Focus on the Goal, Not the Problem

August 16, 2013

Focus on the GoalFocus on the Goal, Not the Problem

When I first meet with clients, they tend to want to focus on their current state (or the organization’s) and specific challenges. They want to vent. Sometimes venting helps them decompress, but too much venting can result in defeatism and paradigm paralysis. They visualize former failures and predict future ones. They get caught in what Daniel Kahneman calls System 1 thinking: fast, instinctive, and emotional.

My first goal as a coach is to establish the client’s goal. Seeking a goal creates an active mindset and an optimistic vision for the future. It produces System 2 thinking: slower, more deliberate, and logical.

Questions to Ask when Goal Seeking

  • What is the ideal future state?
  • What would you like more of and less of?
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What does winning look like to you?
  • What provides you meaning?
  • What provides you happiness?

Naturally, clients don’t always jump into a super-positive state and stay there. They can slip back into old ruts. They may ask, “Why do I keep getting into these situations?” When they do, I encourage them to reframe the question and ask instead, “How might I accomplish X goal?”

Shifting the question dramatically shifts the answer. It puts the focus on the goal, not the problem.

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