Almost every coaching model focuses on goals in some form. It’s all about reaching, meeting or achieving ‘it’. Goals can vary, of course: ‘I want to be able to give this presentation’, ‘I want to lose five pounds’ or ‘I will not be on my phone in bed at least once a week’. Once you know what you want, the next step is to find ways to make it happen. Without an aim it seems, there’s no coaching.
So, when, on a beautiful autumn afternoon, my husband asked me to join him for a walk, I immediately went into goal mode. I could achieve at least 4,000 steps and as we only had about an hour and a half until sunset I was eager to get going.
This was the perfect SMART goal.
Specific: 4,000 steps (or more)
Measurable: My watch counts for me (blessed be technology)
Timely: I had one and a half hours, so yes
With my goal firmly in place, we set off. It was a treat for the senses. The colourful leaves were crisp under our boots and rustled with each step. Beams of light broke through the thicket giving us a stunning interplay of light and dark. It was still quite warm despite the late season, so there was no need for a jacket, what a luxury! However, not even 10 minutes in – I was just getting into my rhythm – my husband stopped and took a picture of what, to my mind, was a random bush. I waited, eager to continue, but he took another, and then another.
I looked at my watch, not even 300 steps yet! Maybe I should just walk on the spot? He finally joined me again and we continued in silence, both lost in our thoughts. Five minutes later, same thing, him taking pictures, me waiting. This pattern continued for at least another half an hour until I grew increasingly frustrated – his behaviour was threatening my goal.
When I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I asked him why he wanted to go for a walk with me if all he wanted to do was non-walking and taking pictures. He shrugged, “I just want to spend some time with my wife.”
Albeit touched, I was not satisfied with his answer, I continued walking without him and completed my 4,000 steps. But by now I was feeling a bit guilty. After all, if it hadn’t been for him I wouldn’t be out right now at all. So, I waited, and while I did so I started to notice the small things around me. A squirrel rushing up a tree, a single flower on an otherwise wilting rosebush and a small golden bell shining right next to my boot – it must have fallen from an animal’s collar. I nudged it and the movement made it jingle. A cute sound that made me smile.
My husband was still nowhere to be seen but I didn’t mind waiting because I finally understood what he’d meant. The present is sometimes more important than working towards a goal in the future. Both have their place and time, and it’s the balance between them that’s important. Without goals, we might lose purpose but without stopping we might not enjoy an achievement that was once a goal.
With a shake of my head, I got out my phone and started taking pictures – of random bushes and interesting objects. I still have them and whenever I feel I’m off track I look at them and smile because I realise that my husband had a goal too that afternoon, one that might not be SMART but one that’s invaluable: creating memories.