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Coaching and Goals

August 14, 2022

Posted by Sara King

When working with a coach, there’s usually an expectation that you’ll be working on some goals

throughout the course of the coaching engagement. You may have an overall goal or goals for the

engagement and you may also have specific goals that arise for a coaching session. Your coaching

session will often start with the question of “what would you like to work on today?” which is really

asking what you’d like to achieve for the session. It’s worth considering that not all goals are created

equal – some types of goals are more effective than others.

One thing to consider is how ready you are to change to achieve the goals you’re setting for yourself.

Are you genuinely committed to the goal? Is it your goal, or someone else’s goal? If it’s not a goal

you’re genuinely and directly committed to, it’s less likely you’ll be successful without some clever

strategies to support you. If the goal itself isn’t important, is it in service of something else? A goal

that isn’t personally congruent for you may lead to a decreased sense of wellbeing.

So why are goals important? They direct and focus our attention to relevant activities and may also

support energy, motivation and persistence when the going gets tough. How effective goals are in

coaching will depend on things such as how important you consider the goal to be, and your sense of

your ability to achieve the goal. If goals are too challenging, or not challenging enough, motivation

can be reduced.

It's worth considering types of goals and their effectiveness. Many people have heard of SMART

goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable. Relevant and Time-bound (or substitute the words you’re

familiar with). But goals are not the only way of defining goals, and in some circumstances,

may not be helpful.

Approach vs Avoidance Goals

‍One of the distinctions it’s worth considering is whether your goal is an “approach” goal or an

“avoidance” goal. A simple way of distinguishing between these is that an approach goal is generally

worded positively – something you’d like to work towards, do more of, or get better at. An

avoidance goal is one where you’d like to reduce or do less of. To use a practical example, an

approach goal might be “to live a healthier more active life” and an avoidance goal might be to “be

less stressed”. Research suggests that approach goals are more effective.

Learning (Mastery) Goals vs Performance Goals

‍Learning Goals focus on the development or mastery of skills and capabilities, rather than on the

outcome. An example of this might be a world -class tennis player who’s focused on improving the

quality of her backhand or the accuracy of her serves. In contrast, a performance goal for our tennis

player might focus on winning the match.

Competing or Conflicting Goals

‍One way your coach may be able to assist is to support you in uncovering where perhaps you might

have goals that are competing or conflicting with each other. For example, you might have a strong

commitment to increasing the time you spend in one on ones with your team, and that might

directly compete with your goal to tick off more items on your to do list.

So whatever the nature of the goals you want to work on, it’s worth considering the following


 Is it your goal or someone else’s goal for you?

 How committed are you to the goal?

 How challenging is this goal for you?

 Is it a goal that encourages you to work towards a desired outcome (approach) or to move

away from a less desirable outcome (avoidance)

 Is it a learning goal or a performance goal?

 Is this goal competing against something else?

While your coach can help you to refine your goals during coaching sessions, it’s worth giving some

thought to what you’re actually wanting to achieve ahead of your session.

Email us at to see how we can help you achieve your goals.