How do we get clarity on where we want to go, and how do we know it will lead to happiness and success once we get there? And how do we cross the gap between here and there, with all the obstacles and fears that hold us back from fulfilling our potential?
In one sense, coaching can be seen as the process of building a bridge between where we are now, and where we want to go – similar to employing a qualified engineer to help draw up the plans and construct a physical bridge – but anyone can follow this process using the four questions below as a blueprint.
(Disclaimer – no real engineering knowledge was used in the construction of this metaphor)
Where?: the first step is to get really clear on WHERE we want to end up. What, exactly, does the goal look like? In clear and dynamic detail, we paint the picture of what it looks like on the other side. This sets the direction for the bridge, and provides the first structural beam on which it rests, spanning the unknown space between us and our goal.
Why?: just as important as the WHERE, getting clear on the WHY of this particular destination provides the second structural beam. This bridge is, in effect, connecting us with our happiness, with what really matters to us (if it doesn’t, maybe we want to review the first step), and that passion is our fuel source, keeping us moving towards our better future.
How?: understanding the HOW of getting there is like nailing planks between the two beams of WHERE and WHY, providing the concrete steps to walk on. The planks of the HOW are constructed from our strengths, skills, resources, experience and imagination. They are created through analysing options and finding innovative ways around obstacles.
Remember, this is our bridge, it’s function is to get us where we want to go, but the HOW is where we get to play and express who we are – both form and function are important here.
When?: if the HOW is about formulating a plan to get there, the WHEN forms the railings of the bridge. It is the specific schedule we hold on to as we step from one plank of the HOW to the next. This is what keeps us moving, keeps us stable and on-track.
Structured in this way the plan automatically aligns with the SMART goal formulation. The WHAT determines the specific, measurable outcome, the HOW ensures the goal is attainable, the relevance is covered by a clear WHY, and the WHEN provides the timeframe.
This process of building bridges is iterative – it can be repeated until we get to where we genuinely want to go (because we all occasionally make false starts and follow trails that lead nowhere), but having the skill to build our own bridge between one dream and the next is a powerful tool that improves with use.