Why Clarity and Organization are the Keys for Coaches to Make Progress

So, you feel stuck? Your progress slows and you’re unsure about making a difference for your clients, or even for yourself. Many little things pull you away from the end goal, which means the tyranny of the urgent takes hold, yet again. Perhaps you've been here before, in the fog of doubt and hopelessness. Or, maybe this is the first time you feel stuck. Either way, there’s a way out — a way to make progress.

Step 1: Determine which is stuck: you or your goals

A big concern when coaching others is to make progress. You should make a difference in your clients’ lives. But, it’s tough to measure progress if your confidence, clarity, or organization languish. It can be hard to make progress if you, the coach, are the one who feels stuck. Barbara Fredrickson’s (2004)  broaden-and-build theory suggests that positive emotions help us see more broadly, find creative ways of thinking big-picture, and build positive assets to continue broadening our perspectives. But, on the opposite side of the spectrum, negative emotions — whether rooted in personal or professional life — narrow our attention and can contribute to feeling stuck. So, the first thing to do is to answer the question, which is stuck: you or your goals?

The solution to either answer is the same: get clarity and organize yourself around what matters most. But, if you’re unable to determine whether you feel more stuck professionally or personally, then it’s important to acknowledge the outcome is influenced by the weight of the other. In other words, it can be difficult to ensure your coaching is making a difference without high self-efficacy in your effort. When you — as a person — feel stuck, it's easy to assume that it's solely the result of one aspect of life. But, in reality, your confidence and motivation are based on every aspect of life — personally, professionally, and relationally. Without knowing whether your effort in one area translates into another, the natural result creates a disconnect. It feels like a jumbled yarn ball full of disorganization, confusion, and insecurity. No fun. 

Step 2: Take stock and prioritize

Whether with a physical or mental list, taking stock of where you adequately apply effort personally and professional is step one. The goal of this exercise is to clarify where you make the biggest impact. Business Insider explains how Gabriele Oettingen’s (2012) concept of mental contrasting is one way to take stock of your effort; thinking about what's holding you back in reality and what outcome you desire helps you weigh the effort being put into a task and if it's worth it. This is one way to visualize progress and, by default, see where you're falling behind.

Once you identify what’s holding you back, the second step is to prioritize and reallocate your effort. This should fall into place pretty easily. Your biggest tasks to make progress should be more clear and real. And, when this happens, you get relief by knowing where and how to progress, especially with purpose. This gets you out of the chaotic treadmill of “busyness” that holds you back. Your path becomes clear.

Step 3: Get organized

The easiest error to avoid is to know what’s holding you back and not do anything about it. But, make no mistake, it’s an easy trap to fall into. Prioritizing effort won’t make all the progress you need. The key is to push yourself beyond this sticky place into organized steps. This becomes the road map to overcome whatever is holding you back. Without a clear starting point, it becomes impossible to go beyond the tyranny of the urgent or chaotic treadmill of “busyness.”

If you’re frustrated by the lack of progress your clients are making, then it’s likely they could benefit from this same exercise. Take stock of where you are and identify whatever is preventing progress. The point is this: if you are truly uncomfortable with feeling stuck, then the first step is to identify where effort should be focused and prioritized, with a plan to overcome whatever is holding you back.

Step 4: Determine what makes progress worthwhile

You’ve been stuck long enough. You’ve asked yourself how to get organized. You know passive discomfort is no way to live. Prioritizing what matters most is the start to getting organized. But the truth is it takes more than knowing your priorities. It takes work, clarity, and follow-through. If that’s worthwhile, then overcoming whatever holds you back will help you do it again and again. Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi (1990) explains in a study that there are eight major components of enjoyment and the combination of them “is so rewarding people feel that expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile simply to be able to feel it.” Overcoming what holds you back takes a lot of effort, but you gain the organization, clarity, and strength to constantly move forward, personally and professionally.

500+ Ways to Earn Your Future is a great place to start. With over 500 personal and professional goals, you can find examples that suit your needs and then structure them to fit your situation. Lift yourself beyond feeling stuck and progress with purpose, especially if you want to earn your future. Or, purchase the Growth Guide™ to create purpose that you track over time. It's within you if you choose.

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