So, I asked myself the four questions to see where the wobbler was.

What? The London marathon. Running 42.2km in London in April and crossing the line without dying.

How? When I arrived at the starting point on a rainy day in April, I was probably the most informed novice marathon runner you could ever meet. I had read numerous books, listened to advice from other runners, found a suitable training plan, put it in my diary and stuck to it.

Why? I had various motivations. I wanted to raise money for charity and it had always been a bit of a childhood dream to take part in the London marathon. And, I really wanted one of those shiny foil capes the runners got at the end to keep them warm. Don’t know why but as a child I thought they were cool and I was determind to get mine.

Can I? Now here’s the wobbler. After asking myself the “Can I?” question, I realised that was my problem. Could I do this? Could I really keep moving for 4-5 hours without collapsing? Was I going to have to pull out and disappoint not only myself but all the people who had supported me? It was this thought that kept me awake at night. According to my expert training plan, the longest run I would do before the big day was 35km. That’s 7.2km short! What if that was my limit. Maybe I would just get there and then collapse.

So, it was this point that I really had to work on. I read success stories of people similar to me and told myself everytime I went out for a run, I could do this. I trusted the plan and did my best. Focussing on self-belief and confidence is what really pulled me through.

Japanese Exam

Another goal, another four questions.

What? Japanese JLPT exam in December 2018.

How? Private lessons, various flashcards and books, mock papers and a study plan.

Can I? Slight wobble. The exam is known for being pretty tough BUT I’ve learned plenty of other languages before and I knew deep down it was possible if I worked hard and stuck to the study plan.

Why? Here’s the wobbler. Why? Why was I doing this? I didn’t need it for my job. Nice for a holiday but the main reason I gave when people asked me this question was, for fun. Was it really fun? Is fun a big enough motivation? The jury is still out on that point. Sometime I feel that yes, holidays and fun is enough. When I feel that isn’t enough to answer the question “why?”, I add on that learning a complex foreign language is good for brain health and it has also enriched my life in other ways: I’ve made new friends, discovered so much about an amazing country, tasted fantastic new types of food and learnt about a whole different culture. In my opinion, those things are enough to answer the “Why?”

Results

Banzai! I passed my Japanese exam and I’m still learning and slowly improving. Japanese is not a top priority in my life but I feel it will always be part of my life in a positive way. I will keep learning and simply enjoy all the nice extras along the way.

And I finished my marathon. Despite parental concerns (dad wrote his phone number on the back of my starting number , just in case I collapsed and couldn’t communicate with anyone!) rain and snow (thank you London), toilet queue dramas and being overtaken by a Womble and various Smurfs, I made it to the end, no emergency numbers needed. And yes, I got my shiny cape!

Marathon cape

For more tips on reaching goals, please see my previous post. And as always, if you would like posts like this straight to your inbox, just add your email to the box on the right to follow my blog.