Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville

January 2013

My friend was incredulous.“What kind of life coach doesn’t set goals?”

“First, I’m not a life coach; I’m a communications and leadership trainer and coach,” I countered. My back was up.“Second, I’m not advocating that everyone give up setting goals; sometimes goals are necessary. It’s just at this point in my life goals don’t seem toserve me.”

She paused and took a sip of Merlot. “Tell me more.”

“Most of my life, I’ve set goals and become hyper-focused until I’ve achieved them.”

“And it served you well,” she interjected.

“In one way, it did.” I admitted. “I’ve had some success. But in other ways it didn’t.”


“When I’m hyper-focused, I miss other opportunities. I can’t see the forest for the trees.” I said. “I’ll give you an example.When I first started this business, I had several people ask me for marketing advice. I was so focused on building my coaching and training business that I missed an opportunity: I could have also set up a marketing consultancy.”

“You would have launched two businesses at the same time?” she asked.

“Why not? It could have been fun.”

“Wouldn’t one have suffered?”

“Maybe, maybe not. There’s no way to know unless I had tried it.”

“True.” she laughed. “When did you decide to stop making goals?You used to write goals for yourself every January. You called it your annual marketing plan.”

“When I was in Spain this fall walking the Camino de Santiago, I tried something different—something that I had learned while studying The Alexander Technique. Instead of focusing on the final destination, I focused on each step. I visualized the road as a moving sidewalk, and I saw the destination coming to me.”

“That’s cool, but that’s while you were on vacation. What about at work? Business is about setting goals,” she said.

“What if that’s an old paradigm?”I asked.  “What if we replaced goals with intentions? Intentions are always more powerful than goals.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Intentions are more adaptable—more flexible—than goals. We hold them lightly, while remaining open to all the possibilities. And in today’s business world, adaptability and flexibility could be the most valuable skills we can possess.”

“There’s a very subtle difference between goals and intentions,” she observed.

“The difference may be subtle, but its impact is anything but. Success today depends on our ability to swiftly adjustto changing market conditions. Intentions allow for this switch far more easily than goals.”

“What you are saying is making some sense,” my friend acquiesced.Still, she was skeptical.

That’s to be expected I told myself.  When we go against the grain, we have to expect friction.