A Surer Way to Hit Your Goals

About a century and a half ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that people would rather look to others for their motivation. And that was at a time we nostalgically consider America’s “rugged individualist” phase. Wonder what he’d say now.

Human nature being what it is, I’d guess that nothing much has changed since the mid-eighteen-hundreds.

Back then they had a well established apprenticeship system under which a youngster would go and live in a craftsman’s home and learn that trade from the ground up.

The apprenticeship practice has pretty much died out, but to offset that loss, we now have trade schools, on-the-job training, correspondence courses, night classes, hobby clubs, books and videos, and the ever-growing Internet.

More information, both free and paid, is available than ever before in the history of civilization. And people are gobbling it up. “Information products” alone make up a huge, $107-billion industry.

However …

Those who teach continuing education courses often get discouraged. A friend of mine, a wildly talented, formally trained singer, wanted to help others start their own singing careers, so she began taking students. She screened them carefully, accepting only genuinely talented people with real desire.

After two years, she gave it up. Oh, she was making plenty of money from it, but virtually none of her students ever did what they said they wanted to do – sing professionally. She felt like a failure because so many of them just never even took a first step toward getting a gig.

A few years ago, I read an interview with a filmmaker and script writer who had begun a series of screen writing seminars and workshops in Australia. In this case also, results were disappointing. Out of nearly 100 students who had completed the course work, a two-year followup found that only three ever did any work in that field, and only one actually stayed with it for more than a brief dabble.

Clearly, many people don’t follow through on intentions. I mean a LOT of people. It’s an epidemic, and we’ve been in its grip for a very long time.

Those who’ve taught self-motivation for a while all say the same thing. In any group, there will be around five percent (or less) who’ll actually take what they learn and implement changes in their business or health or relationships. That means 95 or more out of every 100 don’t.

But for those of us who prefer to step away from that big, passive crowd, there is something we can do.

We can take Emerson’s slightly disapproving comment and turn it on its ear. Since he has assured us that we’ll probably want somebody to help us move forward, then let’s do just that.

A lot of folks have started seeing things this way. And the motivators they’re turning to – they’re called coaches.

It’s a relatively new industry, but it’s growing fast. A couple of years ago, there were already more than 53,000 coaches worldwide. And industry analysts suggest that the coaching industry has ballooned past the $1 billion mark with no signs of slowing down.

Now, I mention all these figures just so you’ll know that coaching is not just a flash in the pan. It’s a substantial profession with some highly qualified people offering their services.

Of course, this group is like any other: not everybody who hangs out a shingle is equally qualified. But as you’ll recognize, the same is also true for bookkeepers, and lawyers, and salesmen, and writers, and on and on.

So when you go looking for a coach, you’ll want to do some due diligence and analyze whether you think working with them will be a good fit. Ask a lot of questions and see if you like how your prospective coach answers. That alone will prevent the most obviously poor decisions.

Just consider your first month or two together as a probation period. Here are a couple of things to be on the lookout for.

First, if you’ve let things slide this week and didn’t get everything done you agreed you would, does the coach just smile amiably and help you find an excuse for the lapse? That’s not a good thing. Coaches are like accountability partners. It’s their job to expect performance from you.

But maybe you have a really good time with your coach. You’re always on the same wavelength and it’s just such a cozy, comfy kind of relationship.

C’mon, really? If you’re that comfortable, you don’t have a coach, you have a hired pal who really, really wants you to like them.

Naturally, it’s very important that you and your coach hit it off well, that you have similar values and that they understand exactly what you’re trying to achieve.

Still, it’s important to hang on to this one idea: growth doesn’t happen inside of comfort zones. If you’re all that comfortable you ain’t growin’. Expect to be put on the spot sometimes and to experience some discomfort.

A good coach will, from time to time, do a results evaluation. A performance review of what you’ve accomplished while working together.

They say that turnabout is fair play. That’s true, but it’s also an excellent growth strategy. I suggest you borrow that concept and provide your coach with your own impartial review of how they’re doing.

That way, neither one of you forgets that both of you have expectations to be met. If the coach is good, and you consistently don’t measure up, they’ll probably let you go.

And by the same token, if you feel that your coach consistently fails to perform, it’s important that you take the initiative and sever the relationship cleanly. Yep, I’m saying fire them if they don’t cut it. All this may sound a little tough.

Yeah, it does, a little bit, doesn’t it?

But coaching is not primarily about being best buddies. It’s about results and personal growth. It’s like hiring any other professional.

So let me repeat. Getting on well together, and even developing a friendship is an excellent thing. But when money is changing hands, it’s first about results.

And your coach, when you hire one, is there to enable your strengths and positive traits, not your weaknesses.

Follow these simple (but slightly tough-minded) suggestions, and you’ll dramatically raise your chances of hitting your goals more quickly and more confidently.

Cheers from sunny Japan,
Charles


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