Well Designed Actions: #5 of the Five Best Coaching Skills

September 17, 2015 by John Andrew Williams

The 5th of Five Life Coaching Skills that will Change your Life

This is the final part of the five part series of my favorite life coaching concepts of all time. The first four skills that we have talked about so far are:

#1: Levels of Listening

#2: Coach the Client, Not the Problem (A coach’s mindset)

#3: Simple, Curious Questions

#4: Levels of Motivation

#5 Well Designed Actions

For the longest time SMART goals were in style. SMART goals even have their own Wikipedia page. SpecificMeasurableAchievable (or Assignable)Relevant (or Realistic)Time-Bound.

But alas, there are different variations on each of the letters in the acronym. Since 1981, when SMART goals were coined by George T. Doran (as Wikipedia tells us), three decades of managers and students have been subjected to the idea.

However, if you are truly trying to de-motivate a teenager in high school or college, one of the fastest ways to do so is to ask a student to write down some goals.

It works even better if you ask a student to write down SMART goals.

The most popular goal – by far – is “To get good grades.”

Unfortunately, such a goal does pass the SMART goal test if the “specific” part is applied loosely. When pressed by the endearing teacher that such a goal is not specific enough, students usually reply, “To get all A’s” or whatever GPA students think is within the bounds of their energy level and expectations.

The well-meaning teacher then turns to the next student, satisfied that yet another student is closer to achieving grade nirvana because he or she put a goal down on paper.

Well-Formed Actions: The Demise of Goals

The problem, however, is that most students (and professionals for that matter) have learned to ignore goals. Ignoring goals is relatively easy, especially if students make more than one or two goals that have far off implications, such as earning good grades.

On the other hand, Well-Formed Action has a nice ring to it, especially the action part. Action doesn’t yet have the negative connotation that goals have with high school and college students.

The quick requirements of a Well-Formed Action are:1. Stated in the Positive2. Completely in your control3. Bite Sized4. You can measure it

At first glance, these criteria look extremely similar to SMART goals with one notable difference: completely in your control. So many goals have an element that isn’t within the control of students. Even the goal “To get all A’s” isn’t entirely within the student’s control. A teacher selects the grades and focusing on grades puts a student’s attention on the final goal while ignoring the action and the hard work necessary to achieve it.

The key is to help students develop actions that are completely within their immediate control. By focusing on such immediate actions, students start to develop systems that lead to habits.

The best use of a goal is to create a vision for what you want to eventually achieve. Reminding yourself of your goal helps you tap into motivation towards. However, once motivated, the next step is to completely turn your attention to the task at hand.

The best tool to look at the present moment and design actions that turn into systems and habits, is looking at crafting a few Well-Designed Actions.

Also read: An ALC Graduate Shares his Story

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