Coaching without Goal Setting

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“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

Woody Allen

Coaching Goal Setting 108

In most forms of coaching, the coach and the client set up a goal that they will work on achieving throughout the coaching program.

There are many kinds of goals:

  • Regular goals:

I would like to have increased sales by 10% in the next six months

  • Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs, as coined by Jim Collins in Good to Great) / Moonshots:

I would like to have created 10 clients from Major Foundations involved in the conservation of the Planet and Reforestation, serving each of them with a 500 K€ consulting and coaching contract within the next year.)

  • Impossible Goals: (as coined by Michael Neill in the excellent book, Creating the Impossible)

I would like to have created these 10 client contracts each worth 500K€ within the next 3 months, without any external support, with 0€ to invest in the process while having fun, enjoying it all, and allocating only 2 hours per week to the process.

Rich Litvin reminds us that a goal is a place to come from, not a destination to get to.

In other terms:

How do I need to show up in the world TODAY as if I already had these 10 clients?

Maybe I would notice that I would not “have” clients, but that I would be serving them powerfully.

I would be doing research on their needs and how I can support them and create value for their organizations.

I would have these 2 hours blocked out in my calendar every week for the next 12 weeks.

You probably noticed that in these “goal setting” forms of coaching, I never mention the SMART method or any other similar 101 method (hence the 108 title). These forms don’t exist in my coaching approach anymore, as they can only limit my work as a coach and limit the client in their progress.

I don’t want these goals to be “Realistic.”

How would I know what is realistic?

How can “realistic” goals support the client in creating amazing stuff in the world?

A study was conducted between people that were more realistic and others who were more of the idealistic type. The results showed that the realistic types hit their target goals with a much higher accuracy than the others. The idealists missed the mark by a large amount. So yes, the realistic types are better at predicting the outcome, the study suggested.

What I find more interesting is that the idealistic ones (those who aimed for the Moonshots and the Impossible Goals) outperformed the realists by a large number:

“Aim for the  moon and you’ll reach the stars” as they say.

That’s where I like to play with my clients.

My invitation for you, if you are still using SMART, is to drop that sh** !

Living Purpose vs. Goal Setting

Predicting your goals and controlling your progress is dying.

As Frédéric Laloux demonstrated in his book Reinventing Organizations, most corporations operating from the “Orange-Achiever” Paradigm use the “Predict and Control” approach to goal setting. As we transition to more “Pluralistic-Green” and Evolving-Teal organizations, where people aspire to freedom, fulfilment and purpose, a new way of moving forward is growing. (If you are not familiar with Organization paradigms, watch this short video or read the book.)

There is an organization I have been supporting for the last year: a US-Based Non-Profit who’s Mission is to support the Evolution of Consciousness. I was looking at ways to serve them on the long term, and proposed to them to help them build a Trust Fund that would create Prosperity and long-term funding for their projects and the projects they are supporting. That was a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. The reply I received from their Director was unequivocal:

“When you ask the question about whether we would want to build a self-sustaining fund, any reasonable person would answer yes. But we can’t answer from the place of rationality alone. Something has to emerge in the collective heartspace of [our organization] that says “now is the time for this”. That’s how we’ve been navigating and prioritizing in the midst of so many possibilities.”

That hit me.

Indeed, I was so focused on creating this BHAG, that I forgot who I was serving.

I was not serving a regular corporation looking for their next 5-year strategic plan.

I was serving a board of Awake beings dedicated to a higher purpose.

What they need the most is not a goal to move towards.

What they need the most from a coach is someone who can hold space for their dreams, someone who can hold space for magic and Miracles to occur, someone who can be a sounding board or a facilitator. Sometimes, they will need this person to be an advisor, but always a kind ear and a loving heart which knows how to Be. Someone who comes from a deep Presence ; A trusted listener who knows how to dissolve their ego so that they become transparent and invisible and transmute their ego into magic for the board to receive insights, flow, harmony in communication, and clear easy next steps to take.

If you can be that person, you can serve Teal Organizations.

If you can be that person, you can serve anybody on this planet.

Frédéric Laloux speaks about Sensing and Reponding:

“The simplest answer: do nothing special. Let self-management work its magic. […] We are all natural sensors; we are gifted to notice when something isn’t working as well as it could or when a new opportunity opens up. With self-management, everybody can be a sensor and initiate changes – just as in a living organism every cell senses its environment and can alert the organism to needed change” (Reinventing Organizations, p. 202.)

One of the ways to get to presence is to practice Presencing, as suggested by Otto Scharmer with his Theory-U:


Indeed, one of the major limits of predicting and controlling is that it does not take into account God’s Plan. (If you are an atheist, replace “God’s Plan” by “the Universe’s Possibilities”.)

A Muslim saying summarizes it well:

“Allah always has 3 replies to our prayers:


-Yes, but not now.

-I have a better plan for you.”

The Sense and Respond approach allows us to tune into the Infinite Wisdom of the Universe, that already knows what we are trying to discover through our goal setting.

What is one area of your life or your business where you can shift to the Sense and Respond approach?

What would it take?

Are you open to the possibility that life and business can become better than you think it can be?

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