If you’re wondering why this blog has been so inconsistent in the past couple weeks, it’s because I’m working three jobs – four if you include my own business. Since the promotional and networking part of my business is not time I’m being paid for (including writing this blog), that stuff falls at the bottom of the priority list. Clients and employers are prioritized. Read more
When I first started running – that is dragging myself out of bed early in the morning, often in the dark – I noticed something. I was suddenly more awake on my commute into the city. I was a little more focused when I got to the office. The more I ran, the more I was able to apply the discipline it took to complete those morning runs to my work later in the day.
Running made me a better employee! The meditative value of running also allowed me to think through issues; I’d often arrive at work after a morning run with solutions to yesterday’s challenge. I even had the courage to transition from a dissatisfying sales career to a very meaningful position planning events for a local non-profit.
Somewhere in your career, or maybe in school, you learned about SMART goals. SMART goals are the first step in creating an actionable plan to achieve success. Creating SMART goals works in life and running as well as business.
It is generally accepted that the SMART acronym was first written down in November 1981 in Spokane, Washington. George T. Doran, a consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company published a paper titled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”. – A Brief History of SMART Goals
The original definition of the acronym S.M.A.R.T. was Specific, Measurable, Assignable/Agreed-to, Realistic, and Time-related/Time-bound. There have been variations on this to make it more usable outside business management. Those include: Strategic, Significant, Stretching; Motivating, Meaningful; Attainable, Action-oriented, Ambitious, Aligned, Achievable; Resourced, Reasonable, Relevant, Results-based; Time-based, Time-limited, Timely, Time-sensitive, Tangible, Trackable. I’m sure there are more you can add to the list.
Whether I am working with runners or life coaching clients, the definition that I believe works best, which is pretty close to Doran’s definition, is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive. So let’s look at goal setting within that frame work. Clients come into coaching with a goal in mind. Usually it’s a very broad goal. “I want to run a marathon” or “I want a more fulfilling job” or my favorite, “I want to be happier.” Yikes. It’s understandable that most people don’t know how to move forward from there. Everyone one of us is creative and resourceful however and by contemplating the answers to some questions, we can begin to shape some goals with which we can realistically begin to shape future we desire for ourselves.
Specific…What is it that you really want to achieve? If the answer is that you want to be happy, I would follow that up with what does happiness look like? What does a better job look like? Answering those questions will help steer the way to specificity. Vague goals don’t work because they are hard to plan around. If your goal isn’t specific enough you won’t know what to do today to work towards it. So a specific goal maybe something more like, “volunteer with an organization that has meaning to me” or “go back to school to finish my degree” or “build the skills necessary to move to the fundraising department in my organization.” Finishing a marathon is a specific goal, and therefore has a plan attached to it. For many who has never run before, though, or maybe have achieved a 5k so far, its not a good place to start. It may not meet some of the other criteria, and be a better longer range goal. When I finished my coaching core classes and began the certification process over 6 months ago, my obvious (specific) goal was to become a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, and in working with my mentor-coach, my desire was to deepen my understanding of coaching, which without the next piece of criteria isn’t that specific.
Measurable…What does success look like and what will determine that you’ve reached it? Crossing a finish line is obviously measurable. How do you measure happiness or fulfillment? Or a “deepened understanding?” When I work with clients, we discuss big goals, those major changes that they want and usually the reason they came to coaching. Those can be 6 month or 1 year or 5 year goals. In working with my mentor-coach, I was focused on the next 6-12 months and ultimately achieving certification as a professional coach. The measurement that I laid out with her however gave me a better sense of measurable – and specific – benchmarks along the way. I will know I’ve succeeded when I am familiar with the process of coaching and feel more confident that I want to pursue this as a career; I feel comfortable with the material I’ve learned and it feels like the skills come naturally to me; I can write comfortably about coaching concepts in my blog without consulting “the book.” Check.
Achievable…What can you actually, realistically, do? Here we need to take into account other commitments we’ve made that make realistic demands on our time. We need to consider our real physical limitations and make adjustments accordingly. I use the words realistic and real here because I want to stress that achieving the most meaningful goals will be challenging at times and require us to stretch. There wouldn’t be the same sense of accomplishment in achieving a goal that didn’t require some sacrifice or ask us to move beyond our comfort zone. Going back to school will take time. Training for a marathon is hard. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t physically capable of doing it. There will always be voices inside our heads telling us we are too young, too old, too fat, too slow, too weak, too poor, etc. trying to talk us out of our goals. That’s different and we’ll talk about those saboteurs and gremlins another time. What I’m focusing on now is setting achievable goals that don’t set us up for failure. The goal should be to walk, then run, then register for the marathon. And at your first job out of college, while it’s good to be focused on the CEO job, it’s good to be open to the progression that will get you there.
Relevant…What does this goal have to do with everything else going on in your your life? What does it do to other goals and desires you have? What will it do to support or complement them? What change will achieving this goal accomplish in your life? If your goal is to run a marathon, it’s important to understand that training is time-consuming and requires a lot of energy (and time to nap after long runs on a Sunday afternoon). A goal to go back to school however supports a goal of getting a better job. Buying a house supports a goal of wanting to start a family. When I first started pursuing my interest in coaching, it was to complement my goal of transitioning my business into something that would give me more flexibility and be something I could do beyond retirement age. Getting certified as a coach was relevant to my life plan.
Time-sensitive..A goal isn’t really a goal without a due date to which you can hold yourself accountable. So what’s the due date? Target dates should have a little bit of wiggle room so, again, you’re not setting yourself up for failure. And they should be realistic, and have some progressive bench-marks built-in. For example: “I will run a 5k in 10 weeks, a 10k in 3 months, a half-marathon in 6 months and a marathon before next summer.”
So decide on your SMART goals and write them down. Have long-range, mid-range, and short-term goals that complement and support one another and the life you want to create for yourself. Then begin to put a plan in motion that will help you reach your goals. Goal setting is simply creating the end zone. How you get there takes planning; a process of doing, training, conditioning or learning that when executed will make the goal that much more achievable. More on planning another day…
The New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory. Washington Heights, New York City. March 2017.
About 10 months ago I wrote about “the new job.” In that post I talked about going back to work after consulting part time for over a year and a half following my husband’s death. I said, “this time around my quality of life was most important. I wanted a sane boss, a realistic commute, and the flexibility I now needed as a single parent of a teenager. And I wanted to continue to pursue my new coaching interest – and I wanted to fundraise for a mission I could be passionate about! ”
Going back to work last year, I felt, was a necessity…for financial reasons. In addition to a steady paycheck, I enjoyed being back in an office and part of a team. I enjoyed meeting donors and listening to why our agency’s mission helped them honor their values. I had a really easy going boss and a staff of one who’s company I enjoyed and who worked really well independently requiring very little “management” effort on my part. The nature of our mission created a culture that gave me the flexibility to be available when my daughter needed me and I was only a half hour drive from home. If I had to work full-time outside the home, it was the ideal situation. So why on the 6th of January did I suddenly want to resign?
The Cause Coach blog was born at the beginning of 2016 out of my desire to shift my consulting business to more of a coaching practice and blend my knowledge of fundraising and non-profit management with a knack I had for executive coaching. To do this I decided I wanted to be certified as a coach. After researching options, I enrolled in the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) training and certification process. The first of the courses was scheduled for the last week in March, a week before I was committed to go back to work full-time. I had no idea just how deeply I was going to embrace the coaching life! For the next 10 months I would juggle coaching classes and clients, the full-time fundraising job, and my most important role as a mom, while I also maintained my home. It was a lot. Professionally, I knew I was ready to close the door on my fundraising career; personally, I needed to make a living.
When I wrote and then re-read my blog post from January 4th, the sentence that didn’t sit well with me was, “professionally, I’m still a fundraiser.” I felt “stuck” in fundraising, when what I wanted to do was coaching. Walking the dog that Friday evening I reflected on how I help my coaching clients get “unstuck” and here I was feeling stuck. I proceeded to have a conversation with myself in which I changed my perspective from feeling that I needed my job, to I want to be a coach. When you feel you “need” something you come from a perspective of no flexibility, no choice. “Wanting” something on the other hand is a choice, a new perspective!
As soon as I realized what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be, I figured out a way to make it work. Not that I don’t have to make some sacrifices and say “no” to some things as I change my financial plan. But I am making a conscious choice to change my priorities so I can have what I want.
Thursday was my last day as a fundraiser. Effective Tuesday, I am a full-time coach – The Cause Coach LLC.
Oh, and in between? A destination race. Surf City Half Marathon. Because a bad day at the beach is still better than a good day at any job.
Huntington Beach, California. February 2017.
My favorite metaphor for life’s journey is that of being a drift on a river. Everyday the water washes us further and further along to an unknown destination. Sometimes we float along in the sun and all is calm and easy. Sometimes we ride the rapids; that may be challenging or overwhelming as we feel like we might drown. Or it may be exhilarating or fun depending on our perspective. Some days we find ourselves swimming against the current to avoid the unknown. Some days we are swept away and go over the falls. We survive because we are stronger and more flexible than we thought we were. A lot of the time we find ourselves stuck or clinging to a rock unable to move forward. We need a push.
A coach is that push.
A good coach doesn’t offer opinions or advice. A coach doesn’t have the answers. A good coach knows that you have the answers and helps you find them within yourself. A coach doesn’t focus on the past or the future, but the right now, where you are at this very moment. While there are lessons, of course, that can be learned from that past, the past is gone. The future is yet to come. The only work that can be done is in this moment. We are called to be present at all times. A coach sees you as a whole person.You are not defined by anything that has happened to you or any of the roles you fill. You are creative, resourceful and whole, and therefore capable of growth. A coach evokes transformation by merely creating the circumstances and conditions for that growth.
In my journey to Certification as a Professional Co-Active Coach, I have to have a coach. I didn’t think I needed a coach. I feel like I’m living a fairly fulfilling life on the way to accomplishing my current goals. I spent two years in therapy following my cancer diagnosis and my husband’s death learning to manage stress and grief, and ultimately creating a plan for the next few years, of which my training and CPCC are a big part. It was time for me to graduate from therapy, although I think even my therapist would admit that once I got past the initial shock and grief, she was acting more like a coach.
Through one of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) instructors, I was referred to a coach that specializes in working with parents of challenging kids. Whenever I found myself playing the role of the client during our classes, I always brought up some issue involving my teenage daughter (one major part of my life over which I have really no control). So the instructor thought Elaine would be a good fit for me. I have a 45 minute coaching call with her twice a month. Through her coaching, I have found the parts of my relationship with my daughter I do have control over – mostly what I say and do and how I present myself in the relationship. I have explored why I have the concerns I do about the choices she’s making, what I fear most about her not taking a path that I consider to be “best.”
My coach has helped me change my perspective. She has helped me right-size my expectations of my daughter’s future and the role I play in it. She got me focusing my time on the things I can control – my communication style and maintaining a home environment with routine that’s free of clutter and chaos (now, as a single parent, working full-time, that’s not as easy as it used to be). While I came into coaching with some ideal that my goal was to help my daughter become a more serious student, I was reminded that I was one the one being coached. So my focal point for coaching became “embrace new expectations for (my daughter)’s future.” How will I know when I get there? When “I am satisfied with who my daughter is, and I embrace her strengths as well as her differences. I am in a good place with her journey, and feel proud that she is solidly on her path. I trust that she is capable of making good decisions for herself, and support her on that path whenever possible.”
Elaine is also coaching me on my journey as a professional coach or “deepening my understanding of coaching.” And ultimately launching my daughter out into her future and launching my career as a professional coach will get us both off the rocks and flowing down the river into a new adventure.
Coaches help us live the best life we can live. A life well-lived, in the middle of the river. All wet. Not clinging to a rock or a branch and definitely not sitting on the bank causiously watching everything float by.
Saddle River County Park, Saddle Brook, New Jersey. September 2016.