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Rethinking Goals - a review

I recently attended the online webinar entitled “Rethink How You Think About Goals

offered by ICF. The main presenter was Michael Bungay Stanier who I had not heard of before but has published numerous books and given many presentations in the area of coaching people to achieve their goals. I learned many new things and gained many insights from this hour long presentation.


First, he has put much thought into a concept called “Worthy Goals” which is sort of a replacement for the tool of SMART goals which he felt was ambiguous. To a certain degree I agree with him, as it can be hard to clarify all the terms in the acronym, Specific, Measurable, A (which I never remember), Relevant (which I can never understand) and Time-based. There is some redundancy in the terms but it has been helpful for many of my coachees.


The speaker has chosen three words to help clients develop their “Worthy Goal” which are Thrilling, Important, and Daunting. Questions are based around these three terms and echo many principles in ICF competencies and SF practice. I won’t explain them all here because you can hear from the man himself in these two free YouTube videos which I recommend “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cu1hfek-FgM&t=919s”, “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bi16B8s6XI0&t=2340s”. Please check them out, I wouldn’t have known about these resources except for the webinar so I am glad I went but now you can benefit from all the same content!


My big takeaway was from the “Important” questions that focus on “What difference will it make in the world” or “Will this give more to the world than it takes?” The emphasis being on not how my goal is important to me but how my worthy goal is important in the bigger picture which in our current age may seem to be disregarded by many individuals in pursuit of achievements. It is a good practice to ask ourselves how our goals and plans will give back to our families, communities, and society. I personally was reminded that we cannot take for granted that our goals will make a difference to others but need to intentionally examine this for ourselves. Also, as for myself I am very motivated when I know that my work will help others. Depending on the client and their desired outcome this can be a very important question.


There was tons more information presented than I can summarize here but in the short hour he also covered some more tools in the form of Tests that clients can ask themselves - the Spousish Test, the FOSO Test, and the Goldilocks Test. These are also covered in the videos so check them out. This idea of using a test with a client is intriguing and something to consider adding to our toolbox. From a SF approach I see a test tool as most closely matching up with getting the client to notice what is working well, (“How would you know it is better?”, “Suppose you were … what would you notice?”), hearing this from the client and somehow feeding back the awareness of these useful things to the client.


Consider this excerpt from More than Miracles,


“The therapist’s job is to figure out what the client did that was useful or what happened in the client’s life that the client could make use of. It’s then the therapist’s job to recognize the resources and competencies the client demonstrated by making these changes and to feed this information back to the client. If the client wants ideas about how to go on, the therapist can indicate what he or she thinks were useful things the client did and suggest that the client do more of them.”


More Than Miracles: The State of the Art of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, de Shazer, Steve, Dolan, Yvonne. Routledge. 2007


A useful, creative tool, that can help us to help the client find the useful things, is like gold. So, let me know what you think, check out the videos and let us discuss more how to improve our SF coaching practice!


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