When I first started working with a personal coach, he asked me a series of strangely provocative questions: What resolutions or goals are you ready to declare? What do you want to accomplish in this session? How will we know if we succeeded?
In the cold light of day, these may seem like perfectly obvious questions. But they stumped me. And now that I am coaching and putting these same questions to my own clients, I can tell you that I am not alone.
Which raises this question: Why is it that figuring out what we want, defining it in a useful way, and then going after it can be so difficult?
Considering this conceptually only gets you so far, so I invite you to try this exercise for yourself. Find a quiet space, take three deep breaths and consider… What goal(s) will you commit to take on, right now for today/this week/this year? What will success look like? Will it be perfectly clear if you succeeded or not? Would a third party be able see or otherwise confirm this?
If answers come quickly, brilliant. Sometimes they do. If they don’t, give yourself sufficient time to cook. Monitor your emotions, your body, your self talk. What comes up as you ponder the question of goals and chew over your responses? Anxiety, excitement, confusion? Did your body tense up, curl in or relax? Did your breathing speed up, slow down or stop for a moment? What insights are revealed by your reactions?
If an answer doesn’t come in this moment, dive back in to your day and let the question sit. Check in on it now and again. See what develops.
I’ve noticed that I often feel both physical and emotional resistance to making a strong declaration or commitment. Not surprisingly, my tendency has been to avoid them. This has generated both costs and benefits. For example, people know me to keep the promises i do make and to be true to my word, which helps engender trust. That’s good. On the down side, I sometimes find myself on the sidelines, less than fully engaged, connected and energized. I’m working on that!
If you find yourself with a sense of not being on the right track, not getting enough done, or just generally feeling unfulfilled, consider the advice the Cheshire Cat offers Alice in Alice in Wonderland: If you don’t care where you are going, it doesn’t matter which way you go.
As the Cat suggests, his approach is sure to get you someplace—“if only you walk long enough.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t help at all with a sense of directionlessness. That takes pushing through discomfort and resistance or shifting a mood of resignation (“What’s the point?” “Why bother?” “It’s not going to work out anyway.” etc.) and setting some goals.