35. We only think we know what we want.

35. We only think we know what we want.

In my role as a coach I frequently find myself having a discussion with my clients about what they hope to achieve through the coaching process

Invariably the conversation begins with them stating what they believe to be their goal, the thing that they really want to achieve for themselves.

 “I want to own a Mercedes.”

“My goal is to lose 40 pounds.”

“My goal is to increase my business by 20%,”

“I want to be promoted to Vice President of Macramé.”

“I want a bigger house,”

“My goal is to get an MBA.”

“My goal is to own my own business.”

“I want a loving relationship.”

“I want to quit smoking.”

“My goal is to get a real coach.”

And the list goes on and on.

In each case, and to each person, their stated goal is very real and represents what they really, really want.

Except that it doesn’t.


Our goals are not what we want. Our goals are simply a means to what we believe is an end.

What we really want is what we believe achieving our goals will do for us.

We don’t want a Mercedes. We want what we believe owning a Mercedes will do for us. 

We may say we want a Mercedes but, perhaps, what we really want is:


To be viewed by others as being successful.

To project a certain image.

To get laid.

And we believe that owning a Mercedes will do this for us.

We don’t want to lose forty pounds. We want what we believe losing forty pounds will do for us.

We may say we want to lose forty pounds but, perhaps what we really want is:                                             

 To feel better about ourselves.                                                                                                                                                     

To improve our self esteem.                                                                                                                                      

 To feel attractive.                                                                                                                                                         

To feel healthier.                                                                                                                                                

 To increase our self confidence.      

To get laid.    

And we believe that losing 40 pounds will do this for us. 

We don’t want to increase our business by 20%. We want what we believe increasing our business by 20% will do for us.

We may say we want to increase our business by 20% but, perhaps what we really want is:  

To remove some of the pressure we feel.

To have more cash flow to do stuff with.

To have a stronger sense of being in control.

To have more clients to sell stuff to.

To get laid.

And we believe that increasing our business by 20% will do this for us.

You may have noticed a common thread through all of this and I’ll bet you think you know what it is.

Well, you’re wrong, it isn’t that.

Get your mind out of the gutter.

The common thread is the belief we have that by accomplishing our goal we will have something we presently do not have and this will make us feel good. 

So ultimately, our goal is to feel good, to be happy, and we have attached an external accomplishment as the catalyst to our happiness.

It seems we have forgotten one small detail. 

Happiness exists only in our heads.

It is a choice.

We can be happy without a Mercedes.

We can be happy without losing forty pounds.

We can be happy without getting laid. Just ask anyone who has been married a while.

My point is this. 

Setting goals is, I believe, essential to our success in life. Goals provide focus and direction. Goals energize us. But achieving our goals does not make us happy. That is an illusion we have bought into for years and it is false.

Achieving our goals make be a trigger to our happiness but happiness, like every other emotion we feel, is a choice and resides in our heads.

Happiness is a feeling we can produce regardless of what is happening in our lives. If you don’t believe me, do yourself a favour and read ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch.

I’ve mentioned my book several times. It will be available by the end of this month. My goal is to sell a trillion copies.

I don’t want to sell a trillion copies. I want what I believe selling a trillion copies will do for me.

I may say I want to sell a trillion copies but, perhaps what I really want is:                                                     

To be filthy rich. Actually, not filthy, disgusting.                                                                                                                                                    

To live a hedonistic life.                                                                                                                                      

To get, mmm, my dog to love me.

Till we read again.

P.S. If you enjoy reading my blog please forward this to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. I have a goal of having 5,000 subscribers and I really need your help in getting there. Thanks, Rael

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2 thoughts on “35. We only think we know what we want.”

  1. I am so disapointed in you. How will you ever achieve your goals this way. You chickened out at the end didn’t you?………I know, I know, I’ve been married a while too.

  2. I have suggested a column which you did not use but I am prepared to offer one more suggestion; consider a guest blogger. As you are talking in this column about the objectives of coaching it might be interesting to hear from some of your coachees. So here goes an unsolicited commentary.

    Perhaps the objective of coaching is not the prize, not the image makeover, not the attainment of something tangible or intangible. Perhaps the objective of coaching is the process itself. Engaging a pragmatic process that will help the coachee organize their thoughts into a more strategic approach to living and doing business might very well be the benefit of this process.

    From my experience, having been coached by you for about two years and then having several of my employees trained as coaches, I see the real value in that relationship as helping me stay focused on working through a process that ultimately provided no result (I went on to become a senior executive in my industry). No result because the prize was within me all the time. The process helped me to realize my potential and the process helped me in the years after to remain focused on creating a process that generated results. It could be argued that my legacy for the organization I went on to lead benefitted most from my ability to get people to understand my vision through process. Process (es) that will continue long after my pictures is another dusty relic in the boardroom.

    Just some food for thought. JMH


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