A while back I was coaching a client, let’s call him Tom. Tom is a good guy. He's in his mid-thirties and a professional in a technical field. Tom is introspective, aware and very engaged in the coaching process. Our sessions were focused on his job and career, but as the New Year began, he spent some time making a list or two of goals he wanted to accomplish, some in the coming year and some more long term, almost like a bucket list. As we discussed these he lamented how a few of them had been on these lists before, some of them for years.
“Like learning Italian. I’d like to learn Italian,” he said, sounding frustrated.
In our prior coaching sessions I noticed Tom's habit of keeping the discussions at a higher level and a lack of willingness to bring them down into the details. It's in the details where a person can commit to actions.
“How would you define success with that Italian goal,” I asked. “Would you be totally fluent, like a native speaker? Or is it enough just to be able to ask for the washroom at a restaurant in Naples? It makes a big difference in how you go about learning it you know.”
“I imagine there are different ways to learn a language, depends on how you define and measure success. Once you do though, then you can put together a plan. Maybe taking courses is the way to go. Or computer based programs, like Rosetta Stone or Duolingo. Or maybe you move to Italy for a year? Or stay here and get an Italian girlfriend.”
We both laughed.
My point was, when trying to accomplish something, making it more specific and understanding how you will measure if you succeeded is important. You can then decide on the steps to take to get there. The one thing to add to that is - When? - If you don’t set a time, you may never get started.
After this exchange, in future coaching sessions, when we would discuss other elements of his professional life, we were able to refer back to - “like learning Italian” - and we both knew what we meant.