Why Set Goals? With 8 Common Blocks to Achieving Your Goals & More! | By Wendy Buckingham

Client Setting Goals at desk for Why Set Goals article

Is having goals really necessary?

It's a great question. And one that's often asked by those who for one reason or another avoid having goals, even at the start of a new year.

Many people think goals are too restricting. Some people are afraid of failure or see the whole process of choosing and planning goals as a bit scary, unnecessary or too unsettling. And others think it much easier to just "go with the flow."

Goals should not be scary or restricting. Setting and achieving goals is simply a fantastic way of defining what you want to do or what you want to have more of—or less of—in your life. And then planning the path to make that happen.

Think about it. When a new coaching client comes to you, one of the first questions you ask is "What result do you want from coaching?" Their answer is, in fact, the basis of a goal.

In this article, I answer some common questions that come up around the importance of choosing, setting and planning goals (whether it's for yourself or for your coaching clients).

5 great benefits of goals

Let's start with a quick look at the benefits of goal setting:

  1. Having goals means that you'll be the star in your own life. You get to direct events rather than have life's events direct you.
  2. A firm goal gives you a context to define and track your progress on the way to a desired outcome.
  3. Achieving a goal is a great reason to celebrate how far you've come.
  4. Carefully chosen, realistic goals can end the cycle of failure around hurried (and maybe a bit tipsy 😊) New Year's resolutions.
  5. Achieving a goal, however small, will increase your confidence to go forward to even bigger things.

If you don't play your own game in life, with your own vision and your own goals, chances are you'll remain a cog in the wheel of someone else's life game and goals. Is that OK with you?

Why plan goals?

Why not just 'go with the flow' and work it out as you go?

Well, carefully planning the steps towards achieving your goal won't stop you from making mistakes and going up blind alleys, but it sure helps. For example:

  • By setting a time frame, identifying the resources you need and considering what could go wrong, you'll find far fewer obstacles along the path towards success.
  • Planning and putting into action the steps towards the goal can be an exciting, revealing, challenging and rewarding personal journey to a new, more powerful you.

Won't setting fixed goals be restricting?

Goodness no! Goals are a journey of discovery, not an absolute that is never to be modified or changed or even abandoned if you decide it's not what you really want. This means:

  • Goals don't need to be set in stone. Along the way you may well change the substance of your goals, or how they'll be achieved, and this is normal.
    A goal doesn't have to be big and definitive. A goal can also be a possibility or idea to be explored. An example of this type of goal could be "I have discovered and clarified my next career path by _____" (always include a time frame). Once that 'clarity goal' has been reached, the next goal could be about achieving success in that career.
  • Goals give direction and focus to your journey through life. But you can always choose a different path should a better goal or direction become apparent as you move forward.
  • And remember, it has to be your goal, not your coach's, motivation guru's, boss's, family's or partner's goal.

8 common blocks to achieving goals

If your client is struggling to reach their goals, it's probably for one of these reasons:

  1. Feeling regret and negative energy around past failed goals. The client has not processed their feelings or learned from their mistakes. This is the most common block to setting goals.
  2. Not acknowledging or celebrating goals that have been achieved. This is the second-most-common issue I see. Celebrating progress and achievements boosts our self-esteem and energy—and helps us keep going. It's so important that I wrote a chapter called Celebration: The Key to Progress in my goal setting book!
  3. Not changing behaviour or habits. Often goals need behavioural change to be achieved—for instance, giving up junk food if you want to lose weight.
  4. Setting a deadline for achieving the goal that's too tight to be realistic. This puts too much pressure on the client, and they may become disheartened or avoid the goal altogether.
  5. Not checking out the foundation of the goal to make sure it's powerful and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timebound).
  6. Not having a strong enough reason for wanting the goal. Does your client know their why? A clear "why" makes any "what" possible!
  7. Failing to put the goal in writing so it just spins around in your client's head. Writing a goal down gives it substance and makes it feel more real.
  8. Creating a goal around a "should" or an "ought to" rather than something the client really wants. Does the goal belong to the client or someone else in their life?


Goals are there to be embraced and enjoyed rather than avoided. And they can be fun - if we approach it in the right way.

So, if you've experienced clients with a reluctance around setting and planning goals, I hope this gives you some ideas to contribute to both your and your clients' success.

Mastering the Art of Goals Coaching

Book Details:

You can find the eBook edition of Wendy's book Mastering the Art of Goals Coaching on her website.

Mastering the Art of Goals Coaching is a step-by-step guide for coaches to help clients achieve their goals with confidence, ease and certainty. Wendy's extensive experience as a coach has led her to refine goal-setting principles into a proven system in this new book.

Note: You may also recognize Wendy as she is an invaluable Moderator in our Facebook Group Coaches Helping Coaches!

Did you like this article on goal setting? You may also like:

Image of Wendy Buckingham

Contributing Author:

Wendy Buckingham is a certified life coach with over 20 years' experience. She now supports new and experienced coaches through her website Life Coaching Professionally. Wendy also offers a free subscription to her regular Life Coaching Accelerators of insider tips to enhance your coaching skills and grow your practice.

Over the last 10 years Life Coaching Professionally has evolved into a valued, independent and free resource for coaches and become Wendy's life’s work and legacy.

Wendy’s Life Coaching Successfully Series of books is also an evolving expression of her work, passing on information and skills for successful coaching in a compact and user-friendly format. You can find details of the books here for the best bundle price deals, and also on Amazon.

Learn more about Wendy & see all their articles here >>

Image of Client setting their goals for the year ahead at their desk by Flamingo Images via Shutterstock

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